Mississippi starts integration pilot for public safety records

Mississippi officials launched today the new phase of a statewide project to create a single technology infrastructure for local public safety agencies.

The Mississippi Automated System Project is a pilot test of a wireless system to link local law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services groups, allowing them to share a central jail management system, integrate computer-aided dispatch, and access records and resources, including mug shots, arrest warrants, hazardous-materials data and medical emergency protocols.

Under development since 2002, the project initially will support public safety agencies in three coastal counties: Hancock, Harrison and Jackson. The test is being funded by $14 million in federal grants from the Justice, Transportation and other departments to the University of Southern Mississippi.

Phase One, completed in February, provided a single access point to the existing jail management system in the three counties. The next step, announced today by Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, provides integration records management systems and computer-aided dispatch for fire and police departments.

The last phase will implement the full wireless infrastructure, connecting laptop computers and other mobile systems used by public safety officials in the field to the central databases. Officials aim to launch that initiative in October.

Once all three phases are implemented, the program will expand to the rest of the state. Eventually, officials expect the project to serve as a building block for integrated public safety systems nationwide.

"It is critical that all of our first responders have instant access to the critical information that can save lives, speed arrests and ensure public safety," Julian Allen, a major with the Harrison Country Sheriff's Department and director of the project, said in a statement.

IBM Corp. is the contractor on the project, developing statewide data centers and full backups that combine the company's eServer and DB2 systems, Novell Inc.'s SUSE Linux, and Tarantella Inc.'s Secure Global Desktop remote-access software. As the project expands, the centers will be linked so that any public safety official can access information from any source, IBM executives said.

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