Tuesday, November 16, 2010

LPD unplugged

If you’ve read the Chief’s Corner for any length of time, you realize that information technology is deeply embedded in the operations of the Lincoln Police Department. We depend on our information resources in a number of ways, but much of it begins with dispatch information.

Decades ago, when someone called the police, a call-taker wrote the pertinent details down on a card, that went into a conveyer belt that transported it to a dispatcher, who picked it up, assigned an officer, stamped it with the time and case number, and stuck it in a slot.  This was all computerized in the early 1990’s, when the City’s Communications Center replaced this manual process with a computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system. 

Today, the electronic dispatch records feed our records management system, pre-populate our online reports, and are transmitted electronically to the officers’ mobile data computers in the patrol cars.  Veteran officers like me will still catch themselves from time to time referring to the dispatch record as a dispatch card, which makes about as much sense as calling a digital image displayed on an LCD monitor a slide. 

The computer-aided dispatch system was due for a hardware and software replacement this year, and the switch over was scheduled for 4:00 AM this past Sunday, and expected to take at least 24 hours.  Killing CAD would also knock out our interface to our mobile data system, and the interface to our Records Management System.  As a result, there would be a period of time where police employees would need to revert to an earlier tool in order to document their cases:  the pen and pad of paper. 

Rather than looking at this switchover as an obstacle, I looked at it as an opportunity to practice police work with part of our information intrastructure crippled.  By reminding ourselves from time to time that all you really need to do police work is a writing instrument, we will be better prepared, organizationally, in the event of anything from an massive snow storm to an EMP event.   Think of it as an exercise to test our resilience, just like you might fire up the emergency generator, or move to the backup facility temporarily.  When you exercise these plans, you increase the likelihood that you will be able to do so if the real need arises. 

The changeover is going about as planned, but has included the inevitable unplanned twists and turns.  We have weathered it just fine, though, and a large group of police officers who have never actually dialed a phone (nor hung one up) learned that LPD can continue to work pretty well unplugged.

17 comments:

JIM J said...

Wow, back in the day whwn the call taker would talk to the dispatcher.
The most recent mis-que
I tell the call taker "on the Superior street side of the building"
Minutes later my phone rings...
"What side of the building"? asks the person....nothing new at dispatch.

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested in hearing about Jim J's vast work experience as a law enforcement officer and as a dispatcher, since he seems to know all there is to know about both fields.

Steve said...

I think Jim just takes himself a little too seriously sometimes. Maybe he didn't know his directions well enough to say "north side" or "south side" instead of "Superior Street side" of the building. At least they called back to confirm.

Just some guy... said...

Chief,

Off topic: I found it interesting that in LJS's article on the Catalyst project it is mentioned that the living quarters will be 4bedroom units that cater to college students. The purpose being to increase rents in order to defray the cost of an expensive steel and concrete high-rise.

It's been a while since you've blogged about "party houses" but isn't more than 3 unrelated parties domiciled together against city ordinance? I doubt you'll respond to anything beyond this question but I'll ask another just for discussion purposes: what problems could be posed by such a development as it relates to policing?

Thanks Chief for all you and your officers do.

Anonymous said...

Chief,

The Magic 8-Ball returned an "signs point to yes" when asked if you'd soon be revisiting this topic.

Anonymous said...

Just some guy,

The city govt is well-practiced in granting exemptions and variances of all sorts, in their blinders-on, mad dash for any increased revenue they can spy with their greedy little eyes. You saw who the contractor would be for that project, I assume, which should be a clue...

Tom Casady said...

Just some guy:

An exception for Community Unit Plans was adopted by the City Council in 2001, to make way for the Stadium View Apartments (now just The View), and would probably be applied to this project, as well, I assume.

Steve said...

While I don't necessarily agree with the somewhat arbitrary and discriminatory rule about exceeding three unrelated people living in the same apartment or home, it sure was a good tool to use against party houses. Thanks, city council, for exempting the properties you own or build!

JIM J said...

Anon 9:41 writes:Jim J's vast work experience as a law enforcement officer and as a dispatcher,

The view you take is reflected in the fact that you are an anon poster, and I speculate are an employee of our public service. I will guess not more than 28 years old..: While I work my 15 hour days, anon posters are not worth my time to address.(gee I did any way) troll bait got me

Steve: No, dispatch did not call me back. The service desk did. Perhaps I do lack a compass and I lack the skills to know if the sun sets in the west. But, even with the vast stupidity you brand me with, I have improved my communication skills to a level far above some of the call takers they have.

Brandon said...

Chief Casady,

I have a question for you, I'm sorry it's an unrelated topic, but I don't know how else to ask. My question is what is the law and department policy regarding objects hanging from rear view mirrors?

I've heard it's illegal to have objects obstructing your view. On the other hand I've heard the police probably won't pull people over for this?

I used to have fuzzy dice and tree air fresheners on my old truck all the time. But I have left my new object free. Still just wondering what the policy is? Thank-You

Watchful said...

Back on topic...

So, how is that "upgrade" working so far?

The rumor mill indicates that officers are minus the great tool they have (a connected computer) since they can not get or stay logged in.

Tom Casady said...

Watchful-

I think it's gone fine for the City Communications Center. For LPD, however, we are still missing one key component: the interface between our mobile data network and the Communications Center's computer-aided dispatch system.

Our mobile data network is working just fine--you can still run your plates, persons, do your checks, message other units, and so forth--you just can't get your dispatch information electronically. The CAD vendor is working on the glitch. Not a huge deal, though, and probably good for everyone to remember that you can still write the address down, get your case number over the radio, clear the call over the radio, pay attention to the radio in order to keep mental track of where your coworkers are, and so forth.

Brandon-

It is unlawful to have a visual obstruction, but that is a judgement call when it is something hanging from a mirror. The size of the object, and the perception of the individual officer would determine whether he or she would consider your fuzzy dice a visual obstruction.

Steve said...

JimJ:

I don't believe I branded you as stupid for not knowing your directions. Lot's of people don't, or in certain unfamiliar situations, may not be sure.

I didn't say "dispatch" called you back. I said "they" called you back.

As for the level of your communications skills, your writing speaks for itself.

JIM J said...

Thank you Steve, I will work on those writing scills.

Anonymous said...

I can personally vouch for the fact you were not there personally supervising Sunday morning.

Tom Casady said...

1:50-

Did I assert otherwise?

Trevor Brass said...

Very cool learning about your computer system. There is always a tension between gadgets we want simply because they are nifty and tools that one will use. Hope your new system serves you well. But it's nice to see that redundancy based on the human element is still there.