Asset management tool puts police forces back on the streets

Deploying leading edge hardware and software wasn’t the biggest challenge Ontario’s York Regional Police faced when it embarked on a mission to become “technology leaders in policing.”

“We needed to standardize on our tool for managing our laptops and desktops,” said Nick Mohamed, assistant manager of IT for the York Regional Police (YRP). He said the technology upgrade that the region’s police force has been implementing led to numerous tools and systems that needed to be managed effectively.

For instance, 200 police patrol cars deployed within the region meant 200 mobile workstations that needed to be managed, updated and maintained, he said. That’s in addition to the 1,400 laptops and desktops deployed across the organization, a radio frequency-based private network for mobile voice and data transmission, numerous mobile devices, and a complex network that connects to other police and government agencies.

“As an IT entity, we’ve had to react to the growth in our computing environment. Technology is stretched from within the walls of the district out to all possible areas in the region,” said Mohamed.

About three weeks ago, the IT department at YRP began using Microsoft’s System Centre Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007, an asset management tool that allows the tech team to monitor and maintain all systems across the organization’s IT infrastructure. Toronto-based Microsoft partner LegendCorp introduced YRP’s tech team to the Microsoft product.

“System Centre Configuration Manager allowed the (York Regional Police) tech team to elevate their skills set…and concentrate on the applications and (system) enhancements rather than dealing with having to manually rebuild laptops (for example),” said Andy Papadopoulos, president of LegendCorp.

One of the goals for arming police officers with technology tools was to enable them to provide better service to the community, said Heidi Schellhorn, an inspector and part of the communications department with York Regional Police.

“Technology is included in our daily functioning…the mobile workstations (in patrol cars) keep our officers on the road,” said Schellhorn, adding that with York Region being proclaimed as one of the safest communities in Canada, police officers need to always be visible in the community.

Each patrol car is equipped with a ruggedized laptop containing all applications and network connectivity an officer would need to perform his job on the road.

The electronic ticketing application, for instance, allows a police officer to issue traffic tickets electronically by swiping the driver’s licence, typing in the necessary information onto the laptop and printing the ticket. This system eliminates the previous process of having to manually write the ticket and fill out the necessary paperwork back at the station, since the process is completed right on site, said Schellhorn.

Mohamed said the mobile workstations are vital to the ability of the police officers to perform their jobs. “It’s not just a police car, it’s an office-on-wheels for police officers,” said Mohamed.

Prior to the deployment of Microsoft’s SCCM tool, patrol cars would always have to be pulled out of the streets in order to perform system updates and maintenance on the laptops, which translated to hours of downtime, not only for the laptop, but also for the patrol car, said Mohamed.

SCCM allowed Mohamed’s team to perform system update remotely, which eliminated the need for a patrol car to be pulled out, giving police officers more time to spend in the communities, noted Derick Wong, senior product manager, security and management, for Microsoft Canada.

Troubleshooting is also now being done remotely through the Microsoft tool, said Mohamed. The ability to remotely access a laptop in the field and be able to determine and resolve issues is a big plus, especially for non-tech savvy police officers who may have difficulties articulating technical issues to IT, he added.

SCCM also allowed YRP to keep an accurate and updated inventory of all its IT assets, a vital governance and compliance factor, said Wong.

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