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Three Best Practices for Tier 1 Public Safety Agencies

Author: Edward Kerkow, FIS Public Sector

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2015-12-10
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New technology alone is not always a positive force – it must be accompanied by sensible policies that ensure the investments are making the greatest possible impact.

I continue to be fascinated by the convergence of technology and public safety that is transforming police departments across the United States. Many agencies now leverage new systems to improve operational efficiency, reduce costs, and build relationships with their constituents and other agencies.  But new technology alone is not always a positive force – it must be accompanied by sensible policies that ensure the investments are making the greatest possible impact. This is especially true in large Tier 1 agencies, where investments are expensive and need to scale and where the public’s attention is most often turned. The policies of Tier 1 agencies often set the precedent for smaller agencies and can be the “laboratories” where new trends form.  To that end, here are three tips for Tier 1 agencies to consider when working to reduce response times and increase operational efficiencies:


Interoperability is Key

When core technology systems can’t communicate effectively, efficacy and response times are negatively impacted and constituents suffer. That is why interoperability is important. Interoperability, in a nutshell, describes the way different systems communicate with one another and process shared data. Interoperability is more than just sharing data, however; data must be accurate and usable for both ends of a system. A record entered on one end in a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system, for example, must be accessible and useful from a different endpoint along an interoperable CAD system. One of the most critical mistakes agencies make is undertaking siloed investments without considering integration with an existing CAD or Records Management System (RMS).  Without this integration, separate systems remain disjointed and provide much less value than interoperable systems that work in conjunction with others. Increasingly, many agencies are even going a step further by sharing RMS or CAD with adjacent agencies to multiply their effectiveness.

One application where interoperability is of growing helpfulness is body cameras, which are increasingly used by police departments to document officers’ responses to an incident. Today, many wearable camera systems are manually toggled on or off by the officers wearing them. Making these systems interoperable with CAD allows a camera’s setting to be automatically determined by the vehicle MCT or CAD status. This integration provides an additional level of support or control to officers in the field who may need to act on a moment’s notice.  Similarly, a wearable camera solution that is interoperable with RMS can “look at” a perpetrator and run their facial template against the RMS database, allowing for faster identification.  In these investigative cases, interoperability is both a public safety enabler and a resource multiplier - helping provide a fuller and more accurate picture of an individual, setting, case, or situation.



The relationship between a public safety agency and its constituents is important and relies on transparency, accountability, and a continuing dialogue. Many Tier 1 agencies are working to unlock the power of big data to achieve these goals. Big data has so many applications, both externally for constituents and internally for decision makers and department employees. Some Tier 1 agencies have already set up online portals that allow constituents to search police data quickly, potentially saving enormous amounts of man hours that would otherwise be spent coordinating Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

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Internally, Tier 1 agencies are leveraging analytics and big data in areas like finance and human resources in order to cut down on static, time consuming reporting that has plagued agencies for years. Software analytics for agencies leverage existing agency data to develop customized, real-time dashboards and allow internal stakeholders to create dynamic reports, then save templates for repeated use. Software analytics, powered by big data, are incredibly helpful to decision makers within an agency, giving them clean, actionable data to help improve their existing strategy and resource management.  Thanks to public safety analytics, agency staff can spend less time focused on internal reporting and more time serving the public.


Making Public Safety Scale

The arrival of cloud computing has been a tremendous boon in enterprise IT; many businesses are embracing the cloud to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and increase accessibility. However, public safety agencies, especially at the Tier 1 level, are in the early stages of cloud adoption. The cloud offers a low-cost, highly-scalable solution many agencies are desperately seeking. On-premise private clouds may seem like a logical choice for security-minded Tier 1 agencies, as they offer greater levels of customization, application, and bolstered security compared to public clouds, but they sometimes lack scale. Many agencies can benefit from a hybrid cloud model, which offers the best of both worlds. They are highly-scalable and maintain enough sensitive information on-premise as to not create unneeded risk for an agency.  In the event of an emergency, a hybrid cloud-based emergency management system could be set up with information about shelter locations and affected individuals residing in a public cloud , while overall management and oversight of resources occurs in a private cloud.   


Conclusion: Mastering Interoperability, Analytics and Scalability

Ultimately, Tier 1 agencies have an obligation to protect large populations in an efficient and transparent way. Upgrading legacy IT systems to achieve reduced costs and increased efficiency can help with these goals. But with limited resources, accessibility, security, and compliance issues, state and local governments need to prioritize their resources and determine where investments would have the biggest impact. Connecting records and dispatch systems via interoperability can make an officer’s job responding to an incident easier, while also reducing administrative duties in the back end. Data analytics can help agencies identify trends – whether geographic, demographic, or otherwise, that can help them re-prioritize officers’ response duties. Analytics can also improve community relations. Finally, cloud computing can help all these operations scale, and ensure smoothness in daily operations while cutting costs. With these tips, any Tier 1 agency, or any agency for that matter, can continue to do more with less and serve their constituents most effectively. 


Edward Kerkow serves as the Director of Operations at FIS Public Sector (formerly SunGard Public Sector), with responsibility for product management within the firm’s Public Safety and Justice Division.  Prior to joining FIS, Edward served as the Interim Chief Information Officer (CIO) at the City of New Orleans.  In this role, Edward and his team were responsible for developing and executing the technology strategies to support the delivery of City Services.


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