Profiles in Progressive Policing: Post Falls, Idaho

Vision & technology set it apart

 


 

Dale Stockton | From the January 2012 Issue Friday, January 20, 2012

GALLERIES

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Post Falls, Idaho PD's Vision & Technology

Post Falls PD sets the bar high with technology and service.
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Editor's note: Please click on the gallery below and to the right to view the innovations.

When it comes to policing, the Post Falls (Idaho) Police Department has set the bar high. It’s an obvious choice to begin this series on America’s most progressive police departments. I’ve known Chief Scot Haug for more than a decade, having met him when he was a police lieutenant attending the FBI National Academy. Over the years, I’ve crossed paths with him several times as the department’s programs were often cited as examples for other agencies. Three years ago, we ran an extensive piece on the department’s license plate reader (LPR) program because it was one of the first to combine mobile and fixed LPR efforts into a regional server that benefitted multiple agencies (January 2009, “Kootenai County Goes High-Tech,” or www.LawOfficer.com, keyword search “Kootenai.”)

According to Haug, the primary consideration with technology is always how it will benefit the department and the community. “We’re not getting additional staff, so most of the time with technology we’re looking for ways to become more efficient, to benefit from a force multiplier,” Haug says. 

“Typically when we consider something new, there’s a group of five or six people that initially review the project and then we expand to gain input from others.” Haug says. “I’m a true believer that when possible, use a democratic style of leadership. It’s important to get input from as many as you can before you make the decision. Nine times out of ten, you’ll have a successful project when you do it this way.”

Of course, just because you may want something new doesn’t mean you’ll have the money, and Post Falls is no exception. Although city general funds pay for basic operation, most projects have required grant funding.

“The LPR system was from an Office of Homeland Security grant,” Haug says. “Our public safety camera system was the same. We would not have been able to do the majority of our tech projects without the grants.” To write grants, Post Falls relies on Carol Prosser, an evidence custodian, who has a knack for putting together winning proposals.

Rather than a scripted technology plan, Haug concentrates on emerging challenges. “We keep our ear to the ground and watch as new tech comes out. When problems are brought up, we look for solutions to address them.”

Haug has advice for departments that are always looking for the next big thing: “Remember: There’s a difference between cutting edge and bleeding edge,” he says. “Just because there’s tech out there that’s ‘cool’ doesn’t mean it’s right for your deptartment. Every project takes time, IT staff, money to start it and money to maintain it. You really want to invest in tech that will provide strong benefit for your time and money. I can’t stress enough that we’ve learned over the years that project planning is important.”

When asked which technology has provided the greatest benefit, Haug points to the broadband efforts begun in 1999. “Wireless technology has given us the best ROI and has probably been the best force multiplier,” Haug says. “The officers are able to do everything in the field without driving back and forth to the station, making us a lot more efficient.” Taking this to the next level, PFPD is starting to use cellular MiFi units to turn patrol cars into mobile hot spots. “The MiFi can even be taken out of the car to provide broadband support at a crime scene away from the car,” Haug says. 

Another technology favorite: in-car and body-worn video. “These have been absolutely great for reducing liability and increasing convictions,” he says. “They’re invaluable.”

Demonstrating an ability to adapt to cultural changes, PFPD recently took steps to enable dispatchers to receive texts from citizens. “We realized that for some people texting is the primary means of communication,” Haug says. “We’re trying to solve as many crimes as possible and this was just the right thing to do. With the next generation of 9-1-1 coming, this is a good way to prepare our community and our staff for what’s ahead.”

Text messages are displayed on a dispatch screen and the dispatcher can interact with the texter. The system isn’t intended as an alternative to 911 but it may prove especially valuable to the hearing impaired.

It’s important to note that force multipliers aren’t always technology and they’re not always  really fancy or expensive. Here’s an example. PFPD recently implemented a program for citizens to turn in unused prescription drugs. Unfortunately, an officer had to come in from the field, meet with the citizen, take a report and then place the drugs into evidence. While at a recent conference, Haug noticed a drug drop-off lockbox from MedReturn. Using the box, citizens can drop the drugs directly into the box and officers can spend more time in the field—cheap, straightforward and effective.

Like most departments, PFPD has never had enough money to get everything done.

“About 10 years ago, we realized there were some serious deficiencies in our service level,” Haug says. “We reached out to the community and began a volunteer program.” Today, there are 28 volunteers providing assistance with phones, handling errands, working at the animal shelter, doing volunteer patrols, putting together DARE packets and a program called YANA—You Are Not Alone—which checks on shut-ins.

“We could not provide these services without them,” Haug says. “The key to the success is that they really complement our other efforts, not replace them.”

For more information, visit www.postfallspolice.com.         

Dale Stockton is Editor in Chief of Law Officer.

Lessons from Post Falls

• Keep it simple. Example: A lockbox in the police lobby allows perscription drug drop offs rather than requiring an officer to come in from the field.

• Wireless service is a great force multiplier. It allows officers to do more in the field. Remember: Mobility is the future. PFPD is currently implementing a mobile hot spot capability for patrol vehicles.

• Get the community involved! You can provide a greater level of service, develop friendships and build support.

• Don’t rush into new technologies. First determine if the technology is appropriate for your agency. Every project is going to take time and money, so plan carefully. Put a priority on technologies that will make your officers more efficient and safe.

• LPR is more than just a way to track stolen vehicles. Fixed and mobile applications, with assets shared among agencies, allow Post Falls to make the most of their investment.

• Grant writing is an art. If you want to get your technology products funded, you’ll probably need to write a grant. Make sure the most capable person at your agency undertakes this critical function.

Editor's note: Please click on the gallery above to view the innovations.



Post Falls, Idaho PD's Vision & Technology

Gallery 1

Post Falls PD Cruiser

1. A Code 3 LED lightbar provides high visibility and minimal power draw. The low profile improves fuel economy. 2.The LPR cars are each equipped with four Federal Signal PIPS Slate LPR cameras. Post Falls Police Department (PFPD) is tied in with a regional LPR system that consists of both mobile and fixed LPR cameras. The agency hosts the LPR data. The system has been invaluable in solving many serious cases, including robberies and homicides.   3. 700-MHz radio system antennas provide spatial diversity; by placing the antennas at opposite sides of the vehicle, the opportunity for effective transmit and receive dramatically increases. The antenna on the driver side is also equipped with a satellite antenna, which provides GPS tracking capability for automatic vehicle location through the agency’s computer aided dispatch system.   4. This antenna connects with a 2.4-GHz wireless system that provides broadband capability in approximately 80% of the jurisdiction policed by PFPD. This system is being augmented by a new MiFi cellular unit, turning each car into a mobile hot spot.   5. The Setina pushbar provides a high level of utility.   6.PFPD uses a takehome patrol vehicle program. The majority of the cars are Chevrolet Impalas and they have served the department well. The vehicles are equipped with a V6 engine, which has proved to be more than adequate for municipal policing and is fuel-efficient. The department is also trying out three V6-equipped Dodge Chargers.   7. High-visibility graphics provide a progressive and unique appearance. After extensive discussion with patrol personnel, the department opted not to use reflective markings. The graphics were obtained from Advanced Graphics Imaging Solutions (www.AGISweb.com).


Gallery 1

Post Falls PD Cruiser Interior

1. Coban in-car video system has pre-event capability and allows for a seamless download of video via wireless hot spots. 2. The Data911 display provides sufficient brightness to be fully readable in daylight. It can be quickly dimmed and even blacked out when needed. The display uses a Havis mount.   3. The driver’s license scanner supports an electronic citation system and uses software from Advanced Public Safety (APS.us). The driver’s license feeds into the device similar to the way an ATM takes in a debit card.   4. A full-sized Data911 keyboard is mounted on a Jotto Desk.   5. PFPD officers’ uniforms come from Bratwear and are comfortable, practical and present a professional appearance.   6. Bushmaster .223 caliber assault carbine.   7. Remington 870 shotgun converted to less-lethal capability.   8. Every PFPD officer is provided Safariland Extreme body armor with a soft trauma plate. An exterior carrier from Safariland provides maximum comfort and increased utility. Officers are issued S&W M&P .40 caliber pistols.   9. Streamlight pocket flashlights are provided to officers. Many officers clip the flashlight to their vest or belt so they always have a light readily available. Streamlight SL20X rechargeables are issued to each officer.   10. After extensive training, officers are provided Taser X26s. The devices have proven very effective.   11. Officers use Motorola lapel microphones connected to Motorola 1500 portable radios.  


Gallery 1

Post Falls PD Motorcycle

1. Two Kawasaki Contour 1400s have recently replaced aging KZ1000s. The bikes come equipped with heated handgrips and seats, essential for cold Idaho winters. Antilock brakes and rear-wheel traction-control improve safety.  2. Both of the department’s Kawasaki motorcycles are equipped with MPH radar units. Although not visible in this photo, the motorcycles are also equipped with Laser Technology LIDAR units mounted on the right side.   3. Inside the compartment on the back of the bike, the department wires in a Panasonic CF19 Toughbook. This provides full information-access capability to motor officers.   4. The bikes use Whelen emergency lighting and a Code 3 siren mounted on the front.   5. Motor officers use special wired communication systems that permit quick tie-in to the bike’s Motorola 5000 radio.  


Gallery 1

Post Falls PD Dispatch Work Station

1. 55" Westinghouse monitors provide real-time video awareness of key areas in the community. There are six dispatch work stations like this one and each has one of these large monitors and the displays/functionality described below. Minimum staffing is two dispatchers with up to four during peak periods. 2. Each dispatch station has four Cinemassive displays. The system provides general Internet access and email capability.   3. The department uses a Spillman computer-aided dispatch system (CAD), providing full awareness of active and pending calls, as well as location of all units in the field.   4. The map portion of the CAD system shows the location of all incidents and resources. Status and position of units can be determined at a glance.   5. The department is tied into the Idaho Law Enforcement Telecommunications System and can make use of the statewide network as well as NCIC and NLETS systems.   6. An ESRI mapping system provides additional capabilities such as address look-up.   7. The Federal Signal LPR system uses BOSS (Back Office System Software), which provides a real-time notification to dispatch when there’s an alert from one of the fixed LPR cameras. Dispatchers can also query the LPR system for information to assist in evolving incidents.   8. Plantronics wireless headsets have proven to be comfortable and functional.   9. Herman Miller dispatch chairs provide comfort and support during long dispatch shifts.   10. The secondary keyboard provides dedicated quick access for maintenance and preference settings on the software and hardware systems.


Gallery 1

Post Falls PD Cruiser Trunk

1. Each car carries a high-resolution digital camera. PFPD uses Nikon Coolpix and Sony Cybershot cameras—easy to use and extremely valuable in evidence collection. 2. The 700-MHz CalAmp (formerly DataRadio) system has served the department well by providing reliable data transfer.   3. Federal Signal’s PIPS SuperX processor unit provides support for the LPR function and prevents it from impacting the car’s mobile computer capability.   4. Although not visible in the photo, a Stopstick is mounted in the trunk of the patrol car for quick deployment. The devices are capable of bringing a quick end to a problematic pursuit.   5. Coban in-car video processor and data storage allows for wireless video transfer through secure hotspots strategically located around the city. The data transfer occurs automatically.   6. The Data911 computer processing unit provides a high level of durability. Overall, the PFPD system allows officers in the field to access all department information systems. A patrol officer can accomplish everything that a detective at a desk can do, resulting in increased time in the field.   7. Patrol vehicles carry a fully capable ABC-rated fire extinguisher.   8. The electronics in the trunk are mounted on a slide-out tray provided by Havis. This makes for easy access and keeps the vulnerable equipment out of harm’s way.   9. Coban UPS (uninterruptable power supply) ensures that the in-car video system is always operational and that the data is retained.    10. Patrol vehicles don’t carry spare tires, permitting the space to be used for the Motorola 2500 series mobile radio.  



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Dale StocktonThe editor of Law Officer Magazine, Dale Stockton is a 32-year-veteran of law enforcement.

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