TechSperience

Transcript of Episode 5 - How Mobile Devices Have Transformed Police Procedures

March 4, 2020

Episode 5 – How Mobile Devices Have Transformed Police Procedures

with James Hilliard

 

 

This transcript was first posted on the Connection Community

 

James Hilliard:

Well hello there everyone and welcome to another Connection Podcast. James Hilliard back with you. Brian Prickett our guest today. He is the Chief Deputy with the Clinton County Sheriff's Office. He's joining us to talk about his department's use of global technologies, including MDTs, Mobile Data Terminals that we find in police cruisers these days. We'll talk about the impact that technology has had on officers and on the public.

 

Brian, appreciate you taking time and having the conversation today.

 

Brian Prickett:

Well thanks, James.

 

James Hilliard:

Now before we talk some shop, here, and get into your use of tech, I want to first really have you introduce us to Clinton County. Where it is, how big it is, who are you out there serving, what's going on in your neck of the woods?

 

Brian Prickett:

Clinton County is a county of about 403 square miles in southwest Ohio. We sit almost dead center of Columbus and Cincinnati, which are two major metropolitan areas for, for Ohio.

 

Most of our major industry is agriculture, lot of farmland here. Probably what we may be best well-known for, and, and not necessarily a good thing, is in 2008 was when DHL closed their, their main terminal here. And, and we lost 10,000 jobs.

 

Since then, we've been on a recovery, and very resilient people here. That's pretty much where we are as, as it pertains to Clinton County.

 

James Hilliard:

All right let me hear about you. How long have you been with the Sheriff's Office?

 

Brian Prickett:

I started with the Clinton County Sheriff's Office in 1984 as a Corrections Officer. And I moved up through the ranks to road patrol. I was a K-9 Officer, eventually Captain of the Corrections Division where I had the opportunity to, to participate in building a new jail. After spending some time back in a jail, I was promoted to my current position of Chief Deputy, and I have oversight of all operations of the Clinton County Sheriff's Office.

 

James Hilliard:

Well, all right. Well congratulations on that long and steady career there. What I wanna do, we are gonna talk some tech here. So, I want to take you in the way-back machine. You said 84 you started. Can you take us through kind of the mid to late 80s? What kind of tech was really available to you in the offices, in the cars, in the, in the jails? What tech were you dealing with back then?

 

Brian Prickett:

Pen and paper. (laughs)

 

James Hilliard:

(laughs)

 

Brian Prickett:

So, in 1984 when I started, we, in, in the jail especially, we, we just used an old typewriter. An old manual typewriter to book, to book inmates in. And on, on the road, everything was pen and paper. We had no computers at the time, because we were a small, rural county. Tech didn't find us until probably about 1986 or 87, which has been kinda neat; I've been able to see the full evolution of, you know, pen and paper to where we're at now.

 

And I think because of the, my timeframe that I entered, it's, it's allowed me to, to grow with the tech. I, I don't claim to be a technical person outside of the Clinton County Sheriff's Office, but I know our system inside and out.

 

The first part of our organization, that, that found technology was the jail section, with the computerized inmate booking. We kept growing from there. Continued that way just on desktop units.

 

James Hilliard:

All right, so we start getting some PCs, kinda in the offices and the jails, as, as you said, to do some of those bookings.

 

Let's talk about mobile technology. When did some of the police cruisers start seeing some of the MDTs, these Mobile Data Terminals that we see now in almost every cruiser out there across the country? But when did you first get your hands on those?

 

Brian Prickett:

We started in 2008, with, with looking at the Mobile Data Terminals in the cruisers. And probably the biggest hurdle we had to clear, is because of our rural nature, is, is connectivity issues. So, the only way we had to connect was through cellular connectivity. So, we had the, the actual cellular cards in the laptops with GPS antenna, and the, the cellular, cellular antenna on the, on the top of the car.

 

Even with that additional higher-powered antenna, we still had a lot of issues with connectivity throughout our county because there just weren't that many cell towers that allowed for that connectivity. So, we couldn't even, there was no real-time upload back and forth between the cars and, and, and the server, to allow for real-time communication.

 

James Hilliard:

Do you remember either your or other officers' reactions to the use of those early on? Was it a, hey can we go back to that pen and paper real quick? Or was it, okay, we, we see potential, we want it to be there, but it you know, it, it's a drag right now? What was that like?

 

Brian Prickett:

It depended on the, on the age of the officer, to be honest with you. And it was, it provided us an, another neat opportunity to where you know, as new officers came on, the older officers were teaching them about the job. But the younger officers were teaching the older officers about technology. Because the, the older officers were reluctant to do it because they, you know, we've done it this way for years, why do we need to do this now?

 

You know, it, it was kind of a two-way teaching moment, from experienced officers to inexperienced officers. Most of the younger officers had, had grown up with technology, where the older officers had never touched a computer, refused to touch a computer until, you know, we decided that was the path we needed to, to follow as, as we evolved as an office.

 

James Hilliard:

Understood, there. L-let's talk about, and let's jump forward to here today. I can only assume that reaction to, and using the MDTs is different these days. One, I'm assuming you've probably solved that connection issue. Better networks, right? Not dealing with those big antennas and the cellular cards in the devices, but you tell us. Is, is that the case? Wh-what's the evolution been like? How are you currently using MDTs?

 

Brian Prickett:

We have gotten away from the in-computer cellular cards. We still use cellular because that's, that's the best option for us to use. We did move to a Sierra modem that's mounted directly in the cars, and that did a couple things for us. To get our program up and going, back in the, in the, in 2008, we were able to put docking stations in every car, but we didn't, couldn't afford enough computers.

 

So, we had to rotate our computers between cruisers based on, on what shift you were on. That caused us a lot of problems because it was always finding new MAC addresses, and, and creating issues, so, so that, that created some issues. And then the, obviously, the cell, cellular technology wasn't as good. There, because it was just in the laptop. When we went to the Sierra wireless devices, we actually mounted those modems in the cruisers, so each cruiser has a, has a modem. That also allows us to do GPS tracking on that cruiser, even when there's not a computer in it.

                                               

So, we found that to be beneficial. Recently, though, we have been able through, through a partnership with Connection and, and our municipal court helped us out with some money to where we could purchase enough Mobile Data Terminals to put in every car, so, so we don't take those MDTs in and out of cars anymore. It's assigned to that car, it's locked in that car, and stays in that car. Which has saved us a lot of issues, as it, as it pertains to connectivity, and other things that would come up from moving them from, from docking station to docking station.

 

James Hilliard:

Ah, understood on that. And, and again, it's not a lot of time to take one device out, dock it to another, but someone could get to their vehicle, wait, I don't have this. Or where do you, you know; and then, so, so I can imagine some, some time savings there just as well for the officers. One less thing they have to focus on, so they can focus on their job, as they're heading on out.

 

Let me talk about, you talked about, right, the MDTs now. So, they're in each one of the vehicles out there. What about really, the kinds of software play here. Wh-what's on that? What type of tool is this for the officers? Are there maps on there? What about, if they run into someone speaking a different language? Are there translation tools to help them out with any language barriers with folks they come across. Wh-what software is involved?

 

Brian Prickett:

So our software vendor is ID Networks, which is an, a Ohio company. They provide us a full suite of products for, for law enforcement management. From, from jail management, to our computer-aided dispatch system, to our, our mobile messenger, which is what allows dispatch center and the mobile units to, to communicate with each other.

 

And then we also have the, the reports management system through them.

 

One of the, one of the key elements in that is that mobile messenger system that allows the dispatch center to directly communicate with the officer in real-time. That's critical in dispatching calls. We do have mapping loaded on the computer, so dispatch can push out the locations, pinpoint locations, addresses, whatever critical information is needed for that officer to respond to a call, to that Mobile Data Terminal.

 

James Hilliard:

Productivity. Obviously, pen and paper got the job done long ago, but it evolved. And then you get the MDTs in there, and okay, could do some things in the cars. Maybe real-time updating wasn't so much so at the beginning, but that has now been solved. So overall, over that period of time, what is the biggesteffect, that you've seen have on your officers' productivity?

 

Brian Prickett:

It keeps our folks out on the road. You know, pen and paper always kept our people on the road, because they could sit in their car and, and physically write their report, because that's just the way we did things.

 

And, and as we moved into that first phase of technology as we were doing everything on computer, and didn't have MDTs in the car, the officer would have to physically come on station, type those reports, do, you know, do all the work on the reports on station. Which took them off the street; took that visibility away.

 

That was kind of our next step and thought process in going to the MDTs, but what we found, because we didn't have that connectivity and that real-time transfer of information, that while we could do a certain amount of work in the cruiser on the MDT, until we were able to pull up out back and hit our hotspot, or physically plug in and, and pull the information into the, into the server, we weren't operating at the, the highest potential we could be operating at.

 

Currently, with the real-time exchange of information, because we've got our connectivity issue fixed, it allows the officers to stay on the road. They can do all their work on the road, and it uploads back to our server to where there's no, no reason for them to be sitting in the office doing paperwork anymore.

 

That's critical to us because it allows for better response times if they're already out in the field. You know, one of the, one of the things about law enforcement is, you never know how much crime you deter just by being visible. You know, sometimes, just sitting up at an interstate or a high, a high visibility area, can deter all kind of different kinds of crimes.

 

James Hilliard:

One the things I'd like to know, and, and run into now with you, is the idea of the challenges that may have emerged. Every time that we bring in new technologies, we often see gains, you've just talked about some productivity, you've talked about more visibility out there for your officers.

 

But I, I'm assuming there have been some challenges that have come out. What are some current challenges that you're facing with regards to mobile connectivity, networks, the use of mobile terminals? Wh-what challenges are your officers facing?

 

Brian Prickett:

Sometimes it's the officers themselves that do things that they're not supposed to do. And it, and it creates an issue for them. You know, every agency has policies and procedures on what you can and can't do, and appropriate use of, of, of the systems that they use.

 

And that's probably the biggest challenge we have, is, is making sure that the officers play by the rules they're supposed to play by, and, and unfortunately, that doesn't happen.

James Hilliard:

With that, do you, I'm assuming, if you had a new officer, you right, if you had an on-boarding, and the training, and hey, these are our policies, procedures; is that something that you regularly do? A constant kind of technology refresh with your officers?

 

Absolutely. We have a strong set of policies and procedures, and we have, we, we use the, the 12 months of the year to, for, for training opportunities. And, and we determine many critical tasks and policies we feel it's important for our officers to know. So, we have a, we have a system, a human capital management system, where we push those policies out, they're tested on, on the different portions of the policy. You know, proper use of the computer is one of those critical tasks that we, that we address on an annual basis with the officers. As well as in their initial training.

 

James Hilliard:

Let's talk a little bit about security, because we are dealing, your officers are dealing with the public. So, if they do come in contact with someone, they might be taking down driver’s license information, there could be other information that is being stored in these devices. So, l-l-let's talk about security on two fronts. Let's start on what I think is the easier front, the physical security. These MDTs, they're, they're locked into patrol cruisers. They can be bricked remotely.

 

How do you deal with kinda the physical securing of the devices?

 

Brian Prickett:

It's like you said, they are locked into a docking station as well as they're locked in, in, you know, in the, in the actual cruiser.

 

You know, one, one thing that we have to remind our officers of sometimes is, you know, something as simple as just leaving your screen up when you're out of your cruiser on a call. Could be a security violation. Depending on what's on that screen at the time you leave it up.

 

So, we, we're always encouraging our officers to, you know, shut your screen down, or just lay it down so it can't be read by somebody standing outside of a cruiser if you're not near your cruiser.

 

From a technology security aspect, we, we have to meet several guidelines, and we get technical audits by the Law Enforcement Automated Data System. So, every three years, we have to have a, a technical audit. And what that technical audit does is, is they come in, and they, they look at your, your network diagrams to make sure that, the proper firewalls are in place, proper security plans are in place, proper training's being done on all those different plans and policies. So we have to document that, and meet a very high threshold to be quite honest with you.

 

James Hilliard:

We've talked about some security, let's talk about safety in general. And I want to take you to two parts in your review. The use of the mobile technology, keeping officers more in the public eye. Safety for your citizens in Clinton County, because of the use of technology by your officers, and the, the safety of the officers. Has that improved on both fronts?

 

Brian Prickett:

There can be arguments made, that the computer can be a bit distracting, and people maybe don't pay attention as much as they maybe should, but that, you know, that it, it was really kind of that way with the old pen and paper aspect, because if you had your head down and you were writing, and, and not looking up and checking your surroundings, you know, that could, that could create some safety issues.

 

And, and the computer would be the same way. You know, one of the things that we stress rather heavily, is, is that you're not to be working on your MDT when your, when your vehicle's in motion. That, that's one of those things, kind of like texting and driving, knock on wood, we haven't had any issues of that nature yet.

 

James Hilliard:

And then what about citizens out there? I mean the, the current, real-time access to information for the officers, has that impacted better safety for the Clinton County community?

 

Brian Prickett:

It does, because it allows us that, that real-time transfer between dispatch and...you know, back, back in the old days of pen and paper, if, if you asked somebody their name and they, they gave you a fake name, there, there was no way to prove they, that was them or it wasn't them. In, in our real-time data transfer, we can pull pictures of the individuals up, based on, on key identifiers that they give us. And, and we can actually see it based on their, the state on which their driver’s license was issued. You know, you got a DMV photo you can look at and go, nah that's not your kind of situation, or verify that is them.

 

So, you know, from that aspect, it's, it's allowed another tool for the officers to, to verify who they're actually dealing with.

 

James Hilliard:

And let's move it, we started back in 84, when you began in Clinton County. Let's move it to the future. I'm not gonna take us to 2084, I think that's a little too far out. But let's go to a, a future of, of two or more years from now. Do you either have a wish list of additional technologies or software to the MDTs that you would like to see, or are you aware of certain technologies in development for law enforcement that you think will have an impact for those officers on the street in their cruisers?

 

Brian Prickett:

Probably one of my visions, I, I have two visions that I want, that I'd like to see us meet here in the very near future. While we're talking about law enforcement, you know, our, our dispatch center dispatches emergency, medical, and fire, and, and one of the things that I would love to see, is us to have Mobile Data Terminals in every emergency services vehicle in the county. So that way, they have the opportunity to get that real-time information exchange for medical issues, or mapping issues, or whatever it may be, to where every emergency responder can receive real-time information. Because it, you know, that, that provides a safer approach for EMS personnel as, as they go in to, to give care to, to people in need.

 

The other thing I would really like to see, and, and actually I hope to have this done by the end of this year, is, is getting all of our school videos, and critical government infrastructures here in the county, getting video piped back into our dispatch center so we're able to see what's going on in all those different areas. In case we have an event, we're able to isolate cameras, and, and see what's happening, you know, as, as events are reported.

 

James Hilliard:

And folks again, it's Brian Prickett. He has been our guest here today. Chief Deputy with the Clinton County Sheriff's Office. Appreciate the insights on the journey you've taken us on here, Brian, from 1984 until to present time.

 

Now, before you go, I do, I do have one more question for you. In that time period of your career, on television there have been a lot of police dramas and comedies. What's your favorite?

 

Brian Prickett:

Oh man, I either gotta go with the old Dragnets or Adam 12. One of those two older, older shows if you remember those.

 

James Hilliard:

I do! And I'm gonna say, sir, I remember it on reruns only. (laughs)

 

Brian Prickett:

(laughs) Me too. No, I didn't. I can't even say that. I can't even say that. My brothers used to watch; I've got older brothers, and we used to watch that together. So, I, I probably got some actual, probably got some of the original series. (laughs)

 

James Hilliard:

All right, maybe the tail-end of the years, so hey...

 

Brian Prickett:

There you go.

 

James Hilliard:

Appreciate the conversation, Colonel, and I hope you have a chance in the future to, to catch back up and, and keep track of what advancements are going on there in Clinton County. I do appreciate you taking time sharing with us how things have evolved, the impact technology, especially these Mobile Data Terminals have had for your group out there, for your officers. Really appreciate all the insights.

 

Brian Prickett:

Thanks, James.

Play this podcast on Podbean App