December 22, 2008 By Corey McKenna
The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department is responsible for a geographical area covering 900 square miles which include both urban and rural environments. The department's fleet of vehicles includes 300 markted patrol cars and 250 unmarked patrol cars used by detectives and administrative personnel. Additionally, the department's technology office provides information technology support to 88 agencies in its region.
The cars in the Sheriff's Department are currently equipped with Panasonic Toughbooks, digital video cameras, a digital video processing unit, and a second camera to take video of the rear seat. Data travels to and from those cars on multiple networks, including a radio network supporting the voice and data needs of dispatchers. Additionally, a wireless network was built in 2006 in order to facilitate field reporting and have access to vital data in the field. A Wi-Fi network at the stations provides for large-bandwidth applications such as video upload from patrol cars.
The county went through a massive transition about two and a half years ago when it redesigned its cars, said Kevin Paltzer, applications manager, Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. The impetus for that was several things. First of all, the patrol cars were equipped with EDGE cards, later upgraded to 3G. This gave the officers access to Web based resources and other applications. Second, the state gave the county a mandate to upgrade the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS) bridge to improve the communication between law enforcement throughout the state. The main piece of that mandate was that all communications had to be encrypted which would have been impossible with the previous mainframe-based system. The new system uses SQL Server, Web services and secure-socket layer encryption. The computer aided dispatch system is in an isolated environment to protect it from viruses or anything else that might happen to the rest of the county law enforcement network. However, that data is replicated and distributed to the rest of the network.
"Years ago we had many disparate applications. In many cases the officer would search their favorite or the ones that they had positive experiences with," but there were a dozen different systems, Paltzer said. Currently, the county's main system is a Web-based known persons file system (known as Web KPF) including links to a mug shot system and a records management system. The county also connects to the state to access the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System.
WebKPF is the same system with better data access, he said. This is the first system which an officer with the Sheriff's Department uses when he or she comes in contact with a person. The system can be searched with 37 different criteria, which can be entered in any combination. "If you wanted to enter first name, street name, sex -- and maybe they're a probationer --wa then you would get a multiple-hit result list. Right down the edge of the page you'll get a photo for each person. Once you've selected a person and pulled that person up then you have a wealth of information available," Paltzer said. This includes most recent photos, mug shot histories, and pictures of any scars, marks or tattoos. There's a link to the county's warrant system including who visited an inmate while he was in custody, as well as aerial imagery around their address. "A very popular feature is the lineup creator. The line up creator is a tool that allows you to build a line up [with a] particular person's photo. Those line ups are able to be used in the field to show witnesses before they begin to forget. They can actually show the person a lineup in the field immediately