May 21, 2004
Ark. Police, Sheriff Install Mobile Tracking Devices: State-of-The-Art Software Donated
By Philip Holsinger, The Daily Citizen (Searcy, Arkansas)
As a Searcy, Ark. police officer drives Thursday from the police department, a dispatcher watches on a computer screen as a miniature image of the officer's car crawls along a street through the city. At the same time, a dispatcher at the White County Sheriff's Department watches the same image of the vehicle, this image projected on a five-foot wide screen on her dispatch center's wall.
In the officer's vehicle, an ultra-thin computer screen displays the car's movement. With a touch of a finger on the screen, the officer accesses data and can communicate, via encoded digital messaging, with the dispatcher.
Law enforcement patrols have gone high tech in White County, Sheriff Pat Garrett said.
Furthermore, local law enforcement is seeing in the technology the first steps toward a new kind of interdepartmental cooperation that he believes will mark the future of a consolidated 9-1-1 system.
"Soon, all of 9-1-1 dispatch will be under one roof, and with our police agencies working together already it will make a big difference when this happens," Garrett said.
Garrett, pointing to the image of the patrol car moving across the screen in the county dispatch center, explained to gathered officials that two things were at work before them.
One is that with this new technology, recently acquired by both the city and county, the Searcy Police and the White County Sheriff's Department are able to visually track specially-equipped police vehicles wherever they are in White County, and to communicate with the cars via the touch of a screen or click of a mouse.
"It is the ultimate in efficiency and safety," Garrett said. "You don't have to guess where an officer is when an emergency call comes. You can see right where the closest unit is. With this, there is no more, 'what's your 20?' And there is no more pushing buttons and transferring calls and taking notes when a 9-1-1 call comes. When the call comes in the information immediately pops up on the screens of the units and dispatch. Instantaneously both dispatcher and patrol knows the address and situation of the caller.'"
Second, the technology provides for the two policing agencies to view each other's vehicles' locations and share information, thus adding unprecedented safety in backup.
"Now, if an officer is in trouble and a unit from a different department is nearby they will know it automatically, because they will see where everyone is on the screen in their car. And the dispatcher will see it on their screen."
What's even better, Garrett said, is the technology, possibly worth several million dollars when in full use, is being donated totally free by a Searcy native who developed the software and owns the company that produces it.
"I grew up in Searcy and my family still lives here," Jerry Hunter, owner of Pinnacle Labs Mobile Technology out of Little Rock, who donated the technology, said. "I grew up here, and I have family here. I'm just thankful that I'm able to provide this technology to my hometown to help save lives, provide faster response times, and improve officer safety."
Hunter said communities the size of Searcy and White County don't see this type of technology in use with the police forces and emergency services because it simply costs too much.
Called The Excalibur System, Hunter's Pinnacle Labs software is unique in that it is one stop shopping for emergency communications. One screen, one touch and everything a person needs is in front of them, from location to emergency information, and even provides for encrypted queries to law enforcement's most sensitive criminal data bases.
Excalibur is on the cutting edge of emergency mobile communications technology, Hunter said. Departments in New Orleans and Little Rock already rely on Excalibur.
As far as White County goes, Hunter said that what he gets out of the deal, next to knowing he is doing a good thing, is that he can hold Searcy and White County up as an example for what smaller departments can accomplish with Excalibur.
Searcy has 14 vehicles outfitted with Excalibur, Hunter said, and they expect to have several more by next week's end.
White County was installing Excalibur in vehicles Friday and planned to have them in operation by next week, Major Kyle Stokes of the Sheriff's Department said.