11/12/2009

Calif. department adding e-mail, voicemail to their ranks

By Ryan Knutson
Wall Street Journal

SAN FRANCISCO — Arriving at work recently, San Francisco police officer Nicole Jones was confronted with something unfamiliar: an email message. The email was prosaic, containing a daily newsletter update from her station captain. But the email was unusual because it was the first one Ms. Jones received in her new San Francisco Police Department email account. "No one ever mentioned being able to have an email address from the time I started" two years ago because the department didn't give email accounts then, said the 27-year-old, who works in the Bernal Heights neighborhood.

While most police departments in the U.S. updated their technology years ago, the police force in this hyper-wired city didn't until six months ago. In April, the department hired a chief information officer for the first time and started the wheels of change across the 2,400-person force. Pilot email and voice-mail programs for each individual officer have since been installed in two of the department's 10 stations, and the new systems will hit remaining stations in the next year.

"I can't think of a department that I've consulted with in the last 10 years, regardless of its size, that didn't have email accounts," said Mike Carpenter, owner of New York-based police consulting firm Police Management Services LLC. He added that most police departments provided email to their workers more than a decade ago so officers could connect more easily with constituents and streamline their communications with one another.

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