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Benefits of Integrating CAD and RMS
Author: Bob Galvin
Copyright: Copyright 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content,
Better, Quicker Information and Higher Safety at Heart of CAD/RMS Software Systems
By Bob Galvin
A clear sign showing how dispatchers can support law enforcement more directly than before, and even help influence a safe outcome for police incidents, is the move to integrate CAD and RMS systems.
Fueling this integration trend is a wide range of software offerings that simplify data entry, retrieval and storage between dispatchers and law enforcement officers. The net result? By automating and linking CAD and RMS systems, dispatchers can send patrol units more detailed records and be free to handle more incoming incident calls. Likewise, officers can respond to more incidents.
Chief Ronnie Bowen of the Amory (MS) Police Department knows firsthand how integrating CAD and RMS has become essential for more effective policing. Before he became police chief in 1993, Bowen was himself a dispatcher for two years, and a patrol officer for 11 years. As chief, one of his first actions was to automate records and integrate the CAD and RMS functions to strengthen incident response by his 21 sworn officers who serve Amory’s 7,600 residents.
Hampered Data Retrieval Prompted Software Switch
Chief Bowen attained a grant to install live mobile computers in his department’s patrol cars. Then he purchased software that indeed automated certain records and police functions, but also had a downside.
Recalls the chief: “Officers had access to state files to run driver licenses and tags, they could check for stolen property and vehicles, and they had some messaging capability.” Yet, officers could not check any local records or outstanding warrants unless they used a dispatch radio system.
Officers can create a call for service (CFS) with most records management software.
Shown here, the Crimestar RMS Calls for Service module maintains unit response and call related data.
Crimestar CAD event records are transferred into the CFS module of RMS.
This kind of data retrieval roadblock is what eventually prompted Chief Bowen to adopt the Crimestar RMS software from Crimestar Corporation (www.crimestar.com). The software, which is particularly well suited for small police departments with or without dedicated dispatch centers, has become an idea
l solution for the Amory Police Department for several reasons:
Crimestar RMS contains a complete set of core modules to capture and store details on a variety of documents such as accident reports, citations, field interviews, incident/crime reports, and warrants.
The Crimestar Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system gives the dispatcher access to all the search features and information contained in the RMS. The CAD system can be run standalone or from within the RMS. The CAD workstation can be used solo or as part of a local area network that allows multiple dispatchers or call takers to control the system. Crimestar CAD can be extended out to field computers as a full Mobile Digital Dispatch solution.
When Amory Police Department’s dispatch center sends a dispatch call to a patrol car via its CAD system, this is followed up with verbal communication. Due to the sensitive nature of some information, such as a house number, many dispatches are silently transmitted.
‘Calls for Service’ an Essential Module
As is the case with most RMS software programs, officers can create a call for service (CFS) with Crimestar‘s offering. The software’s CFS module maintains unit response and call related data. This module is not a CAD system, although Crimestar CAD event records are transferred into the CFS module of RMS. Once the dispatcher gets a call for service, creates a record from it and dispatches a unit to a specific incident, all other units can view this information as well. The speed of data retrieval is pivotal with any CAD system. For instance, when an officer stops a driver, he can send information to dispatch from his unit. Then the dispatcher enters the tag number and the state into the CAD. Meanwhile, Crimestar, for example, instantly has searched the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) to determine if the vehicle is stolen or not. Crimestar then indicates outstanding warrants and criminal history with a query in RMS. The patrol units can query a vehicle tag and receive information from RMS showing a local history on that vehicle as well as the state registration and any reports of stolen vehicles.
“Once CAD closes out a call, it automatically throws it into the RMS,” Chief Bowen said. And, he adds, if an officer has an incident report with information he has gathered from the field, that report automatically has been populated with all the information that the dispatcher entered. If the report needs an investigator, the officer can indicate this in the report.
CAD/RMS Linkage Give More Detailed Records
Captain Brad Heyden of the Douglas County, Colorado, Sheriff’s Office cites as a huge benefit the elimination of duplicative data entry through using integrated CAD and RMS programs, along with more complete information available to all appropriate personnel.
With a population of 300,000 residents and covering 844 square miles, Douglas County decided to adopt the Aegis Public Safety software from New World Systems (NWS) (www.newworldsystems.com) of Troy, Michigan. An RMS program is the core offering of this software. CAD, Mobile Computing and Field –Based Reporting components are sold separately.
Similar to the Crimestar RMS package, the NWS software can be integrated and uses a single database to ensure that all crime and incident information is linked through the suite of software.
“With our new (RMS) system, as soon as an officer is dispatched a CAD incident number is created, which then becomes an incident in the records system, and so the narrative comes through along with the time of the call and type of call,” Captain Heyden explained. “All of this (data) gets passed into records as an incident, and then the incident can be turned into a case report.”
Below: Captain Brad Heyden of the Douglas County, Colorado Sheriff's Office
observes dispatcher Cindi Dieck sending a call for service to a
patrol unit. The sheriff's office uses the New World Systems Aegis
public safety software, which integrates CAD and RMS.
Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the Amory Police Department have tied together their CAD and RMS software systems for the very reasons that many other agencies are struggling with futile automated records tracking and reporting methods—the need for: more robust communications, greater access to vital information, and increased information sharing. More importantly, without bridging the CAD and RMS functions, the inability to share full information on event calls can be perilous for officers.
Captain Heyden underscores the value of having a CAD/RMS system like the one his department uses. For instance, he said, “Let’s say there is a call for service at someone’s residence. The officer enters this information on his mobile terminal that is linked via a CAD system to the dispatcher. As soon as it’s entered, we track the proximity alert with the New World Systems program, which might say that within 500 feet of that call there is a person who has a criminal history at a certain nearby address,” Captain Heyden continued.
Furnished with this data, officers can look for an address of the suspicious person. Consequently, “They are getting this information on the mobile CAD in their car at the same time the dispatcher is getting the alert on their screen as they arrive on scene,” Captain Heyden said. “When they arrive, they will have background information on the individual.”
GPS Increases Officer Safety
One capability built into most CAD systems that has proven to be both a protective force and lifesaver, literally, for law enforcement officers in the field is GPS and map-enabled mobile communications.
Crimestar RMS offers this capability, which allows real time latitude/longitude coordinates for all field units and events to be visually displayed on digital maps. Field units and dispatchers can then view the location of units and where in relation to the locale patrol units are.
“If a patrol car is sitting somewhere for more than three minutes, Crimestar reports it location to the dispatch center,” Amory Police Department’s Chief Bowen said. “And it it’s moving every 150 feet, the GPS module in Crimestar reports this location.”
One chilling episode the chief recalled shows how invaluable the GPS/map-enabled module in Crimestar can be. “We had one officer with three suspects under a pointed gun and one in the car who wouldn’t get out,” Chief Bowen explained. “So we found where he was by looking at the map (at dispatch, using the CAD system). We were able to locate the officer very quickly and in time to give him protection.”
Regional Dispatch Centers Raise Efficiency, Help Rural Agencies
CAD software offers other tremendous efficiencies whether it is used by a dispatch center to monitor calls for one public service agency or several agencies.
A common trend lately is for multiple police departments to be dispatched out of one central 9-1-1 center. The benefit is that these dispatch centers do not merely dispatch but share records as well. It’s a benefit particularly helpful to many regional dispatch centers that dispatch not only for law enforcement agencies, but for fire and EMS departments as well. Regional dispatching also is becoming essential for rural law enforcement agencies that otherwise might have to rely on far less effective dispatch options.
Such consolidation helps the agencies who collectively use the regional dispatch service to spread out cost and gain major efficiencies. This is especially true if the dispatch center is using software programs that link RMS and CAD.
Next Generation 9-1-1 Standard Will Strengthen CAD’s Role
The whole 9-1-1 emergency system in the United States is reaching a technology emergency of its own. There is a growing trend towards cellular and Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) telephony, which reflect an expanding mobile world.
Today’s 9-1-1 infrastructure has not kept pace with this trend. Therefore, this infrastructure cannot accommodate the records, messages, images and video that are tied to personal communications and to the technology in place to support it.
The problem is such a big concern that the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) is working to support a so-called Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1) initiative. The initiative will define the system architecture and develop a plan to launch IP-based emergency services nationwide.
The upshot of NG 9-1-1 for public safety responders would be enhanced call delivery, multimedia data transmission, and more streamlined call transferring.
More importantly, with NG 9-1-1, “There will be more emphasis in the future on providing safety to the first responder,” said Rick Jones, NENA’s Operations Issues Director. And, Jones adds, “There is a need for CAD operators not to just juggle calls, but to verify information for calls, which would give you flags of safety issues.”
Presently, Jones argues, there is very little software control over the dispatch side of the CAD/RMS equation. Yet with an NG 9-1-1 environment, for example, “You should be able to receive a call from someone in distress at a bank ATM somewhere in your region. And not only are you (as a dispatcher) relaying to first responders what that distress is, but the first responder has the capability to start watching the video. You can start pulling in pieces of information,” Jones added.
Below: Dispatchers are better equipped to support field officers when
RMS systems are integrated with CAD, allowing more data on prior incidents
or field contacts can be retrieved and relayed to units in the field.
These same images and chunks of information can also be sent to multiple entities. “And it doesn’t have to mean more work for the dispatcher,” Jones said.
Furthermore, unlike before when, say, a law enforcement agency had to set up an RMS/CAD system alone, and fund it alone, now information technology and broadband wireless systems can be used across a wide geographic area of multiple agencies and counties. “And CAD is then shared by the whole system,” Jones said.
Pricing Now More Flexible
The NG 9-1-1 initiative will take time to become a standard. Meanwhile, if law enforcement departments can simply marry their CAD operations with RMS, that will be a quantum leap towards achieving optimal , timely data retrieval and officer safety.
The cost of purchasing CAD and RMS software, of course, will continue to be the fly in the ointment for many police departments in these budget-battered times. This applies most squarely to the predominantly high number of small departments that blanket the nation.
The good news is that there are affordable, feature-rich RMS/CAD software packages for both large and small police departments. However, there’s a caveat: many of these software programs may require extensive customization, and oftentimes offer capabilities that are not bundled, and are priced separately. For example, Chief Bowen recalls that just to buy a basic RMS program, one vendor quoted a price of $212,000. “We just couldn’t afford it,” Chief Bowen said.
Still another company offered software comparable to the Crimestar package, and with a lower price. “But it offered just the basic package and you had to buy modules that Crimestar already included,” said Chief Bowen.
The Amory Police Department ultimately bought Crimestar’s solution for $26,000, which allowed the software to be loaded on nine computers and six mobile data terminals.
Software ‘Economy of Scale’ Needed
Most states are now wanting records submitted electronically, but to meet this mandate funding can be difficult or just impossible for many police departments.
The need to make CAD and RMS software affordable, especially for smaller and even mid-size law enforcement agencies is what prompted Crimestar to offer its wide-ranging solution without the need for customization.
According to Alec Gagne, president of Crimestar, it becomes very difficult to achieve an economy of scale when selling software to law enforcement because different states have different reporting requirements. “This is what has helped drive the prices up,” Gagne said, even though some police departments insist upon extensive customization and are willing to pay hefty prices for it.
“We decided we could offer an RMS and CAD software product that does everything more expensive and elaborate software will do, at a price threshold that even the smallest customers can afford,” Gagne said.
For departments like Amory, Miss., P.D., this was an ideal solution for its records management needs.
In the case of the Douglas County, Colorado Sheriff’s Department, New World Systems’ software offering rang up at $1.7 million. This price fetched a software program comprising CAD and RMS.
Captain Heyden explains that the New World Systems software meets his sheriff’s department’s records management needs superbly for the price of the integrated RMS and CAD systems installed. He considers the software well worth the cost since there now is none of the redundant data entry that plagued his department when it used another vendor’s solution.
Says Captain Heyden: “The real benefit of the integrated (CAD and RMS) system goes mostly to the officer on the street because he doesn’t have to retype information already entered in the CAD call. The information is automatically entered in the records system. The officer starts initiating the report in the field.”
In this way, all other departments---dispatch, records, jail, civil, and warrants (which all tap into the New World Systems software)—can have this information once the record is started by an officer,” Deputy Heyden added.
Above: A major benefit of integrated CAD/RMS software is that an officer can
retrieve enough information to decide whether or not to make an arrest
right at the scene with the subject.
Bob Galvin is a Portland (OR) freelance writer who writes about the technology and software designed for 9-1-1 emergency communications, public safety, and law enforcement professionals.