Advantages in Updating an Old CAD System for Law Enforcement
Computer-aided dispatching (CAD) systems from years gone by served their purpose well. In much the same way a rotary telephone served its purpose by allowing easy, customized communication without the need for an operator to connect the call. No doubt, a modern marvel at the time. However, compared to the latest technology in personnel communication, dialing a number to make a call is unarguably antiquated. Many law enforcement agencies may be experiencing a similar phenomenon about their outdated CAD system. It may have met the needs a decade or two ago, but now, it is the technological equivalent of a rotary phone.
When a police department agency updates to a modern CAD system, members often ask how they were even able to function with the old system. Within a law enforcement agency, immediate improvements are seen in officer safety, 911 service quality, and incident management. Shortly thereafter, the advantages of updated computer aided dispatching software are seen in report quality, case investigations, record keeping, and a host of other areas traditionally vital to the function of a law enforcement organization.
Updating Computer Aided Dispatching in the 911 Center
Much can be extolled about the use of CAD and its ability to improve communications between dispatchers and officers in the field. However, often calls to the 911 center, including those on non-emergency administrative lines, do not require action from a patrol unit. Any public safety dispatcher can attest, a good part of their job is simply answering questions from the public. Having a modern CAD system, allows call takers to better serve their communities and avoid unnecessary calls for service which tie up the valuable time of first responders.
Various factors come into play when a dispatcher is faced with otherwise routine questions from the public. The size of the organization, the nature of the inquiry, agency policy, and time of day, are included in those factors. To improve service, many law enforcement agencies now encourage call takers to address a citizen's concern if possible, rather than transfer them from person to person. This is where information in a robust CAD system can make a huge difference. For many non-emergency inquiries, dispatchers can conduct basic research, access information, and provide answers to the public without having a field unit respond.
Another advantage of an updated CAD system includes data management capabilities. Often, CAD notes may be the only record an agency has of an incident. If an officer response was not necessary at the time or if a report was not needed, dispatch logs act to memorialize the information about a call. If the information in that incident turns out to be vastly more important than originally thought, the value of the CAD records cannot be understated. For instance, a brief note entered into CAD or a telephone number for what was originally a non-emergency, routine call, could be key pieces of evidence in a major crime such as a homicide or armed robbery.
Officer Safety and State-of- the-Art Computer Aided Dispatching Systems
When dispatch calls an officer over the two-way radio and he does not respond, the initial thoughts of the other units on duty are usually something such as, “He needs to pay attention to the radio,” or, “I wonder if he is on the right channel.” Every officer and dispatcher know, radio transmissions sometimes go unanswered the first time they are made. While this is typically the result of a minor distraction, the second call from dispatch with no response will often prompt the sergeant to get on the radio. That usually gets the attention of the officer and radio gets back to normal.
The importance of CAD and its integration with mobile technology finds the core of its benefit when those radio transmissions continue to go unanswered. The attention of all who are on the same frequency is laser-focused on making sure the officer is safe. When he cannot be reached using the often-old technology of a two-way radio, modern CAD steps in. More specifically, the automated vehicle locator (AVL) as part of a total computer aided dispatching software system, will be able to pinpoint the location of the unresponsive officer. Dispatch and all field units will be able to use mapping technology to see exactly where he is and get help on the way.
Investigative units also benefit from the latest CAD technology. The service of a search warrant requires far more preparation than Hollywood tends to have the general public believe. Experienced detectives know the importance of planning before embarking on such an endeavor. The information in an agency's records management and computer aided dispatching systems can be invaluable in developing an operations plan. Important information such as a suspect's history of calls for service including violence toward law enforcement is a common search topic when preparing for a search warrant.
Other important factors to consider may be found only in a CAD system and might not be noted in the narrative of traditional police reports. For instance, a suspect may have dogs within a fence surrounding his home. This piece of information may have been entered into CAD when a neighbor called to complain about the barking. No report was made, but the note exists in the call log and can easily be found when searching the address history. Additionally, the person who is now the suspect may have previously reported his security camera captured video of a prowler near his home several months ago. Responding officer did not locate a suspect so no report was taken. However, the CAD notes contain mention of the camera. A very important piece of information for officers planning a tactical approach for a search warrant. Modern technology’s role in officer safety will continue to grow as agencies see the importance of updated CAD systems.