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Pa. officers get DHS grants for laptops

Lebanon Daily News

LEBANON COUNTY, Pa. — Not long ago, the various police departments in Lebanon County had a tough time sharing information.

With antiquated computer systems that allowed little or no connectivity, officers had to rely heavily on phone calls and face-to-face conversations to gather information on suspects.

"Everybody had themselves an outdated DOS police-management system, which was failing. I know mine was at least 22 years old," South Londonderry police Chief Jeffrey Arnold said. "Everybody had different stand-alone systems."

That is changing, thanks in part to grants from the federal Department of Homeland Security.

Congressman Tim Holden was in Lebanon yesterday to announce grants totaling more than $150,000 for four county law-enforcement agencies.

Police departments from Cleona, Palmyra and South Lebanon Township, along with the Lebanon County Detective Bureau, will each receive $38,764.62.

"As a former county sheriff, I know the tax burdens that counties face and local municipalities face, and they cannot always, because of limits on millage, step up to the plate and be as helpful and they would like to be," Holden explained. "And that's why I think it's important for the federal government to partner as often as they can with the states and our local law-enforcement agencies. We can be partners in fighting crime."

The grants will be used to buy laptop computers and Mobile Synch records-management system software, which is manufactured by In-Synch Systems of Zelienople, Butler County. With the software and laptops, officers will be able to access the records of other police departments that use the system.

"You can link to the system and find out if anybody has any contact with a suspect immediately, while you're still with the person," Arnold said. "It's beautiful."

Cornwall Chief Bruce Harris, whose department began using the software last year, said the system significantly enhances officers' ability to do their jobs.

"It's a great system," he said. "We're able to share records with all the other departments that are on it. We didn't have that ability in the past."

The process to develop a centralized record system for county police departments started about two years ago, Harris said.

"At that time, there were I don't know how many separate records systems -- five, six at least," he said. "Some departments had their own system but didn't have the ability to share records with any other agency. Some departments had just totally stand-alone systems that nobody else in the county had, kind of an antiquated way of trying to do things today."

The county police chiefs association eventually chose the Mobile Synch system. The issue then became funding to purchase it.

Four departments in the county -- Palmyra, Cornwall, South Londonderry and Annville -- have already bought the system and are online.

"Others in the county ... didn't have the money budgeted or the money was a concern generally, and at that point we agreed that we would try to seek funding so that all the departments in the county that wanted the system would be able to get it," Harris said.

The grants will cover the purchase of the software, computers and other hardware.

County police departments already using it are connected to Swatara Township, Dauphin County, and it is possible to link to other departments around the state, Arnold said.

The grants were awarded under the Commercial Equipment Direct Assistance Program, which provides specialized commercial equipment and related training directly to smaller jurisdictions and eligible metropolitan areas.

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