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Md. cops use situational awareness management system

"It allows us to see what may be coming our way," says Police Chief Michael Scott

By Chief Michael Scott, Mount Rainier (Md.) Police Department

Seeking to enhance interagency communication and officer safety, the Mount Rainier Police Department has tapped into a Situational Awareness Management System (SAMS) so it is alerted immediately about incidents in other jurisdictions that could affect the community.

Mount Rainier, with a population of about 10,000, borders Washington, D.C. and began using SAMS in 2010. The system allows Mt. Rainier officers to see the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department computer-aided dispatch (CAD) information in real time. Within five seconds of a crime being entered into the D.C. CAD system, it will pop up in Mt. Rainier’s police station and in their police vehicles. The information allows Mt. Rainier officers to anticipate and respond to crime incidents as they happen, instead of having to wait to be notified by another jurisdiction.

“It allows us to see what may be coming our way,” says Police Chief Michael Scott. “We are adjacent to the city. If someone carjacks a car in D.C. within a few blocks of our border, chances are they will head into Mount Rainier, not D.C.

“It gives us a heads up and increases officer safety. Our guys are able to know what is going on around them from a D.C. perspective. We are able to see when a major crime occurs close to us so we know what to be on the lookout for,” he says.

The system also allows police to search recent past CAD records to look for patterns and analyze crime areas of D.C. that might spill over their border.

Mount Rainier has a mutual aid agreement with the police departments in the neighboring Prince George’s County communities of Bladensburg, Greenbelt, Hyattsville, Laurel, Riverdale Park, University Park and Edmonston, and would like them to participate in SAMS.

“It has tremendous potential and the more participants we have in the system the better off we’ll be in getting all the situational awareness and officer safety that we can.”

Mount Rainier would also like the Prince George’s County Police Department and the county sheriff ’s office to participate in SAMS. SAMS integrated with the sheriff ’s office warrants database would allow Mount Rainier police to be alerted if there is an outstanding warrant for a certain address. For example, if a Mount Rainier officer receives a loud music complaint, and he doesn’t know that there is an outstanding warrant for that address, the officer won’t know the potential danger and will be at a disadvantage.

The District of Columbia also has ShotSpotter®, a gunshot detection and location system. When a gunshot is fired, the system’s sensors trigger the CAD system and within five seconds, Mount Rainier knows about it.

“Because of the nature of our terrain, we get a lot of reports of gunshots fired in Mount Rainier that actually occurred in D.C.,” Scott says. “With SAMS we can see the shot was fired in D.C. Our patrol guys can go to the area of our city that borders that area. It also gives my citizens some peace of mind so if they call to report a gunshot, we can say the gunshots came from D.C.

“I’m convinced that the more situation awareness we have in the field the better we will respond to crime and the safer our officers will be,” he says.

“The NIJ technology institute was outstanding. It was a privilege to be a part of it. Some of the things people are doing are phenomenal and the NIJ tech institute really needs to continue. I think it’s terribly important that we get together as a law enforcement community.”

For more information, contact Mount Rainier Police Chief Michael Scott at MScott@mountrainierpd.org.

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