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Rockford police department empowers officers with mobile broadband solution

In 2004, the Rockford Police Department began an intensive review to replace its aging report writing and records management system. Not only was the system nearing obsolescence, it was also inefficient. Police officers had to manually write reports in the field. Data entry operators back in the office could only input summary data—leaving valuable narrative information in the hardcopy file.

After an extensive evaluation, the department selected NetRMS as the new records management system. In accordance with FBI protocols, the new system collects comprehensive data about a crime incident as opposed to only summary information. In addition, NetRMS includes a mobile component so that officers can input information directly from their laptops in the squad cars and upload it to the server once they are connected to the network.

While a huge boon to productivity, the department realized that the real power would come with the addition of a secure, high-speed, and reliable wireless connectivity solution. If an originating officer could file a crime report in real time from the scene without having to search for a hot spot, then backup officers could quickly move into action. As a result, the department initiated a search for a mobile broadband solution that would meet its strict requirements and complement the new records management system.

“One thing about police officers, if you put technology on the street that doesn’t perform, they will quickly lose interest in it and lose faith in the department,” said Sergeant John Leslie, City of Rockford Police Department. “We needed a comprehensive solution that was going to work and that they would be happy with, and we succeeded.”


After considering both private and public cellular networks, the City of Rockford Police Department narrowed its search to the top public cellular providers in its area. Based on an exhaustive review, which included testing each network for speed, coverage and security across the entire city, the department selected Sprint for its commitment to speed.

With the Sprint DataLink wireless connectivity solution, Sierra Aircards and an external antenna mounted on each of the 100 marked patrol squad cars, officers have a reliable and secure connection. To provide even greater security, the department decided to use the SprintLink Frame Relay network so that officers can access the Internet through the department’s network.

The addition of software from NetMotion allows officers to automatically connect to the fastest network available at any given time—seamlessly switching between Wi-Fi hot spots and the Sprint network without ever experiencing a gap in coverage. The NetMotion software also provides end-to-end encryption for an extra layer of security and compression to further speed the transfer of information. With a state-of-the art mobile broadband solution in place, police offers could finally get the real-time connectivity they needed to maximize the power of their new records management system.

Bottom Line

In addition to streamlined report writing and records management, the wireless solution also provides police officers real-time access to a range of online resources. Officers can also connect to virtually any system on the city’s networking including e-mail, the department’s intranet, and a host of special-purpose police applications including warrant files, call history and report data. As a result, the City of Rockford Police Department is experiencing an unprecedented level of operational efficiency and coordination.

For example, on Day 1, the mobile solution assisted officers in capturing a known criminal when a woman involved in a traffic incident could not provide valid personal identification. The officer instantly accessed her photo on the County Sheriff’s internal jail records system and learned that there was a warrant out for her arrest.

In another instance at the scene of a traffic accident, one of the victims couldn’t speak English. The officer was able to gain access to a translation Web site and communicate with the victim to provide assistance and file a report more quickly.

“The key is that you have to look at all the pieces that go into using a wireless network in a law enforcement environment where security and privacy are major issue[s] and determine how to make it as reliable and user friendly as possible,” said Doug Clinite, investigator, City of Rockford Police Department. “Working with Sprint and its partners, we had a host of options that we considered every step of the way, and we evaluated all the pros and cons.”

Other departments in the city of Rockford, such as the Fire Department and Community Development, have recognized the power of mobile connectivity and are considering deploying the solution. With the speed, security, and reliability of the Sprint Mobile Broadband solution, the possibilities are endless.

Published in Public Safety IT, Jul/Aug 2008

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