Clanton Police keep streets safe with network security

It’s a familiar scene in any procedural cop drama. The rogue cop wants to rush back into the field but the straight-laced veteran tells him to slow down and finish his paperwork.

In reality, all cops have to file paperwork, a lot of it. According to Sergeant Neil Fetner of the Clanton Police Department in Clanton, Ala., often “you [have] a lot of officers vying for the one or two computers we had in the station, trying to get their paperwork done right before the end of the shift.”

This led to a lot of confusion and periods of time where there weren’t as many officers on the street. Luckily, “in 2008 the Clanton Police Department received a federal grant in the amount of $250,000 to bring the police department into the 21st Century,” Fetner says.

Observing the commonality between police presence and a low crime rate, Fetner says the department set to work “[identifying] network security devices that would make us compliant with FBI, state and local security settings,” as well as “technology, laptops, computer mounts, printers, scanners, faxes and things like that.”

The goal was to make paperwork and accessing the PD database, a mobile endeavor. What they found was Wilmington, Mass.-based Astaro Internet Security. The firewall and security infrastructure company set themselves apart because their ASG 220 device was just the all-in-one solution the PD had been looking for, Fetner says.

“The [ASG 220] has multiple capabilities; it’s not just a firewall, it’s not just to keep intruders out of our network. It also gives us the flexibility to Web filter,” as well as send GPS data back to the station, Fetner says. “We can see where they’re going, what kind of call they’re handling, how fast they’re going.”

Through in-car units equipped with wireless modems, officers connect to the PD’s network via an SSL VPN. Fetner says “they log in and they can file a report at a victim’s residence or at the scene of a crime.”

He says the rollout has already seen some success as, “with our cars being out on the street more, we have seen a reduction in traffic accidents.”

“We haven’t increased our number of patrolmen on the street, we’ve just put the ones that were tied up with lots of paperwork out there where they can be seen, but still get their jobs done.”

Fetner says “that was the whole purpose of putting this technology in; better using our resources and getting the best bang for our buck.”

Bob Darabant, vice president of Astaro Americas, says “the fact [that] this made their officers more efficient and the community a safer place is a testament to the many ways an organization can use security solutions beyond simply blocking malware.”

But for Fetner, and the officers of Clanton PD, “the paperwork side of things has really kept us out of the PD and on the streets, so the guys are more visible to the public now.” Clanton officers “can do everything they need to do with the exception of taking somebody from the street to the local holding facility; we can’t make that wireless.”

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