Police force revamps Web portal

The Hamilton Police Service is deploying Web content management software to improve its community-based policing initiatives, officials say.

The organization recently redesigned its Web site (www.hamiltonpolice.on.ca/hps) to reflect better the needs of the community. Deputy Chief Tom Marlor said that prior to the redesign of its Web site, the Hamilton Police Service consulted a range of community users and partners for feedback on how to provide them with a site that best meets the needs of the community.

“We do think of ourselves as a business and recognize the need for an interactive Web site,” Marlor said, adding that the collaborative site allows the public to see Hamilton Police Services as a more transparent organization.

Much of the feedback was incorporated into the site design. It’s meant to engage local residents more directly in community-based policing initiatives, Marlor said. For example, officers working on a missing persons file will be able to update immediately data and constantly keep the public aware of changes. The site also enables critical alerts to be posted and automatically broadcasted to a separate community portal and wireless devices, as well as to relevant divisions affected by a crime, while highlighting prevention techniques specific to the crime.

Ross Memmolo, manager of computer services for Hamilton Police Service, said the old site didn’t provide that ease-of-use and efficiency — it was static. Also, everything ran through the IT department and the old operating model meant that the Web administrator handled all content changes, creating a bottleneck.

It’s difficult to get information out there on a regular basis when it’s funneling through one person, Memmolo said.

Previously, the organization was using a customized HTML tool developed in-house. But the tool required a certain level of technical knowledge, was not user-friendly and could not be extended to multiple users, Memmolo said. With the help of Toronto-based IT integrator Navantis Inc., Hamilton Police Service is using Microsoft Corp.’s Content Management Server (CMS) and Microsoft SQL Server to develop the site.

The Hamilton police selected Navantis for the job because of its experience working with government agencies, Memmolo said. Navantis is also involved in developing a Web portal for the City of Hamilton and the Hamilton Police Service wanted to take advantage of that expertise, said Jason Martin, head of strategic business with Navantis. The technologies took about four months to deploy, Martin added.

The Web content management solution allowed Hamilton Police Service to develop an integrated infrastructure for managing its content and publication processes. The organization now has a central repository to access and update information, Memmolo said. The content tools are now in the hands of more users, Marlor said, and the portal allows certain content authors to update content more easily and often. Currently there are up to nine content authors and the number of authors who can make Web site changes will gradually be extended. There has been an immediate improvement, especially for the media relations department, which can now send community messages and alerts much faster, Marlor said.

According to Dublin, Ireland-based Web content management expert and author Gerry McGovern, organizations are asking hard questions about the value Web sites deliver, in relation to the money companies spend on them. The year 2005 will see a big trend away from making IT responsible for the Web site, McGovern said.

The Web administrator still plays a key role but can now focus on providing support and development, and making sure there is a consistent look and feel across the Web site, Memmolo said. There is now a consistent workflow — certain authors are responsible for specific content and through the workflow there is another set of eyes looking at the content before it goes online, Marlor said.

The dynamic Web site fosters open communication and collaboration with the community, Marlor said. With this foundation in place, the organization plans to provide services such as the ability to report lower-priority crime online, he added.

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