Cities consider new technology to match dispatch

By Lesli Bales-Sherrod 

New technology for city police cruisers would allow police officers to file reports from the field, a capability the Alcoa Police Department has been waiting on for 12 years.

The E-911 Board of Directors approved in July the purchase of a new computer-aided dispatch system for about $312,000, to replace the 12-year-old system currently in use.

In order for Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County law enforcement agencies to take advantage of this new technology, each entity must purchase their own interface and licensing.

“The Blount County Communications Center will no longer support our software,” Alcoa Police Capt. Phillip Dunn explained to the Alcoa Board of Commissioners at a briefing Oct. 1. “We all want to be on the same platform. One of the things stressed since 9/11 is interoperability.”

The E-911 Board approved acquiring Spillman Technologies Inc.’s computer-aided dispatching system in August, Dunn said. If Alcoa chose to do nothing, police officers would lose the CAD screens in their cruisers as well as the ability to do driver’s license checks and National Crime Information Center checks for information such as criminal record history, fugitives, stolen properties and missing persons.

There are several advantages of moving to Spillman, Dunn added, including the ability of officers to file reports from the field, which he said has been in the Alcoa Police Department’s long-term plan since the early ’90s.

“Right now officers have to come into the office to do reports,” he said.

Another benefit is that Spillman has more than 1,700 customers, including Oak Ridge.

“We have a lot of folks using Pellissippi Parkway to run crime back and forth,” Dunn said. “We would be able to share information with Oak Ridge (as fellow Spillman customers).”

Cost to Alcoa

The cost for the mobile technology for Alcoa’s police and fire departments is $64,900, Dunn said, while the cost for the records technology is $216,283, for a total of $281,183.

“Once you purchase it, you can have an unlimited number of users on it,” Dunn noted.

Spillman has proposed a three-year payment plan with no interest, Dunn said, with 40 percent of the cost due by July 15, 2016, and 30 percent due by July 15, 2017, and July 15, 2018.

Partial funding of the cost could be offset by using the litigation tax and e-citation funds approved by the Alcoa Board of Commissioners earlier this year, Dunn added.

Those funds are expected to bring in $126,000 over three years, or almost 50 percent of the total cost, he explained, while the balance of the cost of the new technology could be incorporated into the police department’s annual operating budget.

City Manager Mark Johnson said Alcoa Police Chief Philip K. Potter has a detailed analysis of how that cost could be absorbed.

“In the grand scheme of things, it’s not that much money,” Johnson said, noting the Alcoa commissioners will vote on the proposal at their meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

“It probably will pay for itself if we can get the in-car completion module working. Right now officers are doing reports twice: in the field and coming in to put them in the computer.

“It probably could save us that much in overtime.”

Cost to Maryville

The Maryville City Council already approved the sole source purchase of a Mobile Interface System and Licensing from Spillman for $78,263.

“We have to have a connection from (the E-911 Center) to the computers in our cars,” Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp explained to councilmen at their meeting Oct. 6.

Crisp added Maryville only would be purchasing the mobile technology.

“We are going to keep our own records management piece,” he said. “We are going a little bit of a different direction from Alcoa and Blount County.”

The agreement with Spillman for the amount of $78,263 was not included within the adopted Fiscal Year 2016 budget, said Kristine Tallent, Maryville’s director of Management and Budget. The expense will be recorded to the Police Services cost center, she explained, and the budget will be adjusted at the end of the fiscal year if necessary.

“We will work together to identify savings,” Tallent added.

Meanwhile, Marian O’Briant, public information officer for the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, told The Daily Times on Friday that, while the Sheriff’s Office has presented a similar proposal to the Blount County Commission, the commission has not approved the purchase yet because the Sheriff’s Office still is determining how to fund the new technology.

She did not know how much the technology would cost the county.

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