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Little Rock police anticipating quicker responses with new dispatch system

by William Sanders | January 8, 2021 at 6:47 a.m.
FILE — Little Rock Police Department headquarters are shown in this 2019 file photo.

Little Rock police officers are using a new dispatch system that authorities say will mean quicker response times, the dispatch director said Thursday.

"Getting the officers and fire personnel more access to do some of the commands and come up with things that they need that they would generally have to ask a dispatcher for is really important," said Little Rock Communications Director Kim Green said. "It allows us to answer, hopefully, answer 911 faster and to give a faster response to the community."

The new system was installed in mid-December. The department provided no information on the cost of the system.

The 22-year-old Northrup Grumman Altaris Computer-aided Dispatch that it replaced only took into account vehicles in a specific patrol area, according to Green. The new Motorola Solutions PremierOne Computer-aided Dispatch will route the officer with the least drive time to the location of the call even if the officer is in a different patrol area.

"The CAD can now send the unit with the fastest response time to the scene as well as have officer backup, which is a big officer safety issue," Green said. "Before, we had to kind of guess where the units were in the city, and by guess I mean who would be the closest available unit."

The process of replacing the old system is 17 months in the making, according to Green.

"Our legacy CAD system we've had for about 22 years, it didn't have the functionality we knew was available in public safety," Green said. "So our chief at the time and our city manager at the time, wanted to pursue bringing new technology for dispatch, and the Police Department."

Once the model was selected, the department began training and provisioning for implementation in July 2019, Green said. The ability to customize was of high importance and a reason the Motorola model was selected.

"Even for the dispatchers to be able to keep the same kind of custom commands that they used in the legacy CAD, we brought those over into the new CAD to make that change easier for them and for it not to be such a shock leaving one system and coming to a new system," Green said. "That was important for us."

Another benefit to the new system is that all of the emergency services including Little Rock Fire and Cammack Village Police will have access to it, according to the release.

"Police have what is called a mobile CAD at their fingertips in their vehicles," Green said, referring to the mobile data terminals, or MDT, in most police patrol units. "Fire has access to the CAD system and the dispatchers. We all work on the same system."

Chris Rapala, vice president for command and control in Motorola Solutions's software enterprise unit, said the company is honored to be the city's choice for computer-aided dispatch.

"The implementation, deployment and transition to PremierOne CAD was seamless," Rapala said. "Public safety roles are high stress as lives are at stake and seconds count, and we are proud to be the chosen CAD provider for the agency's Communications Division."

The change has not had a determined effect on response times of officers yet as there have not been enough incidents to track how much benefit the new system has made in the past few weeks, according to Green.

"Generally we like to give a response when we have some data to back that up, and we generally get that over several months, even a year's time," Green said. "So the potential for the community is there but it's really hard to say based on empirical data standpoint whether we can say yes."

Green said new technology being used both in dispatch and in the patrol vehicles has the department in a "honeymoon phase" of getting used to the technology.

"We are all just getting used to this system," Green said. "The officers have never had MDTs with a mobile CAD in it to use it now. So they're having to get used to that. They're having to get used to the concept of maybe being pulled out of an area that they're used to staying in and taking calls in those new areas."

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