San Diego aims to speed police work

With about 100,000 criminal cases annually, the San Diego Police Department

hopes a new computer system will speed the handling of cases.

With the help of Sierra Systems Group Inc., an information technology consulting

firm based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the police department

plans to have the knowledge-based workflow system operational by April.

Currently, San Diego police officers, whose patrol vehicles are equipped

with laptop computers, can write incident reports at the scene but must

return to the station to upload the report, said Shawn Killpack, the department's

information systems administrator.

An investigative sergeant must approve an officer's report before assigning

it to a detective for investigation. This could take up to three days, he

said. Only in rare instances, such as high-profile cases, are investigators

immediately sent out, he said.

With the knowledge-based system, officers could file reports from the

field. After a sergeant approves a report, it is stored in a central repository.

System software determines which department should be assigned the case.

An investigative unit's supervisor receives an e-mail, which links to the

case, and a detective is assigned.

"It's theoretically possible that within a few minutes the investigator

could be assigned to a case," Killpack said.

Sierra and police officials said the system would greatly reduce the

data-entry workload, increase efficiency, save money and enable officers

to do more investigative activities and less paperwork.

Jim Cox of Sierra said a central repository would house reports and

information. The system also would automatically route report copies to

a distribution list via e-mail. Usually, a dozen or more copies of a report

are sent through interoffice mail.

Another new feature would be a direct interface with a countywide criminal

and justice database called the Automated Regional Justice Information System

(ARJIS). Instead of taking days or weeks to send information to ARJIS, the

new system would automatically send case information to ARJIS once it's

committed to the department's central repository, Killpack said.

Eventually, search capabilities will be built into the system. Future

phases include extending the workflow system to city and district attorneys'

offices and making criminal information available to the public via the

Internet.

Killpack said the department is spending $12.5 million during two years

to implement software, new hardware and upgrades.

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