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Sun Ridge Systems and Rocklin, Calif. Police: partners in crime (solving)

Written by Tim Burke

Mark Siemens, Chief of Police of the Rocklin, Calif., Police Department for the past 10 years, said recently: “Sun Ridge Systems does just what the say. They deliver.” The chief was talking about his police department’s computers and systems. But he was also talking about much more. “One thing I know,” he continued, “is that you don’t buy a computer system for the name, you buy it to get your mission done. Sun Ridge’s RIMS system is totally mission-driven. Its use has lead to more arrests and police case outcomes than we could imagine. And the greatest thing is it’s easy for officers to use—that’s number one with them. Sun Ridge is an extremely good partner for us for a long time now.”

Rocklin PD’s long-standing partnership—yes, partnership, because there is no better and more fitting description— with the small California company has served the department’s needs with integrated public safety software. Sun Ridge has grown with the department as times have changed for the past two and a half decades, and counting. RIMS, according to the Sun Ridge Web site, is a software product whose development will never be complete. It is constantly being improved, expanded and enhanced. And that’s the beauty of it. Sun Ridge Systems and Rocklin PD formed a bond, so to speak, that has lasted a long time. And in a world where business friends and acquaintances change as fast as the seasons, or faster, this duo has outlasted the norm, beat the odds, and done the unthinkable. They have succeeded together.

Background

In 1982, Tony Richards, President of Sun Ridge Systems, based in El Dorado Hills, Calif., had an idea to come up with a Computer Aided Dispatch and Records System using personal computers, a relatively new technology at the time, instead of using large mainframe computer infrastructure to operate integrated CAD and Records. “Richards approached the Rocklin police chief, at that time Steven B. Frybarger, with his idea that Rocklin PD could be a beta test site,” said Matthew Diridoni, Police Technical Services with Rocklin PD, who also has first-hand knowledge, because he had already been working there five years by then. “At the time, Rocklin Police and Fire Dispatch used pen and paper so we had nothing to lose. I have been using the product since it was installed as a DOS version.”

Tony Richards remembered it like this: “I met the Rocklin police chief in late 1984, two years after I had begun creating RIMS. He was looking for a low cost way to computerize their then-manual CAD and records operation. My price was right—no cost as a development site.”

What was the first product bought by the department? “Our first product was Records and CAD,” Diridoni said. “We did not pay for anything because we were the first beta test site. It was after the product was complete and released that we started to pay for support. As the years went on, we purchased more modules such as Fire Station Alerting, Property Room, Asset Tracking, Reverse Telephone Lookup and GPS Mapping.”

The town his department serves, Rocklin, is located in a residential community about a half hour drive north of Sacramento. It shares borders with the towns of Roseville, Loomis and Lincoln. As of 2009, the city’s population was estimated to be 55,000 people. But back in 1985 it was a small town of 7,000 residents.

RIMS in Action

Rocklin PD is known as Customer 1 and Diridoni commented, “It is neat to see some of the ideas that came from Rocklin PD that are in the product now. As the system grew, other agencies made suggestions at the annual RIMS Users Conferences that made RIMS even better. Every year we hear some great ideas from all the agencies’ users and Sun Ridge makes the ideas happen.” In the later years, his department purchased more modules such as Mobiles; Paging; Fire Station Alerting; Property Room with Bar Coding; Asset Tracking with Bar Coding; Reverse Telephone Lookup; GPS Mapping; 911 Interface; and Fire Records Reporting interfaces.

“Officers report that it is easy to train new officers on the use of the mobile product and RIMS itself,” Diridoni noted. “Dispatchers find RIMS an easy program to use and learn. New hires with little dispatch experience or lateral transfers from outside agencies find RIMS easy to navigate.” Richards described his company’s products for law enforcement. “We are a company dedicated to one product line: software for law enforcement. Outside of certain specialty products, our RIMS software is what runs a police department and is used by every member of the department every day.”

He noted how it is used in many different ways. “Dispatchers use it to dispatch; officers and supervisors use it to write and process reports; records clerks use it to record all the other information common to law enforcement; and everyone uses it constantly for reference purposes— looking up people and vehicles, cases, citations and many other things,” he said.

“We have been fortunate to work with a small core group of people at Rocklin PD for many years,” Richards said, “several for more than 20 years. This long-time working relationship has enabled us to have the Rocklin PD, or RPD for short, repeatedly serve as a test bed for our new products.” The department, according to Richards, has always been forward-looking in examining and adopting new technologies, from mobile computers in patrol cars in 1991 (unusual for small departments in those days) to a large wall-sized status and monitoring display in their new communications center.

Over the years the department has been buffeted, countywide, by political winds of communications and CAD/RMS system consolidation pressures. Richards said, “Chief Mark Siemens has done an excellent job of navigating this mine field and retaining independence and staying with the CAD/RMS system that served them well for many years.”

The company’s original CAD and RMS have expanded to more than 20 products over the years, but each is part of the same RIMS product suite and every product is an integrated part of the whole. “Larger police departments,” Richards pointed out, “serving a population in excess of, say, 200,000, tend to want an ‘off the shelf system that does things exactly our way’ and custom systems are not our business. Also, systems for large cities more often involve fire dispatch, which also tends to require significant customizing. We are a small company and larger cities have a strong preference for dealing with the big companies in our business.”

On the other hand, however, he said they have one very large agency, the Nevada Highway Patrol. He added, “I know projects for large agencies can be anything but fun, as customer demands, politics and closure on the project become issues. Because 95 percent of all law enforcement agencies are considered ‘small,’ not chasing the larger ones was an easy business decision for us.”

The town of Rocklin has enjoyed substantial growth over the decades. The city has grown eightfold from 1985 to today. “Our company and products have grown with the city. A larger department has greater expectations and more financial resources. So it has been with Rocklin. In a broader sense, we are all on a never-ending technology wave. What was ‘good’ yesterday is obsolete today and that applies to our business as well,” Richards said.

He mentioned that over the years Rocklin has served as a reference site and has been the most popular site for prospective customers to visit. With their new police building, state-of-the-art communications center, and enthusiastic comments about RIMS, RPD always shows off their success with RIMS.

“I’ve had experience working with software companies and computer systems,” noted Chief Siemens. “Sun Ridge isn’t ‘vapor-ware’, you know, all promise and no delivery the way companies can be. They are extremely good partners with us in the RIMS system. Sun Ridge Systems makes a list of continual adjustments. The staff is very good at working with users,” he elaborated.

Like any solid partnership, Rocklin and Sun Ridge have matured side by side during the past 25 years. “These days,” Richards indicated, “it’s all about new ways to share and use information, from mapping applications to predictive policing to regional data-sharing. Rocklin is part of this too, and RIMS helps them by providing crime analysis tools built into our mapping product.” He said they connected RPD to a regional data sharing network that is, “beyond the Collaborate Data- Sharing product we designed to connect users of our products; useful in the many areas, especially in California, which has a concentration of RIMS agencies.”

The regional network is based upon software produced by another company, he explained. The link to it is software his company has written that extracts data from his agencies’ databases, formats it in ways understood by the other company, and transmits it to them. That’s the way it works in Rocklin. In San Mateo County in the San Francisco Bay Area where they have a dozen agencies, they collect the data into a county data warehouse server and then transmit the amalgamated data.

When asked what law enforcement and public safety officers were telling him about the RIMS system, Richards related that a gang member was suspected of murdering his former girlfriend, but claimed he hadn’t seen her in more than a year. The detective checked RIMS and found that the suspect had been stopped and a field interview recorded just weeks earlier in his city. The girlfriend had been with the suspect.

In another case, Richards explained: “One morning the chief at an agency came in to find his people talking about a vehicle that had crashed into a local restaurant and the driver escaped. The chief walked into his office, put the vehicle description and partial plate into RIMS, and solved the case in 30 seconds.”

Into the Future

Richards said he couldn’t overemphasize the importance of continual evolution and innovation to maintain competitiveness. He called it a never-ending cycle of, “collecting product enhancement requests from our users at our annual users conference, combining those with our own ideas, and producing the next year’s new version of RIMS.”
Next up for his company is its new Citizen RIMS Web product, which makes crime data available to the public via a website—in 11 different ways.

Chief Siemens related that when officers from other departments come on ride-alongs to check out the system and see how easy it works they often say, ‘I wish we had it.’ As onehalf of a 25-year partnership, Rocklin PD knows it’s all about constantly adjusting to meet the needs of the always- changing times of our world. “We were in on the ground floor of how it all works,” the Chief said, with pride in his voice. Being Customer 1 has proven to be a solid place that has suited them well for the past twoand- a-half decades and counting. Sun Ridge Systems and their very first and longest ongoing client, the Rocklin Police Department, are truly partners in crime (solving).

Timothy R. Burke is a freelance writer, editor, graphic designer and photographer and can be reached at trb4320@yahoo.com. Photos courtesy of Sun Ridge Systems.

Published in Public Safety IT, Sep/Oct 2010

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