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Hendon Publishing

Motorola systems manager helps police with inventory

Since its inception in 1905, when the department became the first uniformed state police organization of its kind in the United States, the Pennsylvania State Police Department has grown to encompass more than 6,000 enlisted and civilian personnel. The department’s primary goal, to improve its ability to serve and protect the public, is dependent upon accessible, reliable technology to increase the speed, accuracy, and availability of police-related data. Achieving this goal requires a highly reliable mobile data communications system, a comprehensive services plan, and a team of dedicated experts to keep it operating at peak performance.

The Objective

The objective was to control over-growing assets and rapid service response. Nearly six years ago, the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) installed 500 Motorola MW520 mobile data terminals in their marked patrol cars. This leap of technology enabled state troopers to tap into key federal, state and local databases from their patrol cars, and it significantly enhanced communications between headquarters and troopers on patrol.

On the heels of that success, the PSP continued its technology evolution and more than doubled its inventory of MW520s, this time with next generation 700 MHz units that delivered an even faster response. A few years later, the PSP decided to replace all of its MW520s with 1.7 GHz Motorola MW800 data terminals. By 2004, the PSP had nearly 1,500 mobile data units operating in its patrol cars, and Keith Keister, Dispatch Data Center manager, Pennsylvania State Police, was spending half his time managing asset control, arranging for maintenance, and keeping pace with service issues. “Keeping those assets maintained and accounted for is mission critical,” Keister said. “If the computers aren’t working, our troopers can’t use those cars, and managing that process had nearly become my full-time job.” When the PSP went live on its first consolidated dispatch station, Keister tightened up the service level and contacted Motorola to discuss opportunities for improvement. He asked them to propose a service plan that would assign resources dedicated to ensuring that the PSP’s critical inventory of mobile data units was available, accounted for and maintained.

Motorola System Services

Motorola implemented a services solution that included a dedicated systems manager who would take over the day-to-day routine upkeep of the system as well as manage the response for emergency service calls. The first order of business for the PSP’s new systems manager was to work with Motorola’s local subcontracted field service centers, providing consulting, training, and 24-hour support to ensure that each repair met or beat the PSP’s contracted repair time commitments.

The systems manager also implemented an asset management plan using a bar code to track the location of all of the PSP’s 21,000 mobile data assets—computers, keyboards, monitors, printers, and external drives—and identify which patrol car was using the equipment. This is especially critical when cars are decommissioned as dictated by “fleet change out,” when assets can get lost in the shuffle. Motorola updates the asset database during regularly scheduled preventive maintenance as well as during the course of daily activity. “Knowing where all of our components are and knowing they are all in working condition is mission critical,” Keister said. “We now know what equipment is in which car, what’s in for repair, and what is on the shelf available for use.”

The systems manager provides day-to-day management, collects statistical data, creates patterns, and identifies issues that can be fixed immediately, often ensuring that the issues are solved before they become problems. “The PSP had purchased thumb drives, and the users were having problems when they plugged them into the USB ports,” Keister recalled. “This created some problems, but our Motorola systems manager worked with his team to add an extension USB cable, changed the configuration, and gave the troopers a better place to plug in their thumb drives, which virtually eliminated the problem.”

Increased Efficiency and Faster Repair

Inventory management has also increased efficiency and reduced costs for the PSP. “Motorola’s asset inventory system has relieved us from the exhaustive task of managing our mobile office inventory, allowing us to focus our efforts on the business of keeping our mobile office fleet operational,” Keister said. “Since its implementation, we have been able to improve our operational efficiency, maximize our resources, and reduce costs.” Since the PSP’s new service plan has been in effect, the following improvements have been achieved:

• Mean time to repair (MTTR) has been significantly reduced;
• Core team of local field technicians have been certified to service the PSP system;
• Ongoing technician training has raised the level of competence and accountability;
• Service level agreement compliance has achieved 100% for nearly two years;
• And asset inventory is accurate and up to date.

Although the critical nature of rapid, reliable, and real-time communications is a day-to-day reality, on October 6, 2006, the technology proved its worth. An armed gunman broke into a one-room Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, a tiny village about 55 miles west of Philadelphia, in Lancaster County. State troopers were immediately dispatched and arrived on the scene in less than 7 minutes, fully apprised of the situation. “The speed of our response was in large part because of our data dispatch that’s enabled by the computer in the car,” Keister said. With a dedicated Motorola systems manager in place, the Pennsylvania State Police can rest assured that when they need rapid access to critical data, that access will be available.

Published in Public Safety IT, Mar/Apr 2008

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