IBM and COMMON Call the Cops
May 10, 2010 Dan Burger
As far as I know, this is the first time in the 50-year history of COMMON that the organization, with IBM backing them up all the way, had to call the cops. The funny thing was that during the COMMON Annual Conference and Expo in Orlando, Florida, it was the West Haven, Connecticut Police Department that got the call.
No guns were drawn. No sirens screamed. But when it was all over, there were congratulations for what the WHPD has accomplished using technology to help preserve the peace and add officer safety. Behind the thin blue line in this case is an IBM i and application software from Diversified Computer Systems, which took advantage of technologies from BCD Software to build faster, more accessible Web applications and a secure portal that protects sensitive data. For the degree of improvements this brought to New Haven’s finest, WHPD was awarded the 2010 COMMON/IBM Innovation Award in the small and midsized category.
Sergeant Joseph Wynosky, one of two WHPD officers responsible for the department’s IT operations, was most impressed with the new capabilities in the DCS mugshot system that allow officers to make positive identification much more easily. “They know for sure who they’re dealing with,” he says about increased officer safety. “Often individuals will give false or misleading information when questioned.”
Getting information quickly is critical in law enforcement, but what businesses wouldn’t appreciate an improvement in this area?
“The officer can’t afford to sit around waiting for the picture to come up, not when a fast decision has to be made,” Wynosky says.
Since DCS modernized its application, data and photos arrive in the squad cars within 12 seconds using a secure browser-based user interface. The old system dredged up the same information in about two minutes if it was blazingly fast, but stranded officers for as much as 10 minutes if the system was grumpy.
And in terms of internal management, several headaches have been relieved. According to WHPD, other products that were considered as replacements for the DCS system put the database and the photos on the officers’ laptops. That type of decentralized storage adds a significant amount of manpower to keep the database updated and synchronized.
Data centralization and data security were key elements in upgrading the law enforcement system, according to Wynosky. “Every couple of weeks another laptop containing secret data gets stolen. We avoid that by not putting any data on our field computers. If a computer or even a police car is stolen, the department simply blocks access to the system and no data is compromised.”
“To us, our central system is mission critical,” says Wynosky, echoing a sentiment that several hundred thousand customers using System/3Xs, AS/400s, and their progeny have been saying for decades. “Reliability, manageability, performance, and above all security, are all-important. That’s why we initially deployed IBM servers, and why we’ve stayed with the IBM i platform. It’s served us well. We’ve all seen how Windows has become vulnerable to security breaches, and how often you need to do system updates. To be sure, we’ve used some Windows applications like our old booking system, but the core technology has always been IBM and it will continue to be.”