Reliable Signal Key to Effective Response
From GPS units and body cameras to reliable LMR, the Manchester Police Department works to harness technology to improve service to their local community. Behind this dedication is Chief Michael Hall. With 34-years of law enforcement service under his belt, Hall wants to make sure that the Manchester PD keeps up with technological advances.
For the past five years Hall has served as Chief of a full-time force of nine officers and 5 part-time officers. They handle their own dispatching. The department responds to more than 3,000 calls for service each year and cover a 37-square-mile area. While the population averages 6,000, it’s not uncommon for as many as 20,000 people to be in the area during key times of the year. Having reliable radio and cellular signals are key to an effective response.
“Our cell phone coverage is spotty and is particularly difficult within the public safety building itself,” said Hall. “We also have radio dead spots in some areas due to our mountainous terrain and heavy foliage. We want to use technology to expand what we can currently do, but signal transmission is a big concern in our area.”
Despite the spotty cell service, all officers have personal cell phones and texting is common. The increased availability of apps give the department access to new policing tools. The department recently started using the My Police Department application (MYPD) which provides a link between law enforcement and local citizens. Departments can push out notifications on missing children, wanted persons and other safety messages. Citizens may send in crime tips and attach photos and GPS locations. With cell phone use such a common occurrence, Hall believes departments must address how to equitably provide cell phones to their staff.
Cameras are another tool that can expand a department’s policing reach. The department is working to install pole cameras in high-risk areas of their community to provide an added resource for enforcement monitoring. The department is still seeking funding for the project, but believes they could be a great way to stretch their human resources. However, work will still need to be done to determine how the wireless system will reliably connect back to the station.
Technology also may be used to save money. This past year, the department began running GPS units within their cruisers. The units track vehicle idling time, fuel consumption, and vehicle diagnostics. The information can be used to switch out cruiser assignments so that vehicle use is more evenly maintained and the useful life of the cruisers is extended. The units also allow the department to analyze patrol and crime patterns. By mapping data from the patrols, common patterns that may be apparent to potential offenders can be changed. Introducing an element of unpredictability within the patrol route could aid in crime prevention.
Hall believes providing first responders with reliable, priority broadband service is badly overdue. Having a strong cellular service will be an important back-up to their two-way radio system.
“There is a big need for this,” said Hall. “Reliable communication and interoperability is a long-term discussion in Vermont. If the FirstNet system can provide us with a good communication pipeline, we will all be happy to welcome it to the state.”