Abilene police move into modern age with new computer system

By Brooke Crum
Abilene Reporter-News

Pockets Cash (right) systems administrator for the city of Abilene and Abilene Police Department, works with APD Lt. Scott Rowley using the police department’s newly installed public safety software on Thursday, May 4, 2017, at the Abilene/Taylor County Law Enforcement Center. (Photo: Thomas Metthe/Reporter-News)

Since 1883, the Abilene Police Department has been using paper reports.

That changed last week with the implementation of a new public safety software and hardware system that has the department going through some 134-year-old growing pains, said Assistant Police Chief Doug Wrenn inside his office.

The new equipment replaces 11-year-old technology both the police and fire departments use, including computer-aided dispatch, mobile software for vehicles and records management system.

The City Council authorized the purchase of the $1.3 million technology in January 2016.

Wrenn said there have been some glitches with the new system since it went live April 25, but representatives from Spillman Technologies, the company from which the city bought the equipment, have been on-hand to help train and work through bugs.

“In a perfect world, everything would work. That is not how it operates,” he said. “From the standpoint of services, we have not missed any calls for service, dropped a 911 call, things of that nature.”

Spillman told the department they have never had a perfectly smooth roll out of a new system with any agency with which the company has worked, Wrenn said.

Scott Mattson, product instructor for Spillman Technologies, works with Aymee Henning, records supervisor for the Abilene Police Department, on the police department’s newly installed public safety software on Thursday, May 4, 2017, at the Abilene/Taylor County Law Enforcement Center. (Photo: Thomas Metthe/Reporter-News)

“The largest selling point to this entire system was the fact that we were operating on antiquated hardware,” he said. “That is no longer the case today, and I sleep a lot better at night knowing that.”

The department was buying computer parts off eBay because it was using Windows XP machines, which were introduced in 2001, in dispatch, Wrenn said. The new software can operate on Windows 10 systems, bringing the department up to date.

“We may be a little slow now, but eventually in the long run we’re going to be faster and better,” he said, adding that dispatchers are learning different commands while officers are figuring out how to manage cases in a completely electronic system.

With the new system, officers input reports electronically, which then enter a case management system, Wrenn said. With the old system, officers had to provide a written, signed hard copy to both their sergeants and the records division.

The department is not yet completely paper-free though, Wrenn said. (“We were hoping for a huge bonfire, but we can’t do that yet.”)

“The big picture for all this is improved service, improved turn around time for investigations,” he said. “With all of this change, it provides the opportunity for improvement.”

The new system “decreases duplicity” by having officers enter one report into one system, providing the records division more time to transcribe interview narratives for detectives, Wrenn said. With the old method, detectives were waiting upwards of a week to receive the narrative to know how to follow up with the case.

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