Smart Phones Augment Public-Safety Radios
Wednesday, June 30, 2010 | Comments
Public-safety organizations nationwide are using smart phones in a variety of ways in addition to their mission-critical voice networks. Smart phones allow first responders at the scene of an incident to query criminal databases, receive dispatch information and incident reports, or send a photo, voice message and map to recipients simultaneously. “We are more effective because we are able to let others see the extent of the damage in one message,” said Charles Werner, chief of the Charlottesville (Va.) Fire Department. The fire department uses Sprint’s Nextmail capability on BlackBerries. “If a picture is worth a 1,000 words, then a picture painted with voice, photos and mapping is worth 1 million.”
Pima County
In April, the Pima County (Ariz.) Sheriff’s Department signed a two-year contract with AT&T. The wireless voice and data services include iPhones for 200 Pima County officers to increase public safety and support officers with improved productivity, according to AT&T executives. The iPhones are equipped with Coplink, an application produced by i2, a provider of intelligence and investigation management software. Using data mining software, the Coplink mobile-data application searches relational databases across county and state lines to collect and organize information pertaining to a specific suspect, location, crime, firearm, vehicle, property or situation.
Pima County’s sheriff department required simultaneous access to mission-critical data on handheld devices while on voice calls to other detectives and officers within the criminal investigations division, AT&T executives said. The department serves a population of more than 350,000; encompassing 9,241 square miles, it’s the seventh-largest county in the United States. With the software and the iPhones, detectives can now access suspect data, mug shots and historical data such as previous arrests and case records.
“The AT&T and Coplink mobile resource solution will expand the investigative expertise of our detectives and save precious time when a life or someone’s well-being is in jeopardy,” said Bureau Chief Richard J. Kastigar, who is the commander of the department’s criminal investigations bureau. “It arms our officers with extremely vital data and can immediately reveal associations among different persons, giving our detectives enhanced abilities to solve cases.”
Oklahoma County
The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office installed InterActPocketCop software from InterAct Public Safety Systems on 52 deputies’ BlackBerries. The software’s features include criminal database queries, alarm capabilities, and secure mail and text messaging capabilities.
The goal was to give deputies who patrol on foot, motorcycle, bicycle or horseback the ability to look up suspects and license plates in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and state databases instead of overloading dispatch with queries over two-way radios, said Lt. Matt Jackson, who headed up the project. “If a letter or number is transposed accidentally, that ties up time on the radio with the dispatcher,” Jackson said. “And there are always delays while multiple officers vie for the same dispatcher. By using the solution, our officers can wirelessly pull information about vehicle tags or suspects and get accurate information 100 percent of the time.”
The sheriff’s office also uses smart phones for e-mail and Internet access. “Using the InterActPocketCop has given our deputies more information to work with in the field,” said Sheriff John Westel. “It’s also shown that we’re a law-enforcement agency that’s using technology to adapt and communicate more efficiently for the community we serve.”
Soldotna Police
The Soldotna Police, located on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, serves a population of about 4,000 across a 7.4-square-mile area. The Alaskan landscape poses unique challenges to the officers who often work away from their in-car radios. Previously, the department’s primary method for getting information while out in the field was to use their portable radio to contact a dispatcher. When the department decided to upgrade, officers wanted a solution that was more cost effective then installing computer terminals in vehicles. With grant funding from the Alaska Highway Safety Office, the department also decided to try InterActPocketCop on smart phones, said Kalie Klaysmat, special assistant and grant writer.
“One of our key goals was to help ease the workload from the dispatch center,” Klaysmat said. “If the officer needed information, they would have to contact the dispatcher. If it was for a report, the dispatcher would have to pull up the information, print it, fax it to the station, and the officer would have to go into the station and retrieve it. We wanted a way to put the ability to look up information directly in the officers’ hands.”
Now, Soldotna officers have access to everything from e-mail to federal and state databases. “Not only does my smart phone bring the convenience of having a good phone that I can be contacted on, it offers me a multitude of tools without having to carry a lot of extra equipment,” said Officer Mark Berestoff, who has been a police officer for nine years. “We can use the audio recorder on the smart phone to document what happens during investigations, which means we don’t have to carry a separate recorder anymore. It also takes excellent photos and videos of accidents and crime scenes that can be used as evidence later.”

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