Ontario Police Department Undertakes Digital Transformation Focused on LTE, NG 9-1-1
Wednesday, June 30, 2021 | Comments
When Anthony Odoardi first joined the Peel Regional Police Department in Ontario, Canada in 2020, the department had more than 180 IT and technology projects in the queue. Tasked with leading a digital transformation for the police department, Odoardi knew that the police department needed to simplify its IT and began a full needs assessment, which then helped inform a strategic road map.

That road map cut that queue of 180 projects down to 25 to cover the department’s critical needs. Those 25 projects were identified from internal conversations with officers, as well as the community, in order to identify what the police department’s stakeholders wanted from its technology.

“When you have 180 projects, you don’t execute on any of them,” said Odoardi, who is the deputy chief of Peel Regional Police. “Now, we can have some focus, and we know what’s important to our frontline members and our community.”

He said that the police department did not want the project to be decided entirely by the police leadership, and it was important to get feedback up and down the organization to ensure that everyone’s needs were being met.

“It really was a bottom-up driven initiative,” Odoardi said.

Central among those 25 projects are a public-safety broadband network, the implementation of a new CAD system and an upgrade to next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) services.

The Canadian government dedicated 700 MHz spectrum to public safety for use with broadband, Odoardi said. While the spectrum has been dedicated to public safety, the government is still determining who will proctor that spectrum: public-safety agencies or national carriers.

That task has fallen to the Temporary National Coordination Office, which is composed of stakeholders around the country and has been studying the potential models for public-safety to determine the best group to proctor that spectrum in Canada.

“We’ve been advocating across the country to the government to allow public-safety agencies to proctor their own spectrum,” Odoardi said. “We feel that a very favorable decision is on its way.”

Odoardi said that public-safety agencies envision a scenario in which public-safety agencies can operate their own network over most of their area and then rely on commercial carriers to cover gaps in areas that the agencies cannot cover well.

“It’s really about having choice instead of just delegating the commercial carriers to look after this,” he said.

Peel Regional Police, as well as neighboring Halton Regional Police, have both built out LTE infrastructure. Halton’s LTE network is operational, while Peel is currently testing the network out on an experimental license.

Peel Regional Police has deployed 1,200 devices to its frontline personnel and plans to eventually expand that to 2,100 to equip the entire department.

That broadband network will open up a variety of new applications for the police department. For example, the police department is looking to involve other community resources to help mitigate and address risky behavior without police involvement. As part of this, the department created an app that allows officers to research nearby resources and refer those they contact to those services.

Odoardi said if a police officer interacts with someone experiencing a mental health emergency, they now have the ability to look up resources and find someone who may be able to handle the situation more effectively and ensure that person gets the help they need. Previously, officers would not have access to that information readily at their fingerprints in the field.

Other key components of the department’s digital transformation include the implementation of a new CAD system and NG 9-1-1 services. The two implementations will support each, with the CAD implementation leading to the deployment of the NG 9-1-1 services, which the police department expects to begin in the fourth quarter of 2021 and finish prior to the Canadian deadlines for deploying NG 9-1-1 in March 2022.

In building out the NG 9-1-1 and CAD systems, Peel Regional Police wants to make sure that everything will be integrated and nothing will be siloed, Odoardi said. The CAD and NG 9-1-1 services will be components of a real-time data operations center that the police department is currently building.

That real-time data center will take data from both the CAD and NG 9-1-1 services, as well as the many other data sources the police department has to give police personnel comprehensive insights into the operations of the police department.

“We really want to strategically deploy our resources more efficiently and effectively,” Odoardi said.

The dashboards created for the data operations center leverage a variety of different data to help distribute those resources more efficiently. For example, the dashboard can show where officers are in the region, as well as which skills each officer has. This then allow dispatchers to dispatch an officer who has skills that match the incident to more effectively handle that situation.

The dashboards can also provide police department managers with information on officers who may have recently been involved in traumatic situations or calls and allow them to deploy resources in way to give that officer a break and help them deal with that trauma, Odoardi said.

In addition, there are several other factors that the police department is considering in deploying NG 9-1-1. Odoardi is serving as the chair of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) Interagency Advisory Panel, which is offering NG 9-1-1 implementation recommendations to the Ontario government.

One of the key issues beyond technology that the panel is considering is the mental health aspect of NG 9-1-1. As emergency call centers are able to receive more varied types of information, such as video, call-takers may be exposed to visuals that are very disturbing, Odoardi said. Limiting this impact on call-takers and ensuring they have the resources they need to help with these issues is critical, he said.

Another key factor to consider with all this new critical information being gathered is the ensuring that it all remains private and both police personnel and community members’ information is not exposed or released.

To help deal with this, the Peel Regional Police Department worked with government privacy commissions as well as local community groups. The police department wanted to hear how its community wanted its information to be used and make sure community members know how that information is being used.

“Data privacy and security always lead the conversation of data implementation,” Odoardi said. “We always look to first answer the question of can we safely store and secure the data.”

Throughout the entire digital transformation, one of the most critical elements has been getting the feedback from community members and police department personnel. That has allowed the department to look at its operations, prioritize technology needs and most effectively use it resources, Odoardi said.

“It’s not necessarily doing more with less, but doing more more effectively, with more engagement with the community and more engagement with our officers,” he said.

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