Wednesday, April 4, 2007

County, city police agencies band together

Ketchum, Sun Valley, Bellevue, Hailey and county sharing files

Express Staff Writer

The five law enforcement agencies in Blaine County banded together Monday to begin sharing records through a new Record Management System (RMS) produced by a Missoula, Mont., company called Logisys.

"We hope to get online today and everyone can hook in," Blaine County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Jay Davis said Monday.

Under the new system, a 911 call will come into Computer Aided Dispatch. The CAD sends a message to the Mobile Data Computer (MDC) that supplies the officer with details, which in turn also creates a log in the RMS for the officer's reports.

Police departments in Hailey, Ketchum, Bellevue and Sun Valley and the Blaine County Sheriff's Department will have file-sharing capacity and patrolling officers can instantly access the information on the RMS through a computerized program on the Logisys First Report System, created specifically for law enforcement.

All police reports that are filed—including arrests, warrants, follow-ups and actual incidents—are fed into the system, which makes it a huge time-saving device, said Ketchum Police Chief Cory Lyman, who worked with a similar system in Salt Lake City.

"We were choking on the call load in Salt Lake. Plus, officers had to hand write their reports and then clerks had to type them up. With this system that is done instantly," Lyman said. "It makes it much more effective because there is a lack of duplication."

Davis said that sharing information would help police officers solve cases faster because a lot of pertinent information is immediately accessible. The program also features an auto fill capacity, so cases are instantly updated.

"If an officer pulls a person over in Hailey, he can see if there is anything on him from Ketchum," Davis said. "He can track all the reports and see what the suspect has been involved in."

Agencies involved also have the ability to set confidentiality in sensitive cases.

Lyman said that being well-informed also assists officers in making better decisions about how to approach a suspect or situation.

"For instance, if there is a family fight, the officer can see a log of what has happened and know if this is an ongoing problem. He can query the records. If he knows this is the fourth time someone has been called to this house, he can act accordingly," Lyman said.

Both Davis and Lyman acknowledge that it is unusual for different police departments to share information in this way.

"There's a lot of distrust among law agencies (in general)," Lyman said. "If another police department compromises my case, I am ultimately responsible for that data. Now, with the sheriff or other chiefs, we may have different opinions on things, but I have never asked for help and not gotten it. We are in sync on our core issues and I don't expect that trust to be violated."

The new system was paid for with money from drug forfeitures and the Homeland Security Fund. The agencies involved pay for the upkeep based on percentage of use by the sworn officers who have access to the system. Lyman said all the agencies involved have signed a joint powers agreement that will be reviewed on an annual basis.

"It's a big deal for all of us and all based on trust," Lyman said.

Lyman added that this is a good time of year to implement the new system because it is typically quieter in the spring, but he doesn't expect the transition to be without some snags.

"It's a big step forward and we will work through the hiccups and training. A year from now we will tell you we can't live without it."

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