Top law enforcement officers from from Valley City and Barnes County have a common goal, they both want a Computer Aided Dispatch system, and they hope it happens sooner rather than later.
A CAD system would make record-keeping easier for dispatchers and more comprehensive than the current state-based system, and would put all of the area's emergency services and the county jail on the same page. A CAD system for dispatching could make finding information easier for officers in the field, could help dispatchers keep officers safer in the field, could make record keeping and planning more efficient and in the case of the jail, could make the distribution of information more inclusive and timely.
According to Valley City Police Chief Fred Thompson, CAD is usually a software program that is designed to assist dispatchers in keeping track of what officers and other emergency personnel are doing. Also, better systems could include automatic downloading of 9-1-1 information from calls, and could do a lot of the work dispatchers on older systems do by hand or on paper. It would make information searches faster by requiring only a few keystrokes.
"The things that you could do with this, just imagine an officer going to a call where we have a barricaded subject inside and the officers want to have some idea who he is. For him to be able to take his laptop – on the scene, on the side of the road – and do some keystrokes and find out every call that's ever been there, what's ever happened at that house, who they've ever contacted, the criminal history of the subject involved – the criminal histories of everybody involved – what kind of car that person drives and on and on... The amount of information you can obtain, from a laptop sitting at the house is phenomenal. And those pieces of information can make a big difference in how you handle the call," said Thompson.
A system paired with vehicles that include GPS technology would allow dispatchers to know the location of those units, and would facilitate emergency calls automatically going to the closest units, a benefit noted by Barnes County Sheriff Randy McClaflin.
Also an important benefit, according to McClaflin, would in the state-mandated notification process regarding prisoners at the Barnes County Correctional Facility. Currently, the Barnes County Correctional only minimally meets the state's requirements. The records management capabilities of a CAD system would improve compliance.
"Say we take somebody in on domestic abuse, said McClaflin. the program helps notify the parson who should be notified when he gets released.
According to Thompson, a CAD system would also improve efficiency within his department, and could help reduce costs by possibly reducing overtime and over-scheduling.
The problem with a CAD system, however, it the cost. According to Thompson, depending on what components are added to a basic system, like jail management or tracking, a system could run upward of $250,000.
However, Thompson was made aware of a system that could be made available to Barnes County for free, which he discussed with members of the Barnes County 9-1-1 Advisory Board at a recent meeting. While the system would cost nothing, it's unclear how much it could cost to hire someone with the software knowledge to get the system up and running, Barnes County's IT manager is looking into the matter.
In the meantime, McClaflin is looking into bids for a CAD system.
Read this story in Tuesday's Times-Record.