Cops move to the cloud

Police department is faster with new web-based briefing system

Suspects' mug shots hang from the surrounding walls and several rows of tables face the front of the room, where Lt. Mike Fisher is sitting behind a desk. He uses a computer to pull up information on recent cases and displays it on one of two large flat screen monitors. Though few civilians are ever allowed inside its walls, anyone familiar with police procedurals would likely be able to recognize the space.

This is the Mountain View Police Department's briefing room -- where officers begin their shifts every day by reviewing the progress of current investigations and getting caught up on what happened since they last clocked out.

In many ways, Mountain View's briefing room is just like any other -- with one key exception. Since 2011, police officers have been able to bring the briefing room with them out into the field.

Using a system built by Texas-based Netsential, local cops are able to access information and update cases from the computers in their squad cars and on their personal mobile devices.

Previously, Fisher said, police often relied on their personal notes and handouts from the morning, afternoon or evening briefing. The new system ensures that officers are getting the most up-to-date information available and that any new information collected for an investigation can be disseminated to the entire force immediately.

"Basically, what we did was we took all that paperwork and we put it online," Fisher said. "What's nice about this is not only are you able to submit information, officers can continuously update it -- you're constantly updated."

Before the system was initiated in 2011, if an officer wanted a photo or another piece of information presented during the daily briefing, he or she would have had to return to the office or get someone to send it to them somehow. Now, all such information is stored on the department's cloud-based system and can be accessed through a keyword search.

"It's nice to be able to search by certain keywords and dates," Fisher said.

Fisher recalled a case involving a woman who had been stealing wallets out of women's purses at Walmart. Over the course of a few weeks, the police department had developed a suspect, as well as a description of a vehicle they believed to be linked to the thefts.

One day, as an officer was driving through the Walmart parking lot, he spotted a vehicle similar to the one he had been briefed on. The officer was able to pull up a surveillance photo of the vehicle using the department's new system. After confirming he had the right vehicle, the officer waited for the suspect and ultimately made an arrest.

Sgt. Saul Jaeger, the department's public information officer, credited Fisher for bringing the system to the department. "He's kind of a rock star when it comes to this kind of stuff," Jaeger said, noting that law enforcement agencies from around the Bay Area, and even from other states, have been expressing interest in the department's system.

Fisher called the system a "work in progress," saying that there is still room for improvement in how the department uses it. However, in the three years the system has been in operation, it has improved the speed with which officers can do their jobs.

"It really comes down to the speed of information," Jaeger continued, explaining the benefits of the system. "We can disseminate this information really quickly now -- it's almost live."


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 25, 2014 at 10:59 am

I am glad that the police are reaching out directly to the public. That avoids the filter of newspapers that slow down information distribution and frequently edit content, leaving out important details or mug shots just so the story will fit better on a page.

Like this comment
Posted by Jay Park
a resident of Jackson Park
on Feb 25, 2014 at 1:16 pm

While I applaud MVPD's expanded use of social media and other resources in improving communication with the public, it should be noted that this article is not about those commendable efforts, but putting their briefing room (an internal, confidential resource) available to officers in the field in a secure manner.

This system will improve in effectiveness when neighboring police departments use similar compatible systems to share data on sharing data about cases and potential subjects.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of another community
on Feb 25, 2014 at 6:47 pm

21-50 to headquarters, does anybody under the age of 70 still use the term "squad car" for a police vehicle?

Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2014 at 6:17 pm

I reside in neighboring Sunnyvale. Several other police departments in the county already use a system called VeriPic. The Digital Evidence Conference was recently held at the Hiller Aviation Museum a couple of weeks ago. A representative of Bexar County, TX did a 1 hour lecture about using VeriPic accross their entire county (one of the largest and highest population counties in the country)to handle 160,000 cases per year and that system saved the county $600,000 per year.You can see the video on YouTube. Just search for "VeriPic Bexar" to get to the video. It's an interesting lecture.

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