CDW G Supports Law Enforcement Information Sharing Initiative
Forty law enforcement agencies in the Texas Panhandle collaborate to improve officers’ access to information.
CDW Government LLC, a provider of technology solutions to government, education and healthcare customers, recently announced that it supported a law enforcement information sharing initiative involving 40 law enforcement agencies across 26 counties in the Texas Panhandle region, a rural area of 400,000 residents spanning nearly 26,000 square miles.
The initiative, called the Panhandle Regional Information and Data Exchange (PRIDE), supported by a nearly $1 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant and a $300,000 Department of Homeland Security grant, has three phases: equipping officer vehicles with ruggedized Panasonic Toughbook notebooks to enable information access; building a shared database of Class C warrant information, typically traffic violations and other infractions; and building a networked infrastructure and regional data hub that will provide access to state and national law enforcement databases.
Joel Richardson, Randall County sheriff, who applied for the ARRA grant supporting the PRIDE initiative, noted that a joint endeavor of this magnitude is nearly unprecedented in law enforcement.
“The Panhandle agencies have a history of working together to cover the expansive and rugged territory,” Richardson said. “But to have 40 agencies come together in a multi-pronged project like this is truly remarkable. We hope the PRIDE initiative can serve as a model for other jurisdictions seeking to improve law enforcement information sharing across agencies and jurisdictions.”
Prior to the Toughbook implementation in 250 officer vehicles, officers either had data terminals with limited functionality, or they had no in-car access to law enforcement information at all. As a result, officers in the field relied on dispatch to search criminal databases and relay other critical information. CDW-G, a trusted advisor to law enforcement agencies across the country, was called on to execute phase one of the project, and now, the GPS-enabled Toughbooks help officers see who else is on patrol and their locations, as well as pending requests for assistance – without needing to request assistance from dispatch.
“For state and local law enforcement agencies today, information sharing across agencies and jurisdictions is a force multiplier,” said David Hutchins, CDW-G director of state and local government sales. “Enabled by software applications, ruggedized hardware and networking technology, officers have access to local, regional and national criminal justice information, improving their situational awareness, and ultimately, their safety and productivity.”
The City of Amarillo, Texas, the largest jurisdiction in the Panhandle, oversaw development of phases two and three of the project, the Class C warrant database and regional data hub. The Class C database, hosted in the city’s new communications and dispatch center, went live in March 2011. Now officers across the region have in-car access to Class C warrants issued by 40 law enforcement agencies in the Panhandle.
The regional data hub is also live, facilitating in-vehicle access to additional law enforcement databases such as the Texas Crime Information Center (TCIC) and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), which provide information on Class B or above misdemeanors, along with wanted and missing persons reports, stolen property records and other information. Previously, most Panhandle law enforcement agencies were routed through a data hub in San Antonio to query sources such as TCIC and NCIC.
“Reliance on dispatch meant that officers were not always able to quickly obtain information about an individual or an evolving situation,” said James Brown, chief information officer for the City of Amarillo. “Lack of information could seriously compromise their safety, especially in remote areas where backup is not nearby. The new system provides enhanced information and eliminates lag time.”
From the start, PRIDE organizers wanted to benefit as many agencies – and citizens – as possible, said John Kiehl, regional services director of the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission. “Although the Panhandle is vast, officers throughout the region encounter similar problems involving many of the same individuals,” Kiehl said. “We saw an opportunity to improve the effectiveness of the regional criminal justice system – to support the greater good today and for years to come.”
This article originally appeared in the July 2011 issue of Security Today.