A few years ago, Washington D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department revolutionized its patrols, the backbone of law enforcement, by installing laptops into squad cars, allowing officers to have true two-way communication with dispatchers, keep track of other calls and incidents in real time, simplify paperwork, locate other cars, and make their exact coordinates known to dispatchers via GPS for efficient tasking. Now D.C.'s neighbor and eighth largest municipal police force in the country, Baltimore, is taking this model one step further with the help of cloud computing and Xora's Field Force Manager.
The department wants officers to spend more time outside of their cars interacting with the community, but does not want to lose track of them in case of emergencies. Field Force Manager offered a solution by allowing dispatchers to locate officers precisely through GPS tracking of department-issued BlackBerry smart phones. This has numerous advantages for policing. When sending out a call, dispatchers can now see who is on foot in the area and who is too far, thereby decreasing response times. Field Force Manager also helps coordinate efforts in crowd control situations, when officers are outside of their cars and may have difficulty locating each other and working together. Records of past coordinates are stored for better planning, allowing commanders to see past deployments and learn from those successes and failures. Xora also provides officers with additional safety by allowing backup and first responders to know where an unresponsive officer is in case of an officer down.
Implementing the new technology on such a large scale would not be feasible without cloud computing. Xora's Field Force Manager is accessed through the internet on officer's phones and any computer a commander may be using. Other solutions were abandoned because custom software would have to be installed, managed, and upgraded on any computer commanders might use, which was judged to be too expensive, complicated, and time-consuming. Xora was also simple to use, which is critical as police departments are not typically tech-savvy organizations.
After a successful trial run on 80 devices last summer, the department's management information systems group rolled out another 2,000 equipped BlackBerry smart phones for officers.
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