What Software Do Law Enforcement Use | Dispatch Software | CAD Systems
It is rare to find an industry that does not use software in some capacity. For 21st-century law enforcement agencies, it is a necessity for the function of their operation. While the types of software used in policing can vary greatly, perhaps the three main components of a public safety agency's digital arsenal include computer aided dispatching (CAD), mobile technology, and the records management system (RMS). Often combined into a single software system or linked in such a way that they provide interoperability, these three components are in use in nearly every law enforcement organization.
Consider the following scenario as the three are discussed: A convenience store is robbed by two armed assailants. In the course of the crime, a customer is shot, money is stolen, and the suspects fled in a vehicle. A multitude of actions on the part of law enforcement will be placed into motion. Many of those actions will be a result of or reliant upon the software systems used by the police agency.
Computer Aided Dispatching and the Initial Response
A silent alarm from the convenience store prompts a call from the alarm monitoring company. Little is known about the details of the call except the protocols to indicate it may have been a false alarm did not occur. The monitoring company provides the address and name of the store to the emergency communications center call taker. The entry is made into the CAD system with the information known at the time.
At another workstation in the communication center, a 911 caller, the clerk in the convenience store, reports the robbery and shooting. Another witness was outside at the time and also called 911. CAD software helps the dispatcher confirm the address of the incident with integrated mapping technology. The address given by the monitoring company is the same location as each of the 911 calls; one by landline and another through a cellular phone. Precious time is saved by knowing exactly where emergency help is needed.
The CAD system benefits is that it instantly lets dispatchers know which units are available to respond and their location. Witness accounts are coming in and being incorporated into the CAD event. Suspect descriptions, vehicle color, make, and model, the condition of the gunshot victim, and dozens of other pieces of information are obtained by dispatchers and relayed to responding units. CAD keeps track of every entry and action by identifying the time, unit number, and dispatcher for each detail of the event.
Mobile Technology’s Use in the Immediate Aftermath
The information coming in from 911 callers will traditionally get to responding officers in two ways; the use of the two-way radio and through CAD’s integration with mobile technology. Mobile data terminals (MDTs) are the customary means of getting data from CAD to the field. Advancements make it possible to use a host of other tools as well such as cell phones, tablets, or any internet-connected device with the appropriate software.
Responding officers can use their MDTs to get the latest updates on the robbery suspects’ description and direction of travel. Mapping technology lets the patrol supervisor or other designated officers evaluate the location of available units. This is highly advantageous when planning a multi-directional approach, setting up a perimeter, or establishing a search pattern.
As new information comes in, it can be added to the event so it is accessible to units who may be assigned to secondary or tertiary responses. Additionally, as detectives, administrators, or public information officers become involved, they can use mobile technology to get the most recent updates and not have to tie up the radio or call units on the scene.
Records Management System and the In-Progress Robbery
While units are en route to the convenience store and other vital information is being obtained from callers, dispatchers are also at work behind the scenes. Through the incorporated records management system, valuable data is gathered to help in the response to the incident, operations at the scene, and the investigative process. For instance, the address or name of the convenience store can be searched to determine if any recent suspicious activity had been reported. Often criminals will conduct surveillance or even walk the inside of a site they plan to rob in order to determine their course of action. Prior incidents in which this suspicious activity was reported may include video surveillance, suspect descriptions, vehicles used, and perhaps even traceable transaction history such as a purchase with a credit card. If any of this valuable information is in the agency's RMS, it can begin to provide clues even as the response to the robbery is still underway.
In the event an apprehension is not immediately made and the search for the suspects is widened, the RMS can aid in several ways. Even partial vehicle descriptions or a few characters of a license plate can be enough to prompt records software to help identify a suspect. From there, additional records within the system such as arrests, citations, or crash reports can lead to a suspect's possible whereabouts. Digging a little further into RMS, one may find pawn transactions, court and civil records, as well as field contacts. Any of these details may provide clues such as phone numbers, family and associate contact information, or alternative addresses used by a subject. When combined as part of the overall investigative process, data in the RMS can play a vital role in taking a suspect into custody.
When CAD, mobile, and RMS are used in conjunction with each other, their benefits become seamlessly combined and take on a greater collective advantage than they would individually. As part of a total information management system, these three components of an agency’s software package can increase productivity and enhance efficiency between multiple agencies including fire departments, emergency medical services (EMS), security companies, and law enforcements.