Dalton New records system more flexible, easier to use

Todd South

DALTON, Ga. Piece by piece, a hi-tech system designed to better manage records, reporting and operations at the Dalton Police Department is falling into place.

Dalton police launched a new online records management system this month that aims to increase efficiency, safety, communication and information security and save the department more than $500,000 over the next 10 years.

Basically, it's about sharing information efficiently to further law enforcement efforts to fight crime, said Lt. Mike Key, project manager for the records system upgrade.

The $900,000 system instantaneously updates from the field to headquarters, Lt. Key said. Data collected can be viewed as a report or a listing of similar types of crimes, he said. It also can be plotted geographically so officers can view crime across the city by location, time and type.

This is designed to streamline the efficiency in which we collect and distribute information, he said.

The system saves time in the field by eliminating paper reports that are handwritten, turned into a supervisor then reviewed, he said.

At headquarters, the system also saves weeks of time in setting up new servers and eliminates many potential security issues with older equipment.

The records management system, developed by Spillman Technologies, Inc., replaces a 20-year-old system and is the second in a three-phase overhaul being implemented by Chief Jason Parker, along with changes toward a more community-focused policing effort.

The first phase of the technology was installing new computer servers at City Hall and the police department. The new high-capacity systems replace banks of old computer servers and allow for more flexibility with memory, storage and software use.

The next phase will occur in the fall when the department receives laptops and desktops bare-bones computers used to access the systems data storage and software applications.

The systems price tag includes equipment, training, a three-year service agreement and upgrades, Lt. Key said.

Previous laptops and other computer hardware have had to be replaced every three years, but new laptops and other devices will have seven years between replacements, he said. Costs for the new devices are $200 for a desktop computer and $700 for a laptop, compared to previous prices of $1,200 for a desktop and $1,400 for laptops.

Rather than just pulling up information listed about a crime suspect, the new system can connect a virtual network of all the suspects known associates, where they've been arrested and the charges. That information goes into a map for police to see if there are any connections between crimes or trends.

It also allows for police to search their patrol beat for any crimes or disturbances reported while they were not on duty.

More than 20 years of data had been stored on 12 separate servers, said Darin Waldrop, who manages information technology for the department. Gathering information on that system could mean using more than five different software programs, he said.

But in the new system, all information is more easily compared, searched and stored, he said.

Simple software updates to laptops in the entire fleet of police cars formerly took up to a month to install due to schedules and downtime, officials said. The new system allows for updates on all department machines in minutes.

With older laptops data was stored on the hard drive, and if lost or damaged the information was open to theft or destruction, Mr. Waldrop said.

New laptops will access information stored at headquarters. If a new laptop is stolen, Mr. Waldrop simply turns off access from his office and no information is lost, he said.