Creating the mobile office

Michigan departments take technology on the road

     Add-on applications: With the ability to tap into multiple databases now in place, agencies seek to further automate in-field operations such as the issuance of traffic citations and the production of accident reports. "We want to go to automated ticketing in the field, scanning driver's licenses and importing data into the citations," Michelle LaJoye-Young says. "We also want to increase the automation of accident reports and our overall communications bandwidth so we can handle even more information transfers." St. Joseph County also sees the benefit of electronic ticketing, which it says has reduced the process from an average of 7 minutes to under 2 minutes. The information is imported directly into St. Joseph's central server, where it resides on the county's records system.

     System reliability, security and compliance: Homeland security and other federal, state and local agencies have strict security requirements and data interface specifications that must be complied with for data access. Law enforcement technology providers must meet these requirements with their systems, while also providing safe and secure access.

     Cost control: Mobile technology is not a trivial investment, and many law enforcement agencies are challenged when it comes to funding new initiatives. Homeland security grants have been helpful in underwriting the deployment costs of mobile technology, but so have creative pricing models offered by vendors.

     "We recognize that cost is an issue for many agencies," Ford says. "This is why we offer a service bureau solution that approximately 20 percent of our customers use. A service bureau allows agencies to pay monthly for mobile data access instead of coming up with a major upfront investment. It also gives them the ability to use our technical management resources instead of their own. This is important for small agencies, which may not have a dedicated IT person."

     APS works on cost and return on investment (ROI) models to assist agencies with budget justifications. "We have found, in particular with mobile ticketing, that we can return the initial investment to most agencies in a one- to two-month timeframe," Rubenstein says.

Mobile tech pays off
     Law enforcement is very complex in the post-9/11 era. So much depends on timely information and on secure and sophisticated ways of getting it. This is what makes mobile technology indispensable to law enforcement. For this reason, mobile technology pays off most when internal business processes are reviewed and those responsible for implementing and participating in those processes understand exactly how mobile technology will benefit them.

     "Implementing any new technology is always a process," Cubitt stresses. "It has its successes but also its bumps, especially when first starting. At the onset, we had many officers who resisted changes in workflows and methods of doing things. However, we have seen the difference that mobile computing makes. All we have to do is take it offline, and immediately we get the calls from the field wondering where the system is."

Best practices for mobile technology
     Mobile technology can speed suspect apprehension, and it can solve major cases that would have proven elusive without fingertip access to a cross-section of information from agencies at many different levels of jurisdiction. Day-to-day field operations such as electronic ticketing are delivering processing reductions of up to 200 percent. Nevertheless, there are still challenges when it comes to mobile technology adoption and deployment.

     Here are several best practices for agencies considering mobile technology:

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