After the assassination of two police officers in New York City earlier this year, more local police departments are looking for ways to share information with each other. Police dispatchers can easily become a bottleneck, making it difficult to coordinate responses and share information. Dallas, Texas based COPsync is looking to change all of that with a new in-car sharing system.
COPsync operates a real-time network for law enforcement agencies that enables patrol officers to collect, report and share critical data in real time at the point of incident and obtain instant access to various local, state and federal law enforcement databases. Dispatchers and officers receive alerts to be on the lookout for child kidnappings, robberies, car thefts, police pursuits and other crimes in progress. Without COPsync, this is typically done via fax or bulletin board.
To date, approximately 500 law enforcement agencies in Texas have adopted the service. COPsync CEO Ronald Woessner tells CivSource that the company is working to expand its user base throughout the country, and may see a boost from the recently passed Blue Alert Law, which seeks to set up a national communications system for police officers.
“When you look at what happened between when the Baltimore Police Department was aware of Ismaaiyl Brinsley shooting his girlfriend at 5:48 in the morning, to when the New York Police Department was made aware of the situation hours passed and officers were relying on a fax. With COPsync Baltimore could have shared that information with New York instantly, and patrol officers would have had it in their vehicles,” Woessner explains.
The service works by creating a connected chatroom of sorts where officers can see other local officers as well as all other officers on the network nationwide. Then, patrolmen can coordinate information sharing and incident response without having to wait for an order from a dispatcher. GPS in the vehicle will also track the movements of officers in the field providing a report to police commanders about general activity, even if no incident reports were filed.
“Our goal is to provide more information to the officer when they make a stop. Say, for example, someone is taking pictures of an energy plant in Houston. A cop may pull up and ask what is going on and if nothing happens he can still note that in the software. Two weeks later, if a patrolman in Dallas sees the same guy taking pictures of another energy plant, now the officers know there is a pattern. It can cut down on time at a stop and let officers be more aware going in,” Woessner says.
“We also offer access to a range of databases including the El Paso Intelligence Center, departmental data, CJIS, data shared on the network, and border crossing information for vehicles at the US/Mexico border and the US/Canada border. So when an officer looks someone up, they’re going to be able to see in detail what has been going on – if anything. That can be especially helpful if you stop a car and they say they’ve been in town for a few weeks, but you see from COPsync they just crossed the border yesterday. Now an officer knows he has something to investigate.”
To adopt the technology, police departments can download the software, or they can do it as part of a new hardware install, where the in-car computer system will come with COPsync pre-loaded. Woessner says new sign ups are an even mix with 40% opting for new hardware.
Alongside COPsync, is a threat alert service available to citizens in schools and offices. The service lets individuals instantly and silently send emergency alerts directly to the closest law enforcement officers in their patrol vehicles, as well as to the local 911 dispatch center.
“We want to be able to give teachers the ability to bring in law enforcement quickly; you can’t always do that by waiting for school administrators first.”
The alert system also tracks the reports and provides an after action incident record for schools to review.
Over the rest of the year, Woessner says he will be working to bring more police departments on to the network. He added that the Blue Alert Law, which calls for a national network, looks very similar to what COPsync already does could give his expansion efforts a boost. “We have a lot of advocates for the system, and we are working with the Department of Justice to raise that awareness.”