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Summerville Police goes green

  • Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A.M. Sheehan/Journal Scene Carton after carton of archived paperwork and extra copies sit in a corridor at Summerville Police Department awaiting state approval to be shredded. The information is being scanned into a digital archive that will eliminate the need for paper copies, saving the department time and money.

Summerville Police Department went paperless on March 3.

“We’re working out the kinks,” said SPD PIO Jon Rogers. “But this will save an enormous amount of time and money.”

Time will be saved searching for records, money in paper usage and space.

“We’re moving to the next level of records management,” explained Rogers. “What could take an hour to find in a physical archive will now take seconds on the computer.”

Using the records management system it has had since 1999, SPD has had a new module built in that enables officers to create incident reports that will now be seamlessly incorporated into an overall searchable records system, eliminating the need for paper copies.

“We (officers) used to create a document similar to a PDF that would be printed out and given to records,” he explained. “Then records would input the information into the records system.”

SPD has 186,000 names in its database and more than that in records. With the new system the officer will cut the time to create a report in half, allowing for more time on the road.

The system is a Spillman records system, which communicates with the CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) system and records management. An officer can now pull up on a scene and access the history of the address, any warnings (such as hostility toward police or weapons known to be at the address) as well as a list of known occupants.

“It will be safer for the officer,” said Rogers.

Officers did have access to some of this information if they asked dispatch to find it. They would then have to wait for dispatch to run its various searches and communicate the results back to the officer.

With the new system dispatch will also be freed to monitor officer wellbeing, and dispatch 911 calls.

Further, all officers have access to the same information for any specific call including supervisors. This, too, enhances the safety of the responding officer. Perhaps another officer is familiar with a subject, sees the call and information the first officer is responding to, and informs that officer of his personal knowledge, or backs him up if need be.

Every time someone logs into an individual’s record it is logged. “It creates a failsafe system,” said Rogers.

Further, he noted, human error could result in a person’s name being spelled wrong resulting in the inability to match records or warn an officer of a safety issue. The new system will catch that and query the name against similar spellings or an address, so the officer can correct the error.

Storage

South Carolina law says law enforcement agencies must keep investigated case files for 30 years. This creates a huge storage problem, not to mention an accessibility issue. By saving records digitally, they are instantly accessible and take up no physical space.

“Right now we are scanning our archives from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s into the new system,” Rogers said. “Then we wait for permission [from the state] to destroy the paper records.”

In the past an officer would make a report, and print a copy that would go to the shift supervisor. The supervisor would pass it on to the captain of investigations [Rogers] who would determine if the incident needed investigation. If not, the report would go to records where it would be typed into a system and physically filed. If an investigation was needed it would go to detectives. Eventually it would arrive back on the captain’s desk, be signed off on, and then go to records.

During its travels, multiple copies might be made.

Now, the information goes everywhere needed electronically including to the state and the feds, Rogers noted. “The officers in the field like it, it eliminates redundancy and saves time for the entire department.”

Rogers says the department is currently working through the “bumps” but once it does, it will be a simple and effective system.

And very green.

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