OPD switches to computerized reporting system [Odessa American, Texas :: ]
(Odessa American (TX) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) May 03--After years of officers handwriting reports, the Odessa Police Department is now moving toward a computerized system to streamline data management within the agency.
Premier One, a computerized data repository specifically developed for law enforcement by Motorola, went live with the department March 25. The system cost $2,323,327, according to Information Technology Division records.
"It's a real-time information system," OPD Chief Timothy Burton said. "It's a comprehensive database. We're in a position to manage the reports much better and enables us to do things more accurately."
When a call is made to the department, the information is put into the case folder automatically by dispatch.
"When we are assigned a call, we click the "locate call" button and it'll show us immediately where that call is, where they're sending us to," OPD Cpl. Gary Potter said.
Officers were trained about two weeks before Premier One went live, with two sergeants teaching groups how to use the features and report writing system in an eight-hour course, Potter said. The sergeants explained the system once to each group, which were composed of about four to five officers from each shift, Potter said.
When the officer arrives, they click a button to notify dispatch they are at the scene. After the situation is assessed, officers update the report on their computers inside the vehicle. Potter said that all reports made by officers are available to all of them as soon as they are entered into the system.
"Before in the car you had access to very little information without going to the station into the records division and pulling paper cases, making copies of them. You had very limited data," Potter said.
OPD Cpl. Steve LeSueur said because officers can now communicate with dispatch through the Premier One system, it prevents the radio from being clogged with several calls and updates.
Potter said officers will still use the radio for major calls, including assaults or shootings.
"The more we can minimize radio traffic that isn't a priority the better it is for officers' safety. If he is reporting a minor incident and another officer needs help or tries to radio in a major event, they can't key in because he will tie it up," Potter said.
Officers can also communicate through an instant messaging system in their computers.
If a person was arrested before by the department, their case history will be readily available in the system, and officers will have immediate access to their record as they write their report and add unto that person's folder. In the older system, officers had to rewrite all of the data in the forms, Potter said.
"Once that info is entered into the system, it's there forever," Potter said. "It saves a lot of time."
About 3,300 people have been entered in the system since it went live in March, Potter said.
After the report is written, it is automatically sent to the sergeants to look over. If the report is approved, it is sent to records, assigned to detectives and sent to the proper division, like narcotics, LeSueur said.
If a correction needs to be made after sergeants look over the report, it is automatically sent back to the officers who will be notified on the system to make the necessary adjustments. Before the Premier One system went live the correction process could take days since the records would be closed in the evenings, Potter said. Officers would have to go back and forth with the sergeants and the records division, and would have to shred the original report or use white-out after the corrections were made. With the Premier One system, the correction process is only a few minutes or hours long since all the records information is within the data repository, Potter said. A workflow chart illustrates the stages of the approval process and allows officers to know the status of the case.
Officers are still handwriting the offense report which is typed up and sent to records to be added to the case folder, Potter said.
Some of the capabilities on the new system include a real-time map that allows officers to see each other's exact location at all times. Potter said this feature was helpful when an officer calls for help because it lets them know the exact number of other officers nearby, allowing them to better assess how they will respond to the situation before arrival.
Chief Burton said the information added in the Premier One system is backed up several times a day.
Officers can now look up case reports in the evenings if they need information and not rely on calling the records division which is closed by that time, Potter said.
After years of using the handwritten system, the transition hasn't been easy.
"It's taking a lot of adjustment because it's so new for someone like me who's been writing paper reports for years where I can pretty much write them in my sleep," Potter said. "I've written thousands of them; you get your routine down. A lot of it is just developing a new routine, a new system, to get the flow and to get fast at it."
The public information available on blotter did not display several components on the new forms that were available on the face sheet of the original, handwritten reports. Chief Burton said the new forms couldn't be updated immediately because they were having issues with the new system, but were working on updating the information made available.
Law enforcement agencies in the Permian Basin region are using other data repository systems. The Midland Police Department switched to the Tiburon computer-aided dispatch system in February 2010.
"We were up and running with it good from the start, but it's like any software program, there's a learning curve, there's issues that have to be worked out with it," MPD Chief John Smith said.
MPD officers also have the mobile product of the Tiburon system in the laptops inside their vehicles. The system is also used to communicate with dispatch, write reports and submit it to their records division, Smith said.
The Ector County Sheriff's Office is switching to Odyssey, a data repository system from Tyler Technologies, in the next few months, Sheriff Mark Donaldson said. Odyssey was purchased for the county in 2007, but the department did not have the proper infrastructure to install it, so it had to be updated in phases, Ernest Pages, the consultant hired by the county to execute the strategic plan, said. Odyssey will be installed in the criminal division of ECSO starting August and will take 15 months for the updates to be completed, Pages said.
The installation of the Odyssey software is projected to cost $1.97 million, from beginning to end, Pages said. Half of that cost is for the installation of the software in the criminal division, Pages said.
Odyssey will allow the ECSO to maintain information in a central database that will also integrate reporting, data analysis and mapping for the department's records.
Ector County Software Support Supervisor Melanie Rosales said the new system is being installed in phases throughout different departments in the county.
"It's a very huge system, it's covering our courts departments, county clerks, attorney's office, JP's officer, the jail," Rosales said.
Legacy Public Safety Court Management System,, the older software used by Ector County, was what they call a black green application, with the black background and green letters. The system was also written in Linux, an older programming language that Morales said "very few people are certified to work on."
"It's a technology that's dying," Morales said.
Odyssey is a more modern, Windows-based application that is user-friendly and can jump into different systems easily, Morales said.
The system was installed in phases starting with the civil courts and the justice of the peace, and the last phase is the criminal division, Morales said.
"We're in the planning phases right now of how we're carrying out the activities, but the actual conversion is in August," Morales said.
Contact Audris Ponce at 432-333-7782.
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