POLICE TECHNOLOGY ENABLES EFFICIENCY AT CVPD
Having the best tools will allow any worker to get their job done better and faster. This is true for the Chula Vista Police Department (CVPD) as they now integrate smartphones, mobile data computers (MDC), drones and other technology to help them increase efficiency, reduce taxpayer expense and enhance community safety.
Guiding CVPD in obtaining and operating the proper equipment is Eric Wood, Police Technology Manager, who has been with the department for almost four years. His implementation of technology reduces stress for officers by integrating systems resulting in easier access to the information they need prior to arriving on scene, which contributes to better outcomes. Eliminating unnecessary barriers, which are a burden to officers and a hindrance on efficiency and effectiveness, is a key motivation for the Police Technology unit.
Wood and his small team are responsible for all of the technology used by nearly 400 CVPD staff on a 24/7 basis. Thanks to the recently passed Measure A, one more Senior Technology position is planned to support the functions of CVPD.
The Police Technology unit facilitate the following for CVPD by finding and implementing solutions:
- Park cameras – posted in various City parks where there is known illegal activity, the cameras assist the Special Investigations Unit as well as the Homeless Outreach Team;
- Body worn cameras – instrumental in providing accurate evidence;
- In-car cameras – cameras that are focused at a forward view and cameras focused on a detainee in the back of the patrol vehicle are now being planned;
- Video Management System and Traffic camera access – outdated video cameras and recording equipment was replaced. The new system allows CVPD to access traffic cameras at man intersections implemented by the Traffic Engineering division. Accident information can be relayed to an officer in advance of arrival at a scene which impacts the response and manpower needed;
- Smartphones – a vital tool used for field interviews, monitoring incidents, taking photographs for evidence, querying criminal justice databases and more;
- New network and servers – Funded by Measure P, and headed by the City’s Information and Technology Services Department, network infrastructure is being upgraded throughout the City’s facilities including CVPD.
- Mobile Data Computer (MDC) - mounted on the dashboard of every patrol vehicle and designed to be fully functional as a mobile office;
- Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) - funded by Measure P, the new system replaced one that was slow and unreliable. Now, dispatchers and officers can see on a screen exactly where every on-duty officer is located and send the closest officer to an incident.
- Drones – CVPD has just launched drones through the FAA Unmanned Aerial Systems Integrated Pilot Program. These drones will serve as first responders assisting in incidents such as life safety, crime in progress, fleeing suspects, fire and more.
The public perception when they see an officer driving in his/her patrol car is that they drive as quickly as possible to help at a scene. However, officers have a different perspective. They must multi-task by: 1) driving safety through red lights, watching for pedestrians and other obstacles; 2) listen to what information is being relayed over the radio by dispatch; 3) monitor information shared on the MDC including turn-by-turn directions; and 4) quickly plan actions upon arrival at the scene. Per Wood, “The necessary information must be relayed without distracting the officers yet providing them what is needed to do their job efficiently, safely, and quickly. I am happy that our small yet talented technology staff is able to assist CVPD with this mission.”
Agent Marshall Gillon, a 19-year veteran of the CVPD, remembers when officers used notepads. If sent by dispatch to a call, the officer had to physically write down the address while driving. They also carried a large stack of grid books to look up addresses and had to pull over to find an address before arriving at an incident. Officers often arrived with limited knowledge of the incident. Now with the MDC in the patrol car, it is much easier for an officer to see the information such as the exact address, specifics on the type of call, and the name of the caller. The MDC also has a mapping system which provides directions to the location. “The improved response time as well as safety to officers is a huge benefit using the MDC,” says Gillon. “I’m no longer writing on a piece of paper or calling dispatch asking for the address again because now it’s all displayed right there on the computer screen.”
Gillon is a big fan of smartphone especially when trying to identify a suspect. The smartphone allow an officer to scan an ID card which will provide a host of information including previous arrests or warrants. Formerly, officers who had department issued cameras were called to a scene to take photos. Now, with the use of smartphones, any officer can take photos or video and send them to a secure cloud based digital media platform. These files can then be shared with other law enforcement agencies and the District Attorney’s office as evidence. Another favorite tool for Gillon is the body worn cameras. “Cameras provide so much value, with audio and video,” stated Gillon.
Officer Isaac Fisher, who has been with CVPD for four years, also sees the advantage of using smartphones in his daily duties. Instead of calling dispatch, officers can pull records using the MDC and the smartphone which saves a lot of time. “The more information received before arriving on scene, the better for the officer knowing what to expect,” says Fisher. He also likes using the camera on the smartphone for facial recognition which can help identify someone, and when collecting evidence at a scene. In addition, Fisher explained that since nearly everyone has a smart phone, officers can send citizens links to various helpful sites using their smart phones.
Kudos to the Police Technology unit and their relentless pursuit of providing the best tools to CVPD. This updated technology has increased efficiency allowing officers to do their job safely, quickly and effectively which ultimately provides better service to the Chula Vista community.