Law’s Long Arm Extended

New software brings Aberdeen police, Brown County agencies under one system

Law enforcement in Aberdeen hopes to become more efficient this year thanks to new software that will change the way agencies interact.

 The new system, which was bought from Utah-based Spillman Technologies, went live Monday, said Tom Schmitt, chief deputy of the Brown County Sheriff's Office. It will unify four agencies — Aberdeen Police Department, Brown County Sheriff's Office, the Brown County Jail and the Brown County Dispatch Center — under one system.

 Previously, each agency has its own computer software that officers use to keep track of the information it collects, Schmitt said. The individual systems worked well, but they didn't “talk to each other,” said John McQuillen, Brown County communications director.

 This sometimes led to a lack of timely interagency communication, Schmitt said.

 With the new software, an officer called to a home can access all information collected from four agencies on his computer upon arrival, he said.

 ”As an officer, I could punch in an address, and it will tell me every call to, or on, that address,” Schmitt said.

 The system will create a huge database that will share information throughout the county, Schmitt said. When an officer or deputy makes an arrest, the Brown County Jail will have all of the relevant information on a new arrival before the officers leave the scene.

 In the future, every other agency could type in that person's name and refer back to the specific incident.

 ”We envision an officer making an arrest and filling out their basic information before they even get back to jail,” Schmitt said. “If one person takes your info, everyone can access it.”

 By everyone, he means people involved in law enforcement and emergency response.

 Before the software, a police officer would make an arrest, type in that person's name, age, address, etc., into the computer in their cars. Once the person arrived at the jail, the jailers would have to re-enter the same information into their system. It would then be re-entered at the police department, Schmitt said. Those redundancies will disappear once the new software launches, he said.

 The less time officers spend doing menial work, the more time they will have for actual police work, Schmitt said.

 The software will also help identify criminal trends in certain areas, said Randy Majeske, records supervisor with the Aberdeen Police Department.

 For example, if two cars were stolen in a two-day span, but one theft was reported to the police and the other to the sheriff's office, they could each believe it's a singular event. This software will eliminate those issues because an officer could find out when and if any other car thefts were reported in the area, he said.

 McQuillen said that before this software there was always interagency communication, but this streamlines the information-sharing process and helps eliminate the possibility of someone forgetting to mention any key details.

 All of the agencies involved have been training in the use of the new software since September, McQuillen said.

 Being able to share data doesn't just help officers in the field, it has several benefits for the public as well, McQuillen said. For example, if a sheriff's deputy's encountered someone who has a safety-related issue — for example, if a person has several children in the house — they could input that data so other officers could see it and respond accordingly if that person's name came up in the future, he said.

 ”The world is all about data: who has it, and who needs it,” McQuillen said.

 The program costs about $480,000, which will be split by the county and the city. Half the cost was paid in 2012; the rest will be paid this year.

 The proposal was presented to the Brown County commissioners in October 2011 by McQuillen and Aberdeen Police Chief Don Lanpher Jr.

 Aberdeen will be the first city in South Dakota to use this technology, which allowed Aberdeen to buy the software at a significant discount, McQuillen said.

 Schmitt said there are also plans to integrate the software with the Brown County State's Attorney's office. The attorneys won't be able to input information, but they will be able to see the officer's on-scene report at a glance, he said. This should help streamline the entire legal process,  he said.

 ”Everything is interconnected now. This is huge for the future of Brown County Public Safety,” McQuillen said.