Monday, October 24, 2011
Q: How did the deployment start?
David Hexem: Well, I’ve been at the city for about 3 years now. When I started in 2008, we were in the initial stages of the current recession. The former police chief was a big Apple fan. I was working with several vendors from the city to renegotiate contracts or look for other partners to save money. The Apple i-device began as a move to save money. We spoke with AT&T about switching over from Blackberries to iPhones. We not only saved money by doing so, but we were able to give more capability to officers than the blackberries. There’s an iPhone-user group that meets periodically and they look for apps that can relate to police operations.
Chris Catren: Yeah, there are about 20 people from our department who are part of a working group, who look at apps that try to improve job performance.
D: It’s a very collaborative process. You have to embrace new technology or get bowled over by it. Chris and I talk about concerns we have on the IT side about data security.
Q: Have there been any issues?
C: We had a lot of bumps along the way. But the reliability and durability of the devices has been outstanding. We deploy the iPhone with an Otterbox case and we haven’t had a single one break. There are no moving parts—just a touch button. There are regular software updates and we keep them going in the field.
Q: How do you load department apps?
D: Up until recently, everyone had to have an individual iTunes account. They received a gift card to buy apps and so on, to install on their phone. As we worked through that, we’ve recently bought a mobile device management program called Mobile Iron that now allows us to manage what’s on each phone from the time of deployment.
Q: Do all your officers use the iPhone & iPad?
C: All 77 officers, plus all CSOs, have the iPhone. Some volunteers in the field use them too, for graffiti documentation and so on. We have about 60 iPads. The devices are very similar. If we want officers to complete web-based forms, then they’ll use the iPad.
Q: Can officers use the tech for personal use?
C: We allow and encourage officers
to use their iPad and iPhone for personal use. They pay for it though. And in that scenario, the information on the phone can be searched. Some officers opt for a second phone though. What we’ve found is that if you don’t allow personal use, they won’t have their work phone with them when they’re not at work. So, this way we can reach our officers whenever we need them. We’ve worked with the IRS to ensure it’s not a gift of public funds.
Q: How are handhelds & tablets improving your department?
C: Cops are now using tools in the field that are used by virtually everyone else on the planet. They can now use departmental resources at work more efficiently. They’re taking and distributing photos more effectively, filling out reports and eliminating redundancies in the system. If we get a missing person report, we go to the house and take a photo of the kid, and then get that photo out to every person in the field immediately. In the past, we would have taken a photo and had it developed, and then made photocopies of it. It’s the same stuff we’ve always done, just faster and more efficient.
Everybody gets the same information instantaneously. If an officer isn’t in his or her car, they can’t rely on the MDC. These devices encourage officers to stay out in the field because now they don’t have to do the mundane work in the office or miss something on the CAD. We use Spillman Touch as a front end for CAD and records management. It says who’s where, what calls are coming in, who’s assigned to the call, comments, etc. In addition, we’re making our own software with an NIJ grant to study geospatial crime reporting. For the iPhone, we’re creating a field interview app that will automatically download the information taken in the field and put it in records.
Q: How did you pay for this project?
C: To pay for this project, we used our funds from the city and mixed that with asset forfeiture funds. Then we got an NIJ grant for mapping tools in the field—basically, will this capability improve an officer’s ability to respond?
D: We also have a fulltime criminologist who does our grant writing. We’re going to be working with the Omega Group on an app that we’re anticipating deploying in December. The criminologist will be writing the academic measurement of efficiencies of geospatial policing using i-devices. They will document whether it, as we suspect, makes officers more effective or whether it doesn’t.
Q: Do you recommend this to other agencies?
C: The iPhone isn’t the only platform out there, but we’re satisfied and happy with it. Apple’s been a good partner. Whatever platform you chose, you must embrace the technology that exists. Often departments will call us and tell us they want to deploy an i-device, but only to command staff. You need to get it out into the hands of the people in the field. It’s a trust issue. We hire good people and we trust them, and all the good ideas we’ve had have come from officers using these devices.
Q: Final thoughts?
D: Here’s a suggestion for IT people: Don’t be afraid of the tech that people use at home. The expectation is that if an officer uses a technology at home to improve their personal life, then they should be able to use it at work. We need to support this.
C: Every crook you run into has an iPhone. Just like the Hollywood bank shootout, where the police realized the bad guys had out-gunned them, we need to keep up with technology and embrace it.