The Seattle Police Foundation’s annual awards banquet was last night, October 17, 2008. Almost 200 Seattle police officers and civilian employees received awards for excellence, valor and impact.
Speaking of impact, the “technologization” of law enforcement was a thread which ran throughout the evening.
The Seattle Police Foundation was created to seed new programs and encourage innovation in law enforcement. More than 90% of the police department’s official $213 million budget goes to personnel costs. Using those funds, Mayor Greg Nickels and Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske have launched a number of innovations using both technology and community partnerships, but funding for those improvements is still limited.
The Foundation is supported by a number of prominent local people and firms, including James Sinegal, co-founder of Costco, Costco itself, Philips – which provided Heartstart defibrillators in every Seattle police patrol car, and even two Seattle Police detectives, Randall and Pilar Curtis, who contributed more than $10,000 of their personal funds.
Technology was highlighted during the evening in the awards, stories, and video. Here are some examples:
• SPIDER – Seattle Police Information, Dispatch and Electronic Reporting. This project has already installed a records management system (RMS) which is now used by officers throughout the department to enter reports directly into the system from laptops, vehicle-mounted computers and desktops. It will deliver a new computer-aided-dispatch (CAD) system next year which includes automated vehicle location (AVL) and new uses of geographic information systems. Three civilians and a detective received awards this year relating to their work on SPIDER. And the RMS training team of 30 officers and civilians received an award for their work training the entire department – one of the largest training efforts in the history of the department.
• VARDA – this technology has actually been around since the 1960s – devices which send a radio signal when an alarm is tripped, a vehicle stolen, or when activated by a human being who is in danger.
• SeaJIS – the City’s justice integration system initiative. Many cities have such initiatives which attempt to link police, prosecutors and courts to allow seamless flow of information about defendants and cases between the parts of the criminal justice system. In Seattle’s case, SeaJIS also connects to King County’s jail booking system and other outside systems. The project manager received an excellence award for her matrix management (“leading without having direct supervision”) of the work.
Other technologies mentioned last night and used by the department are too numerous to mention, but include BlackBerries, in-car digital video systems, red-light cameras (which have reduced auto accidents but are now in jeopardy due to Initiative 985 on the fall ballot), and many more. Learn more about the department here.
There are some interesting side effects of this wide-ranging use of technology. One is the amount of electricity needed in police vehicles. A typical patrol car is loaded down with radios, data modems, a fixed-mount computer, emergency lights and a variety of other equipment all of which draws power. Finding cars and batteries to support this is a continuing challenge for the City’s Fleets Division.
Another side effect is just all the “stuff” that a typical patrol officer has to carry. When I was a street cop in the mid-1970’s, I carried a weapon, nightstick, handcuffs. Now officers also have handheld radios, cell phones, BlackBerries and laptop computers – almost a walking Radio Shack!
In this article, I’ve emphasized the technology, because I’m a CIO/CTO and that’s the goal of this blog.
But the real purpose of last night was to celebrate the people involved – the officers, the police department civilians, those in City and County government who support them, and the wonderful sponsors who contribute to the Seattle Police Foundation.
In the end, it is not really the software and systems and techie gadgets and devices which keep us safe, but, rather, brave people such as those we honored last night.