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Conn. Police Gearing Up For Computer Systems Overhaul

By Scott Cornell, The Bristol Press (Connecticut)

SOUTHINGTON, Conn. -- Weeks of preparation and a brief period of reverting to ancient methods of record-keeping have paid off now that Southington police officers are finally beginning to reap the benefits of recent software upgrades.

"This has been a major overhaul to our computer systems in all departments, including records, evidence, dispatch and our cruisers," said Sgt. Lowell DePalma. "Right now, we''re doing a lot of work in our records division and, although we''re still not quite there yet, everything is on a priority list and we''re doing the most important things first."

Since the actual police facility is only a couple of years old, there have been minimal changes in hardware, according to Lt. Ed Pocock III, project manager. One new IBM server and a large video screen in the dispatch center have accompanied the software upgrade.

In October, officials from MobileTec, the Tampa, Fla. company hired to perform the upgrades, visited Southington for an introductory kickoff and training seminar for the long-awaited upgrades, Pocock said. By Dec. 13, new dispatching software was installed, and one cruiser was recently equipped with a new modem to perform a test run before all police vehicles receive the same hardware.

"This was a bold step on the chief''s part, and he has made a wise choice to dismantle the entire way we do records-handling and dispatching, and start anew, something that''s needed to be done for over a decade," Pocock said. "We can draw more information from the system than before, and everything is now consolidated into one program."

The manner in which records are filed and retrieved, calls are dispatched and different emergency departments communicate with each other are all affected by the new InMotion software, according to Pocock, who police Chief Jack Daly charged with overseeing the computer upgrades.

Before the computer-aided dispatch system was put into effect, dispatchers were utilizing DOS-based software, and Pocock was asked to find a more efficient method of sending officers out to respond to calls. After a three-week analysis of weighting where the most crime was taking place, the town was split into 24 different sectors, then separated again into a seven- or eight-car patrol map.

The new CAD program and automated vehicle locator will dispatch an officer depending on where the majority of calls are coming from on any given night and the location of each and every officer cruising the town, Pocock said.

For example, if the Queen Street cruiser is tied up at one call, the new software will dispatch the next closest officer, but the police instinct still comes into play because officers are familiar with the town and are aware of where they need to be on any particular night.

"It''s kind of like a double fail-safe for our dispatchers and cruisers, where units are dispatched by their location on the map and the dispatchers know where the officers are in case something happens and they can''t get to their radios," Pocock said.

The CAD system has also integrated the police radio codes with the fire department''s, simplifying the number of codes from 320 to 49.

Records are constantly updated as they are continuously entered into the system. If a person is arrested more than once, their information may be accessed and retrieved with greater ease and no duplication.

"This is a step-by-step process, and nothing is done overnight, but the dispatchers are already feeling the benefits of the upgrades and the ease [with which] they can enter information through one centralized function," Daly said. "I chose Lt. Pocock to lead this project because we needed someone who was computer-savvy, and we''ve already seen the positives the new software has provided."

The department is currently waiting for the Capital Region Council of Governments to deliver the cruiser modems, and once they arrive, three cruisers will be equipped with new software.

Something new is occurring every day, Pocock said, and by the end of the month, officers on the street should see more of the benefits the InMotion software has to offer.

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