Portland Police using new software
Sgt. Josh Stephenson accesses police records on his phone through the Spillman app. Portland police began using the new software, which also allows them to access more information on their car computers, Tuesday. (The Commercial Review/Kathryn Rubright)
Local law enforcement agencies can now work together more efficiently.
Portland Police Department went live Tuesday with Spillman software, the system Jay County Sheriff’s Office was already using. Redkey will also start using the system this month. Dunkirk was interested in the software, but did not have the funds for the update, for which Portland paid $101,000.
Now that Portland police and the sheriff’s office are on the same system, the agencies can share information more easily.
Officers could already see that in their cars Tuesday, looking at a list on their computers of calls to Portland police and Jay County Sheriff’s Office. Lists of on-duty officers showed up below, color-coded to indicate whether officers were available, at a call or on their way to a call.
Maps of call locations were also available. By Thursday, the map will also show the locations of police vehicles.
Other than setting up the GPS equipment necessary for that function, most of the work in setting up Spillman is done, Sgt. Josh Stephenson said. He spent much of Tuesday setting up log-in information for individual officers.
“Overall it’s gone well,” he said. “Everything seems to be working fine.”
Spillman’s first test came a little after 3 p.m. with Portland’s first call of the day. Lila Nealand, a lead trainer from Spillman, offered assistance as dispatcher Rhonda Cowan input information for a call about an argument at Wash House Laundry. Once the address was entered into a form on one computer, an icon at the laundromat’s location popped up on another computer displaying a map.
Knowing where other officers and calls are isn’t the only advantage officers are looking forward to.
“Let’s say (the sheriff’s office has) a theft out in the county in the middle of the night and the suspect vehicle is a white Chevy,” said Portland Police Chief Nathan Springer. “When my officers come in the next morning, they’ll be able to see that and they’ll know to look for a white Chevy.”
Previously, Portland officers wouldn’t know that until the sheriff’s office passed the information along. Now the information is available to Portland police as soon as the sheriff’s office enters it into the computer.
Access to agencies beyond Jay County will be coming, Nealand said.
One agency will act as a broker through which requests for information go, and once that is set up, Portland police and Jay County Sheriff’s Office can get information from nearly 200 other law enforcement agencies in Indiana.
Access to more information is one benefit, but the update was also necessary because of how out of date the old system was. The DOS software required Portland police to downgrade computers to run it, which cost more than simply buying new computers. And they knew the software would crash eventually — the same software crashed for the sheriff’s office in 2001.
When it crashed at the sheriff’s office, they couldn’t bring it back, said 911 director Bill Baldwin.
The mobile data terminals in cars were out-of date too, Springer said.
“They no longer make or service any of the parts for them,” he said.
Spillman provides software that can be used on computers at the station and in cars. The new features that will be available in the cars will make officers safer, Springer said.
Mug shots will be available, along with any active warrants for drivers officers have pulled over.
Officers can also write reports in their cars, reducing the need to go back to the police station and thus keeping them on the streets.
While officers are getting used to doing more from their cars, they’ll also have the option of doing some work from their cell phones. Many features aren’t yet available in that version of Spillman, but officers can do simple things like update whether they’re on duty or at a call, Stephenson said.
Nealand is in town until Thursday, along with Spillman project manager Ben Heusser, to make sure the switch continues going smoothly. They’ll leave for a week, and then return once officers have had time to use the system and think of questions.
“Change and learning anything is difficult but I think it’s going to go fast because it seems to be a pretty simple program,” Springer said.
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