Clinton County, PA
Countywide Public and Campus Safety Hosted RMS and Info-sharing
For a rural police department, moving from a paper and file system to an automated records management system alone can be quite a daunting task. Couple that with the desire to share information across jurisdictional lines with 8 other agencies in your county, all the while knowing the typical IT headaches local agencies can face with such a transition, and many departments quickly find themselves in unfamiliar waters.
In 2011, the law enforcement agencies in Clinton County, PA decided to navigate these waters and, in only 9 months of dedicated work, successfully implemented RMS systems for each of the county’s 9 law enforcement agencies, all hosted in a private-cloud by the County at their data center, plus created a real-time information-sharing network to bring all their data together into one centralized network of sharable, actionable information.
“We needed to find a software solution that provided individualism for all the agencies in the county,” said Suzy Watson, IT Director for the County, “and make it possible for them to share information, depending on their comfort level with sharing. The solution from CODY that the County purchased delivered on this need and then some.”
The challenge was finding a solution that met the needs of the county and its agencies without breaking the bank or introducing undue IT challenges for the local agencies. Many of the small agencies in the county were still using manual paper processes and had no RMS at all. These smaller agencies needed the county’s help, as they were not able to afford a slick new RMS system given their limited budgets and resources. “We knew we needed to do something,” commented Bob Best, Project Manager for the County. “The problem we faced was that we didn’t have a funding stream for the project.”
After several unsuccessful attempts to acquire the grant funding for the project, the local agencies eventually joined forces and applied for the funding as a group.
The City of Lock Haven worked as the project lead, gathering information about project scope from the county’s IT Director, along with other agencies across the county. Funding was finally secured through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency BASLE grant (Better Automation and Sharing Through Law Enforcement), thanks to the tireless effort of the Lock Haven City grant writer. Then, after a lengthy and involved RFP process, the county’s law enforcement agencies unanimously chose a solution from CODY Systems, based in Pottstown, Pennsylvania.
“After we reviewed the RFP responses, we narrowed it down to 3 vendors who then came in and demonstrated their software for the group,” Ms. Watson commented. “We were concerned that getting all the agencies in the county to agree would be a tremendous hurdle, but to our pleasant surprise, the group gave a unanimous vote in support of CODY!”
CODY’s Total Solution Delivers
Now operational countywide for over 9 months, the new CODY solution has delivered efficient, streamlined, and automated operations for each individual agency in the county while at the same time creating the real-time countywide sharing of information that the county so longed for, and that the grant required.
The three key components of the CODY solution that delivered this for the county are CODY Desktop™, CODY Express™, and CODY’s COBRA.net™ data-integration and sharing platform. CODY Desktop provides the in-house RMS functionality needed for collecting and maintaining information previously kept in paper-file systems at certain departments and from legacy systems at a few others, while CODY Express provides real-time ‘anywhere’ RMS access for officers in the field. COBRA.net, then, creates a real-time foundational core which manages all of county-wide RMS databases and makes countywide data available to any officer in the region with a single query.
Of special note to the County was COBRA.net’s ability to keep each agency’s database complete and segregated from all others within the shared core hosted by the county (not jumbled together into one warehouse of data). This meant that not only could agencies have confidence in the integrity of their data, but it also meant that each agency could decide to what extent they wished to share their agency’s data, as the security parameters of COBRA.net respect agency-specified controls down to the field level.
“We wanted to make sure that we took into account each agency’s comfort level with sharing,” said Mr. Best, “and COBRA.net allowed us to do just that.”
While each agency has its own CODY Desktop license, many users access the RMS through CODY Express, a system designed and optimized for laptop/tablet users over wireless networks. CODY Express is deployed in all mobile vehicles in the county, along with C.tac 5, the web-based search tool used to access and query the COBRA.net informational core. All systems are hosted by the county and can be accessed via the Internet over a secure network. This gives access to real-time information anywhere as it helps to extend the limited law enforcement resources in county. “Officers can be more efficient and use their time wisely in the car rather than sitting at the station doing paper work,” Mr. Best said.
With this mobile solution, officers in the field are able to search both their own agency’s RMS database and countywide info stored in the centralized COBRA.net core in “one-stop”. “The great thing about the solution from CODY is that everything is linked behind the scenes which means that information is entered once and is instantly available across the entire system, not only within the individual agency’s system but countywide through COBRA.net,” said Mr. Best.
Legacy Data: Over 1 Million Records Converted
Until CODY entered the picture, 7 out of the 9 agencies in Clinton County were still relying on pen and paper for documenting incidents, which meant that information sharing was not even a possibility. Only the City of Lock Haven and Lock Haven University (LHU) had automated records systems, but even those were behind on the times and needed updating.
“The City of Lock Haven and the University each had an RMS system in place, but both were rather outdated. Since the other 7 agencies in the county had no records management system at all, it made sense for the entire county to combine resources and find a solution that would work for everyone,” says Ms. Watson. “I truly commend the City and the University for their forethought and for being willing to tread new waters for the good of the region.”
Obviously, to update all agencies to the same solution meant that the data housed in the legacy systems in place at the City and LHU needed to be converted and migrated into the new CODY RMS. This need to convert and migrate over 10 years worth of data from the two RMS systems was right in the wheelhouse for CODY’s Data Services team who quickly and accurately converted all the data stored in these stand-alone systems. In fact, CODY’s team converted over 1 million records in a very short amount of time in order to make it available for go-live in the CODY RMS and its synch to COBRA.net for countywide sharing as well.
“At the beginning of the project, we knew we needed to find a vendor who could implement separate RMS systems for each agency across the whole county, set up a county-wide sharing system, and get over 10 years worth of data converted from two different systems and pulled into our new system. In such a short time, CODY has delivered this for our county,” Ms. Watson said. “This means our officers have access to year’s worth of data at their fingertips at the station or on patrol.”
Meeting and Exceeding Reporting and Sharing Requirements
Of the 9 agencies that make up the county, LHU has its own special consideration as well with regard to its federal reporting requirements. The Jeanne Clery Act, for instance, requires all colleges and universities to keep and report information related to criminal activity on their campuses. In fact, those that do not comply can suffer severe civil penalties and suspension of their participation in federal student financial aid programs. Obviously, meeting these strict Clery reporting requirements was a must for LHU.
“What made the difference for us was the effort that the team at CODY Systems put into updating their reporting capability as we worked through the University portion of the project,” said Ms. Watson. “CODY’s technology made cumbersome reporting requirements seem to take care of themselves. As officers work through their daily process of documenting incidents, the information needed to meet the reporting requirements for the Clery Act are being gathered behind the scenes. This means that come reporting time, the information is there at the click of a button. We applaud CODY for the time investment made on our behalf.”
LEJIS and CPIN Interfaces
A grant requirement also required Clinton County to connect its system with the Law Enforcement Justice Information Systems (LEJIS), a regional crime information warehouse. Being able to search LEJIS was especially important to the county as criminal transients have begun to sneak their way into the quiet, rural communities that make up most of the region in an attempt to evade the law. “CODY worked with us and was able to quickly deploy the LEJIS interface into the COBRA system,” stated Mr. Best. “This meant that our project could keep moving forward at a swift pace without missing a step and without losing our funding.”
CODY also deployed a fully integrated interface to the County’s Central Booking system with a Commonwealth Photo Imaging Network (CPIN) interface which provides access to all photos of a person stored in the system.
Integrated Interface with CAD
Another requirement of the Clinton County project involved the integration of data created from a third party CAD vendor in use by the county 9-1-1 Center, providing for the creation of an incident record in the participating agency’s CODY RMS when the call was completed. When the CAD call is closed, the new incident created in the agency’s RMS includes call location, times, complainant information, and dispatcher comments. This alleviates the need for the officers to create the incident records themselves and saves them time while in the field. Officers then simply update the incident record with additional details from the call based on each agency’s needs.
The Results are In
The solution has already seen measured results in several arenas by providing the ability to query and analyze regional data and export information for regional crime mapping and prevention solutions. “DUIs and alcohol related offences have been an increasing problem for the region. We have really been able to leverage the information in COBRA.net in our investigative pursuits and through crime mapping determine high activity areas,” said Mr. Best.
In fact, information from the system is in high demand by others in the region, including the PA State Police (PSP). “The local PSP barracks reach out to the county’s 911 Center for information since they know we have the COBRA.net system in place,” commented Ms. Watson.
“We hope to add some additional functionality as bolt-on features to the COBRA.net system, such as a multi-state Driver's License Swipe and citizen crime mapping to enhance citizen awareness of crimes happening in the region,” commented Mr. Best.
For now, though, the county is just pleased that the system they envisioned is exceeding their expectations. “At the end of the day, our goal is always to keep our officers safe as they provide public safety for citizens,” Ms. Watson said. “The CODY solution and its staff of trainers and project managers have helped make this all possible and continue to work side-by-side with the county as we grow and evolve.”
To learn more about this project, please feel free to contact :
Suzy Watson, Clinton County IT Director, at 570.893.4129 or suzywatson@clintoncountyPA.com