SAPOL takes procedures digital

SOUTH Australia State Police has taken its patrol procedures digital, increasing officer efficiency while opening the way for integration of digital signature capture, body worn cameras and authorised access of remote resources like printers using the existing access control solution.

SOUTH Australia State Police (SAPOL) has pioneered a vision for modern digital policing which allows officers to complete all paperwork from anywhere in the field, carry technology directly to the scene of an incident for tasks such as capturing statements, spend more time in the field, and apply a host of forward-thinking technologies to carry out their duties.

The Mobile Rugged Tablet project expands SAPOL’s mobility strategy, which incorporates mobile performance management software from NetMotion and local solution provider Advanced Mobile IT (AMIT).

“Their goal was to do away with officers carrying paper-based notebooks for recording notes and capturing statements, then having to go back to the station and type it all up,” explains AMIT business development manager Nicholas Cizauskas.

Giving officers an office away from the office allows them to take the device directly to the scene, capture statements, search for and access any data required, write the report, and if necessary finish it up in the car between shifts. Time that had been spent typing in the stations is instead spent doing policing work, making them more visible in the community.

SAPOL quickly found its existing CheckPoint VPN solution could not satisfy all scenarios.

“They had created multiple edge cases,” Cizauskas explains. “Removing the device from the car, connecting it to the cellular network, putting it in a hardwired dock – and when the device switched between networks, applications lost their handshake with the back-end system.”

Most critically, there was no notification to the officers in the car or the staff in the Communications Centre that they had lost the ability to exchange messages. To SAPOL, that level of risk was simply unacceptable.
Cizauskas and AMIT advised SAPOL to try NetMotion.

“We provided them a trial license and helped them set up the pilot,” Cizauskas says. “After testing it through all their scenarios, they told us, ‘That’s it! This is going to hit it.’”

SAPOL found that with NetMotion providing a reliable network layer, they could evolve the device to better service the frontline by opening up a world of new applications. The application suite consists of the entire office suite, as well as access to back-end systems and to the intranet. The latter allows officers to look up general orders and standard operating procedures, and download standard templates for forms.

And that opens up many new efficiencies. For example, the building access card for the SAPOL offices includes a printer access code. This facilitated SAPOL to commence a pilot where officers can securely access printing functions using their Mobile Rugged Tablet while on the road; they then go to the office and use their access cards to collect their printing.

Having NetMotion in place also allows SAPOL to pursue new initiatives.

“They’re looking into signature capture, and integrating bodyworn video with the tablets,” says Cizauskas. “With NetMotion in place, that provides the backbone for all the new technologies.”

SAPOL has 8 different types of vehicles in the fleet for patrol purposes.

“All of them are equipped with mobile devices running NetMotion,” explains Cizauskas. “That includes 4-wheel drive vehicles for the remote areas. The helicopter has a rugged tablet with an extendable touchscreen. In the next phase, we’re furnishing executives and senior officers with enterprise-class tablets. They’ll all be running NetMotion because the leadership knows the product is so reliable.”

SAPOL is also taking advantage of NetMotion’s data-gathering capabilities. Dashboards with indicators show if a device is truly being used in a mobile manner or just sitting in an office, or if a device isn’t being turned on at all. The coverage maps have also proved invaluable, as in the example of one user who had having trouble getting connectivity at home. The maps revealed that he was in an area with no network coverage at all.

“Without the data, the SAPOL technical staff would have had to commit all sorts of effort and resources,” says Cizauskas. “As a solution provider, it’s great when we can deliver a product that can pay for itself.”

How does a public agency justify the expense, especially when there’s an existing product in place? According to Cizauskas, the key is a successful trial and compelling business case. The SAPOL team took the product and device to the frontline officers, while keeping senior staff in the loop. Knowing that the frontline officers were happy with the product made the superintendent, CIO and CTO happy with the product as well.

To build the business case, the SAPOL product manager confirmed the results of the trial in writing, and also presented a matrix that covered the various usage scenarios and how Checkpoint and NetMotion satisfied them. Only NetMotion covered them all. Then it was simply a matter of formalising the approval in a proposal to the commissioner for signoff.

SAPOL had conservatively estimated its mobile solution would save officers 15 minutes per shift.

“In reality, they’ve told me it’s as much as 2 hours saved per shift,” Cizauskas says. “Thanks to NetMotion and the other products we have furnished, we were able to facilitate SAPOL’s mobility strategy, giving their officers more presence in the field using the latest technologies.”