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Case Study: HP helps sacramento police fight crime with technology

HP "Anything we can do to allow our officers to get out in the field and do their job of fighting crime and arresting people is greatly welcomed and supported. The new infrastructure and applications not only eliminate mundane paperwork, they enable officers to be more efficient, and safety is improved by getting timely information into their hands. Our HP Services'' systems integration consultant has been invaluable in the solution''s selection process, design, integration and deployment. The success of our new infrastructure is due in large part to these services."

-Scott LaCosse, Captain
Sacramento Police Department

Tune into "NYPD Blues," "CSI Miami," "Jordan''s Crossing" or any one of the other police/crime-based dramas on television every evening and you''ll get a glimpse of the changing face of law enforcement today. The reality is that "cops and robbers" is as much a contest of technology as it is simply chasing the "bad guy."

The Police Department in Sacramento, California boasts a not-so secret weapon that gives it a decidedly new advantage over criminals: new computer aided dispatch, records management and radio systems that link to 190 patrol cars fitted with the latest mobile data computers.

apb (all-points bulletin) for new IT

The decision to update information technology within the department and patrol cars dates back to the mid-1990s. Sacramento Police Department (SPD) Captain Scott LaCosse reflected, "We knew we had some capacity issues with our existing records management application, and our mobile automated system also needed updating. In late 1996, when the Clinton administration offered a series of grants to the Department of Justice for community-oriented policing services, we decided to portion some of the money to fund the technology replacement that would make our existing officers more efficient and give them more time on the street."

LaCosse explained that the department conducted a Needs Assessment for the records management system and received proposals from several vendors that had provided Microsoft Windows NT-based solutions to other agencies. The SPD was most concerned with finding a vendor whose software could handle the Department''s workload.

The SPD brought in the new Hewlett-Packard Company selected for having systems integration expertise and a good reputation with Windows NT. "We wanted our systems integrator to take on a primary role, working directly with the software vendor and other hardware suppliers so we would only have to interface with the one lead consultant," LaCosse commented.

While the computer-aided dispatch and records management software evaluation was underway, the Police Department also was implementing a new radio system to transmit data to the patrol cars. It became clear that the SPD would need to install a private radio system to meet its needs.

As if this wasn''t enough, the department was testing mobile data computers, including laptop PCs, to replace outdated and hard-to-support equipment in the patrol cars. "We discovered that other agencies were favoring a dedicated PC-based solution mounted within each car. However, when an officer working a crime scene leaves a vehicle, the inside of a patrol car can reach 160 F on a hot day, causing overheating issues with laptops. Plus, our officers found the screens proved too dim in sunlight, too bright at night and there were some ergonomic issues with trying to operate the laptops mounted between the front seats," LaCosse recalled.

apprehending the right solution

The SPD selected Versaterm for its computer aided dispatch (CAD), records management system (RMS) and field reporting. The application enables mobile data devices to communicate back and forth with the RMS database. Based upon a detailed load testing analysis, coordinated by the systems integration consultant, the department felt comfortable that this application could handle its workload. Additionally, Versaterm provides emulation software for old radio control devices, allowing the latest mobile units to interface with some of the legacy applications.

"For the selection of our radio network, our HP Services'' systems integration consultant worked with the primary radio service provider on our list. He helped the vendor understand the new and efficient way officers want to work in the field today, specifically, that there would be big volumes of data being both uploaded and downloaded to the mobile devices. He performed the calculations necessary to characterize the traffic that would be present on the wireless network. In fact, he partnered with the vendor to redesign its solution and obtain re-certification from the Federal Communications Commission," LaCosse said.

The wireless network solution selected by the SPD is Radio IP''s RadioRouter product giving TCP/IP connectivity from the base station to the patrol cars. RadioRouter permits PC-based devices, running a secure, encrypted, wireless IP network, to be deployed in the cars, and enables officers to access any of the SPD''s local area network-based applications without need for modification of those applications.After evaluating five different mobile data computers in the field, the SPD chose a car-mounted solution from Litton Data Systems, subsequently acquired by Northrop Grumman. "We performed a detailed level of testing under guidance from our systems integration consultant and we found it well worth doing because expeditiously pinpointing the right device to meet the officers'' needs avoided some potentially costly mistakes," LaCosse noted. "He went the ''extra mile'' by creating the bracket design for mounting the mobile units in the cars, and presented wood and Styrofoam mock-ups to help people visualize it."

brightening the beat

With the new integrated hardware and software technology pieces in place, officer productivity and safety improvements were seen almost immediately. The terminal emulation access from the mobile devices to Sacramento County''s mainframe system hosting local warrant information and parolee probation status, is credited with saving officers a great deal of time and equipping them with critical personal information about whom they are handling.

"We used to get this information over the radio, often waiting 10-15 minutes to get warrant information and, assuming we could afford the time, sometimes 60-90 minutes for data from Parole Officers. We now have access to that information almost instantly," LaCosse said.

Furthermore, the Versaterm RMS system will soon be able to interface directly with a mug-shot system, containing 300,000 to 400,000 images the Police Department shares with Sacramento County. LaCosse put it, "Our officers eventually will be able to get those mug-shots in their car and immediately find out a person''s criminal history. If officers are sent to a crime scene to pick up a suspect, they can access the relevant details and photographs, and know who to look for even before they arrive."

rap sheet on benefits

LaCosse commented, "It was clear by his actions that our systems integration consultant completely understood our complex environment, was diligently working with our best interests in mind and saving us from making any undesirable moves. His help with the selection of Versaterm CAD/RMS and its emulation capabilities have allowed us to undertake a more phased approach to the hardware replacement and training on new equipment in the cars. We were able to run a ''mixed fleet'' of vehicles as opposed to converting all at once."

The SPD already has experienced the benefits of RadioRouter, "We''ve been able to avoid modifying our applications to use proprietary protocols for the mobile hardware by running the wireless IP-based network out to the cars. In addition, the private radio network has the advantage of giving us much higher availability and throughput that we control, versus using a cellular network," noted LaCosse.

The systems integration consultant has more recently been involved with interfacing a microwave video down link system between the police helicopters and the patrol cars'' mobile computers. "Our supervisory vehicles can now toggle the mobile displays to show live video feeds transmitted from the helicopters and the patrol cars. It''s not uncommon, in a pursuit, for the occupants of a vehicle to throw items typically drugs or stolen goods out of the windows. The video feed system allows us to see what was ejected and its location," LaCosse explained.

HP: vigilante on service

Moving forward, the Versaterm CAD and RMS system, Radio IP equipment, Northrop Grumman mobile computers and other components of the solution provide the SPD with an infrastructure capable of flexibly supporting a tremendous number of applications. It will save the officers a significant amount of time and make them and the public safer because of the wealth of information that is now available and the speed by which it can be accessed.

"Anything we can do to allow our officers to get out in the field and do their job of fighting crime and arresting people is greatly welcomed and supported," noted LaCosse. "The new infrastructure and applications not only eliminate mundane paperwork, they enable officers to be more efficient, and safety is improved by getting timely information into their hands."

He concluded, "Our HP Services'' systems integration consultant has been invaluable in the solution''s selection process, design and deployment. The success of our new infrastructure is due in large part to these services."

industry: law enforcement


  • *Capacity issues were being experienced with the existing records management system: replacement software needed to be able to handle the Department''s growing workload
  • *Police officers were being required to be more efficient, but unavoidable time delays were being experienced when attempting to retrieve critical information
  • *Legacy mobile computers were unreliable and unsupportable
  • *Disparate systems existed: an integrated application infrastructure was desired in order to facilitate swift information retrieval
  • *HP Services'' systems integration consultant was engaged to work as primary integrator for the software and hardware solution components
  • *Versaterm was selected for its computer aided dispatch (CAD), records management system (RMS) and field reporting application software
  • *Radio IP''s RadioRouter product gives TCP/IP wireless connectivity with the patrol cars
  • *Northrop Grumman mobile data computers were chosen for mounting in the patrol cars and running the applications
  • *Versaterm CAD and RMS will amply handle the SPD''s workload with surplus capacity for growth
  • *Officer productivity and safety improvements include saving as much as 60-90 minutes with the new instant access to parolee information
  • *Application development costs for integration with mobile hardware proprietary protocols have been avoided by use of the
  • *RadioRouter wireless radio IP-based network, giving much higher availability, control and throughput than cellular options
  • *The integrated application infrastructure permits simple expansion to new applications, like video down-link, further enhancing officer safety and efficiency

For more information on how working with Hewlett-Packard can benefit you, please visit www.hp.com


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