After losing 20% of its police force, RPD needed to identify force multipliers. Video became integral to operations and dispatch is critical to video success. As the surveillance system was rolled out across the city, dispatch was included throughout the process to ensure buy-in. Although there was some resistance initially, the success stories have made it a resoundingly popular aspect of the dispatcher’s toolset today.
“Dispatch now provides situational awareness,” David Hexem, chief information officer, says. “Some key dispatchers participate in crime-solving—virtual police work. … We had dispatch follow shoplifters with the cameras and the value was instantly recognized.”
According to Dalzell, having one dispatcher dedicated exclusively to monitoring video is critical. During calls, dispatch has the ability to be in constant communication with officers, who receive information on their iPads, iPhones, MDCs and over the radio.
“If technology can make you more effective, we need it—especially in the field,” says Lt. Chris Catren.
Redlands began to install wireless cameras throughout the city in 2006. Prospect Park—a lush, 11.4-acre open space—presented a challenge to police. Today it’s a hallmark of how video is working for RPD.
“The typical response,” Dalzell says, “would have been to throw city resources at this problem. We’re talking foot patrols and overtime and so on, which can be successful—for a little while. But you can’t sustain it. You can’t afford to.”
So, working with Leverage Information Systems, RPD set up wireless high-definition cameras at critical points. Partnering with Friends of Prospect Park, RPD was able to fund the cameras in the park.
“This was a collaborative effort,” Ray Leblond, Leverage’s project manager, says of the initial camera plan. “It was [former RPD chief] Jim Bueermann who said, ‘If only I could talk to them …’ So we made that happen.” One-way speakers might sound funny at first, but they’re effective. They allow dispatch to communicate with people in violation of the law. But they don’t allow RPD to eavesdrop, something some members of the community were worried about.
Various triggers alert dispatch when they should be aware of certain cameras. The RPD is able to monitor the park “24/7, rain or shine,” David Hexem, RPD chief information officer, says. “Typically now, we’ll have someone wander into the park after hours and our dispatch through the speaker says, ‘We’re closed. Please leave.’” And they leave.
Today, RPD has more than 120 cameras operational across the 14-square-mile city. “Where cameras are installed,” Hexem says, “problems aren’t reduced. They’re eliminated.”
“We bought these GPS tracking devices with asset forfeiture money,” Lt. Travis Martinez says, pulling a device the size of a short stack of bills out of a homemade case from his shirt pocket. “Basically, we were getting hit with thefts—smash-and-grabs—at a local fitness center. So we checked Google and found this company—3SI Security.”
He displays the flexible electrical device, which is pared down to the basics—a battery, transmitter and some circuit boards. It has a USB port for recharging.
This small device has been remarkably effective. It can be planted on bicycles, stacks of currency, scrap metal, pill bottles, purses—anything that a thief might be after—and planted in the field. The device lies dormant until it begins to move. Then the battery clicks on, dispatch is alerted and its whereabouts are displayed in real-time on a map.
“We started using it at 6:30 a.m. By 7:15 a.m. we were active,” Martinez says. It was a simple matter then of apprehending the thieves. “Most of the time, we’ve caught the thieves within ten minutes of getting the alert.”
Of the 23 units RPD has, almost all are constantly operational. “Talk about bang for your buck,” Dalzell says.
According to Catren, Apple never intended the iPhone to be an enterprise device. As early adopters of this technology, RPD worked with Apple to work out some of the kinks. Today, they’ve added iPads to the line up and have greatly improved device management and efficiency.
Apple recommended the vendor Mobile Iron to manage apps on the mobile data products from an enterprise level. “We can kill rogue devices,” Catren says. “We can ensure that software is installed and updated.”
Intelligence comes from many sources. RPD might be the only agency in the U.S. with a fulltime criminologist, who is paid for by the Police Foundation. The department houses the area’s Elsag automated licence plate reader (LPR) server, and has a dedicated LPR vehicle. They use Omega Group crime analytic software and local hero ESRI’s ArcGIS to plot crimes and trends. All this data must reach the officer in the field.
“It’s like having a P.C. in the field,” Catren says. “We recently had a robbery where we took the face from surveillance video of the suspect and the description of the getaway vehicle and we instantly retrieved a photo of the owner. But the owner was too old to fit the description, so we saw that he had a son and brought up this photo. We deployed the photo on the iPhone to all our staff and we got our suspect.”
Every officer is issued an Otterbox protective case and a limited data plan. If the officer chooses to use the device as their personal phone, they can pay for unlimited data. (“All my officers do this,” Catren says.) Spillman, the department’s CAD/RMS supplier, ensures that all data sent on the devices conforms to Department of Justice standards.
Many Paths to Success
Anyway you define it, RPD embodies progressive policing
By Dan Merkle
Ask a dozen officers what “progressive policing” means and I’ll bet you get at least 10 different answers. Is it because we have no common understanding? Probably not. It may be because there are so many successful paths to the desired results. We see progressive policing as a culture and attitude that translates to tangible, positive results. The agency culture includes openness to change, dedication to continuous improvement, an authentic understanding and focus on community safety, transparent leadership and an unwillingness to answer any question with, “because that’s the way we’ve always done things.”
Redlands PD is a great example of these characteristics. During the heart of the economic downturn, their overall budget and staff level was cut by a third. Instead of viewing this resource constraint as a threat, it became an opportunity to refocus their purpose to clearly embrace community safety in comparison to a more traditional “law enforcement” mission. This wasn’t a Pollyannaish view of the world, hoping things would be better. Their law enforcement mandate didn’t go away, nor did it get ignored.
Instead, Redlands embraced two widely accepted areas of adapting to the “new normal”: technology innovation and alternative delivery models. Several technology initiatives were deployed, including more dispersed information systems, alternative weapons, CCTV, forensic analysis, social media, predictive analytics and personalized technologies. These investments became multiyear assets lowering the costs of operations while increasing officer and community safety.
As community awareness about the city’s economic challenges increased, more of their citizens stepped forward asking, “How can I help?” RPD decided to expand the historic assignments for volunteers and invested in their capabilities all the way to, for example, using volunteers as certified forensic technicians. The intimacy, trust and support these efforts engendered with the community will pay dividends well beyond the immediate budget reducing goals.
True partnerships were formed with businesses, social organizations, faith-based organizations and others throughout the community. The common thread between all of these groups was their drive to identify tangible, positive results that each could contribute to. Working cooperatively to define mutual outcomes at the beginning allows everyone to work toward the same end points. No guessing required.
The negative economic turn in Redlands was fast and deep. The agency had choices to make and did so with an eye toward adapting to the world we now live in rather than waiting and hoping it would change. One of the elements that makes America great is the tremendous petri dish of innovation we foster. Each agency will find ways of adapting to their local needs and the community resources that want to be engaged. Share your successes. Share your … less than successes. We don’t all need to wear the same scars. Our collective knowledge will help each agency adapt and excel.
Dan Merkle is chairman and CEO of Lexipol, a risk-management knowledge company serving more than 1,400 public safety agencies.