Wireless works for Portland cops

City's police department plans to enable officers in the field to see mug shots

The Portland Police Bureau has used a $4 million Justice Department grant to create a wireless system for officers in the field.

"Officers are trained extensively in using their firearm, but most will never fire their weapon in the course of duty. But every one of our officers uses information all day, every day," said Bill Wesslund, senior information systems manager for the Portland Police Bureau (www.portlandpolicebureau.com). "We tried to figure out what was the best way to get information out to the appropriate people in the field, but we also wanted to create a system that people were comfortable using."

The result is the Portland Police Data System, a massive database containing information on 975,000 people and nearly 2 million cases throughout the region. The bureau equipped 300 of its cars with Motorola Inc. MW520 mobile workstations and Seagull's WinJa software, enabling officers to access the database from the field.

Officers can interface with the database using a touch-command screen to access information including vehicle registration, court schedules, gun records and property records. The system also functions as a gateway to 100 other local, state and federal law enforcement databases, greatly expanding the amount of information instantly available at the officer's fingertips.

Wesslund is upgrading the system so that officers can view mug shots and photos from driver's licenses.

"We asked the officers what was most important to them, and they said the ability to see what a person looks like right away," Wesslund said. "They said this would save precious time and allow them to get a major piece of the information they needed in the field instead of having to come all the way back to the station."

Wesslund said he hopes to implement wireless access to mug shots by the end of this year and also wants to expand the system to include fingerprint access by the end of 2002.

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