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Remote Booking Keeps Officers on the Street

Written by Todd Etshman

Yavapai County, AZ Sheriff’s Office deputies have a lot of ground to cover with a jurisdictional area larger than the state of Rhode Island. It can take hours for deputies to get from one end of the county to the only jail facility in Camp Verde. The county’s only other jail facility closed due to budget constraints in early 2009. Booking duties can take deputies out of the field for what could become critical hours.

Today, however, they can book suspects into the county jail remotely on any secure land-line computer and let sheriff’s volunteers transport the suspect so that they can remain in the field and in service. And early in 2010, the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) expects to be able to book remotely through patrol car laptops. Agency officials believe they are the first agency to have remote booking capability in the country.

The county partnered with Digital Solutions Inc. (DSI) of Altoona, Pa. in January 2007 on a customized Web-based Offender Management System (OMS). The 25-year-old company has evolved and expanded from a small regional software company to become the leader in providing customized jail management systems in more than 400 correctional facilities nationwide.

When Sheriff Steve Waugh was elected in 2004, he knew he wanted a better jail management records system, one that made it easier to receive, exchange and disseminate data, and one that allowed jail employees and records employees more time for managing inmates versus information.

As Records Manager Carol File explained, the old DOS system the agency had used since the early 1990s had limited Web technology and no easy way of tracking inmates or sharing records. The agency had been burdened with requests for inmate and jail information for years but had found no easy solution. Even after contracting with DSI, it took a year to customize the jail management system.

DSI Marketing Manager Thomas Brence said the company typically involves users in the design phases of the application development process accessed through an agency’s own computer network much like a home Web program. File said the cooperative effort between DSI, YCSO and Yavapai County Management Information Systems was key to the success of the partially grant-funded project.

File won the 2007 Civilian Employee of the Year Award for leading the implementation of the OMS into YCSO. YCSO was the first agency to use DSI’s OMS and was able to get it for free with an inmate telephone services contract. DSI also provides inmate telephone services for correctional facilities as part of its offender management software to help reduce the amount of data entry required to maintain records.

The booking form is accessed by deputies on a hyperlink and prints at the jail facility. The electronic form is similar to the hard copy deputies were using already. Information is stored in queue until a suspect physically arrives at the jail. File said that although the learning curve varies, it typically takes a deputy about 10 minutes to complete the electronic booking form, and the crisp, clear electronic text replaces hard-to-read, hand-scrawled booking sheets.

System requirements for the land-line DSI client configuration are relatively minimal. It can be utilized with less-than-state-of-the-art computer systems with just 256 MB of RAM and Pentium 3 processors. A minimum of Windows 2000, Internet Explorer 6, a 17-inch color screen and 1024x768 resolution is also required. Flicker signals activate security blocks.

OMS utilizes digital biometrics to compile inmate identification and various records. DSI can automate a single facility or an entire network of joined facilities that share inmate data and code settings. It provides as much support as an agency’s computer, and records management teams need to customize the program. Brence and File say DSI provides one of the only Web-based inmate management programs of which they are aware.

More information on DSI’s offender management system and its computer requirements, as well as all DSI products and services, may be found on its Web site at www.dsiiti.com or by calling (888) 222-3081. File said YCSO’s remote booking feature gets jail personnel out of the business of having to interpret data, saves paper, eliminates mistakes and eliminates the need for faxing. Once the booking information is entered into the OMS, it becomes a permanent part of the arrestee’s criminal history.

Yavapai County owns the computers on which the information runs and helped with the remote booking programming. File said it takes fewer employees overall to handle DSI Web technology, and programs such as remote booking eliminate the human error factor. While the technology is in place from substation to jail, data integration with the court system is still being developed. File is optimistic that it will happen soon as partnerships are built to automate the process with the county’s 26 courts.

The current challenge for YCSO is to get remote booking capability from a secure connection in a patrol car laptop. Mobile Data Bureau Lieutenant Brian Hunt said the agency will be using waterproof Dell E6400 ATG laptop computers in 24 patrol cars with First Mobile vehicle mounts and Verizon Cellular Internet air cards. The setup has been tested, and the agency hopes to begin utilizing remote booking and the OMS in patrol cars soon, giving deputies a virtual office inside their cars.

Lieutenant Hunt said the Dell E6400 laptop saved the agency money because it met the same standards as the more commonly found Panasonic Toughbook for about half the price. The system allows for other advantages as well. When dispatch enters a call, it’s physically on the computer for the deputy to see, which adds another layer of communication in a mountainous area that doesn’t always allow for good cellular phone coverage.

“The crux of the whole thing is the cell phone network,” Hunt said. “There is really very little talking space on the radio. This will keep our deputies in the car, and it will be as if they’re sitting right at their desks but without having a heavy paper-dependant process of gathering information. They’ll have access to information without the distraction of the chattering, stepping in and interpreting of each other on the radio. They’ll even have satellite images of property.

“We’re still installing the mounts and building the house, but it gives us better round-the-clock coverage. It will make it seem like there are more deputies on duty, and citizens will feel as if their area is covered. It’s cheaper for us to keep our deputies on the road.”

In addition to the remote booking YCSO devised, OMS features can be used for multiple functions, including such safety measures as incident reporting, alerts, logs, schedules and victim information. The OMS can be used to track an inmate’s case, from bonding information to sentencing, and it can be used to track an inmate’s conduct issues, medical treatment, meal planning and educational pursuits.

YCSO has already trained nearby municipal police agencies in Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley and the Arizona Department of Public Safety to utilize the remote booking system. Those agencies may not have as far to go to get to booking facilities, but they still save time and paper by booking remotely.

Todd Etshman is a freelance writer in Prescott, AZ, and can be reached at etshman@juno.com.


Published in Law and Order, May 2010

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