As with nearly all forms of technology, computer-aided dispatching (CAD) systems do not function in a vacuum. That is to say, updates in their operation are expected and have become part of the routine for law enforcement agencies. Upgrades come in many forms, and most are accustomed to their automatic nature. For instance, smartphones and computer operating systems, as well as myriad software programs and apps, are updated regularly, often behind the scenes, without our knowledge, and with little to no interruption in their function.
Of course, another form of an upgrade may involve completely new hardware such as the latest smartphone or laptop. Additionally, completely new or revamped software programs also constitute an upgrade. Sometimes it takes an advancement in technology to realize how outdated a previous version was. Consider the hand-held radio from a few decades ago, which did not have a display screen. Often, the only way to know who made a transmission was by voice recognition. Advancements in technology led to the ability to display the unit number and eventually, the location of any unit that keyed the microphone. The addition of the emergency button feature, which also provided the officer’s ID number and location, added to the safety benefits of the two-way radio. Today, the common use of radios with a display screen shows the importance of upgrading technology.
Upgrades to CAD Should Include Other Agency Systems
Records management systems (RMS) and CAD were once completely different software programs. For many agencies, they remain separate systems, albeit some police departments have a form of integration that allows certain communication between the two. Still, these systems lack the benefits of CAD and RMS being combined into a single software program. Further, when including mobile technology, the essential trifecta of 21st-century communications can be realized.
An upgraded system that includes CAD and Police RMS sharing the same software can increase productivity and enhance safety. For instance, as a 911 call is received, the dispatcher’s screen will display information about the caller, including the telephone number and location based on GPS coordinates. Systems linked directly to their agency’s RMS can also begin to provide details such as names, numerical addresses, and previous calls for services.
The use of alerts is now a common element of modern police dispatching. However, agencies who have not sufficiently upgraded their 911 CAD dispatch system may be missing out on the efficiency and safety benefits of the alert feature. Additionally, departments with a basic alert system but that have not integrated their RMS and CAD may also be placing themselves at a disadvantage by not leveraging this combined-software technology. Consider these two brief examples of the CAD alert feature:
In the first scenario, an elderly couple is contending with the husband’s initial onset of dementia. His condition has not yet prompted family members to place him in a care facility, but he nevertheless requires special attention. After wandering from home and becoming lost a few weeks ago, an alert was placed on his name and residence, which included details about his condition and next of kin for notification. The next time he got lost, the alert provided the responding officers with some basic information about the situation. However, it was the integration with the agency’s RMS that proved most beneficial. Records were immediately available, which detailed the pattern in his wandering and allowed for his quick recovery. Officers were also able to use current and historical data to provide the family members and social service organizations with the information needed to take steps to help avoid future incidents.
The next scenario shows the importance of CAD’s alert feature as it relates to officer safety. Dispatch received a 911 call, but there was no conversation on the line. The caller disconnected after only a few seconds and did not answer when the dispatcher called back. The CAD system immediately displayed an alert associated with the telephone number, address, and a known occupant of the residence. The subjects at that residence have a history of domestic disturbances, and the male has been violent toward law enforcement in the past. Justifiably, the alert directs the officer to proceed with caution. The RMS link to the last call for service denotes the suspect making a threat about using a firearm the next time the police respond to his home. Using the information from CAD and RMS, officers can better coordinate a response and increase the safety of all involved.
CAD’s Silent Dispatch Feature Combines Safety with Efficiency
The integration of CAD and law enforcement software brings a host of advantages to both the dispatch team and the patrol officers. For instance, using the silent dispatch feature keeps the two-way radio free for necessary and urgent traffic while other communications can be made through CAD. An officer on patrol of a largely industrial area may spend a part of her shift conducting area and building checks of closed warehouses and businesses. A record of these checks if most efficiently kept within the agency’s CAD system.
Before an upgrade, which allowed for the officer to use the silent dispatch feature from her in-car laptop, each business check was made through several transmissions on the two-way radio. As a result, priority transmissions may have been delayed waiting for the radio to be available. When considering the number of officers on duty during a given shift, the number of non-emergency transmission that could easily be made via the silent dispatch feature further demonstrates the advantage of this critical CAD update. An included GPS feature makes the silent dispatch process even more beneficial and provides one of the most important officer safety components, the patrol unit’s exact location.
CAD and the Currency of Information
Finally, by keeping a CAD system up to date through appropriate upgrades, its record-keeping feature continues to prove beneficial. Each event occurring during a call for service is maintained with pinpoint accuracy and available to 911 dispatchers and law enforcement when needed. This includes the time data was entered, the person responsible for the input, and any details about an occurrence. Each becomes part of the call’s record to be used by incident commanders, administrators, media relations staff, records personnel, investigators, or any other authorized person who may need the information. By keeping the system up to date, information from CAD, RMS, and other integrated programs will be memorialized in accordance with records retention needs, agency policies, and applicable laws.