Creating the mobile office

Michigan departments take technology on the road

     Since this technology has been implemented, there have been several instances where officers were able to identify a suspect by using their mobile laptops and connecting to both in-state and out-of-state data repositories, according to LaJoye-Young. Officers were able to procure suspect warrant information from another state as well as pull up the suspect's photograph and demographic information. In one case, officers even discovered a couple of inaccuracies in descriptors found in various records.

     "We get suspects in custody and find that mobile technology with a broad range of database connectivity dramatically improves the entire process," says LaJoye-Young. "Before we had this technology, we had to do a lot of leg work, contacting multiple law enforcement agencies by phone to check on a suspect, and to track down alias information that could not be obtained in the field."

     The new mobile capability is important because LaJoye-Young notes it can be very common to encounter incomplete information on a given suspect. "Often, we have only a description of the suspect and no Social Security Number," she says. "With the mobile communications and database integration we now have, we can obtain fingerprints, warrants and other images. Our officers are very used to this new system, and it has enabled us to do a better job of suspect identification and apprehension."

St. Joseph County, Michigan
     St. Joseph County, Michigan, has a consolidated 911 dispatch center serving the county's 63,000 residents. "We have three supervisors and two part-time staff at the center, and we use Core Technology's Talon MDC (mobile data computer) software technology on 45 laptops," says Gary LeTourneau, central dispatch director for St. Joseph County. "Thirty eight of these laptops are in cars in the field, and we also have a number of handheld Panasonic F29 devices that we use in our narcotics operations. The Talon-driven laptops in the cars allow us to obtain online information on suspects and run identification checks."

     St. Joseph County also uses Deerfield Beach, Florida-based Advanced Public Safety's (APS) electronic ticketing program. With this system, officers can run license plates and subjects. They can verbalize that a subject is wanted and relay driving details to the system without having to use a pen or keypad. "This verbal information automatically populates the traffic citation," says LeTourneau. "The officer fills out the remaining fields of the citation and prints out the ticket on the spot via a portable printer in the car."

     The county also uses a GPS system that allows law enforcement to see the locations of patrol cars throughout the county. "There is a GPS modem in each car that sends data to the department server, and a server-resident application which then maps the data," says LeTourneau. "Our desk people can see squad car locations at all times and this will eliminate our old polling equipment. Unlike polling, the new GPS technology does not allow anyone but us to see our in-field cars and their locations."

     The GPS system is propelled by orthographic data collected by the county every three years for mapping. The information is gathered from planes that fly overhead, mapping terrain. "This is especially useful if you're performing surveillance on a house, and you anticipate having to enter," says LeTourneau. "In advance, we can see the tree lines and the ridges, and any other relevant features about the surrounding environment. We can also locate an officer if the sheriff needs to know where the officer was at a given time."

     St. Joseph County officers also have fingertip access to extensive online systems and data that they can tap into remotely. "Officers in the field have access to everything that we are working," says LeTourneau. "They can check their schedules from their cars. They can check an array of records on individuals and even animal control records on stray dogs and who they belong to."

New generation mobility applications
     In addition to meeting some immediate needs, mobile technology is paving a road into new applications that will further facilitate in-field law enforcement, with companies like Hewlett Packard providing rugged laptops with digital pens and GPS/mapping for airborne operations. Other companies are looking to add on applications that can be used with the mobile technology being employed by the above departments as well as other mobile technologies. One such example is APS Systems' mobile voice response solution.

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