Syracuse cops go wireless

The National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center system

The Syracuse, N.Y., Police Department is moving toward a wireless infrastructure so officers and civilian employees have easier and quicker access to information.

Syracuse police began upgrading their laptops with wireless access cards and installed access points in certain areas. The department is testing wireless thin clients and planning to provide better wireless access for officers in patrol cruisers.

Patrick Phelps, the department's information technology specialist, said so far the investigations and records divisions are benefiting from the upgrades, which began about a year ago. The department drifted toward a wireless infrastructure, in part, because rewiring the building was expensive and labor-intensive, especially because employees are constantly moving from one area to another, Phelps said.

Wireless technology also makes investigators more efficient, he said. Previously, investigators would interview witnesses in one room, walk to another to type their statements, print them out and then review them with witnesses to ensure accuracy. If the statements weren't correct, the investigators had to retype statements before the witnesses could sign it. Now investigators take a laptop into the interview room to type statements or access other information, saving time and effort, Phelps said.

The department also received help from the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC-Northeast), based in nearby Rome, N.Y. The center, one of several Justice Department research groups that commercialize military technology, extensively tested and recommended Florida-based Fortress Technologies Inc.'s AirFortress devices to ensure secure and encrypted transmission of sensitive data, Phelps said. The department uses AirFortress on top of the Wireless Application Protocol, an industry standard for secure wireless access.

At the police department's request, Fortress Technologies also teamed up with TeleVideo Inc., based in San Jose, Calif., to develop a wireless thin client to enhance data access in the department's common areas. Phelps said he would test it in the next several weeks.

The city's long-term goal is to deploy high-bandwidth hot spots near its main station and substations so officers can better access the department's intranet for daily bulletins and other information. Phelps said this system would also help the department move toward a paperless reporting system. The department is in the midst of establishing two test areas.

Deploying the system around the city and upgrading the 100 computer-equipped patrol cars will be expensive, Phelps said. The department will look for federal grants to help install the system.

The police department has 486 officers and 88 civilian employees serving a population of 164,000 in a 62-square-mile area.

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