Los Angeles County is the largest county in the nation. Its population of approximately 9.9 million is exceeded by only eight states.

There are 88 cities in L.A. County, covering a geographic span of 4,081 square miles. Yet 65 percent of the county -- home to a million people -- remains unincorporated. Those people and the citizens of some 40 of the 88 cities look to the men and women of the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department -- the largest sheriffs department in the world -- for police protection.

To handle the enormous number of calls generated by such a Herculean endeavor, the sheriffs dispatch system was overhauled in the early 90s. The Mobile Digital Communications System (MDCS) that resulted allows patrol officers to receive calls and acknowledge them through a mobile digital terminal (MDT). The MDT can also query online against justice agency databases such as the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Wanted Person System.

Technology Conflicts

Unfortunately, the deployment of one tool sometimes renders another obsolete or, worse, unusable. So it was with the Mobile Digital Communications System and the original Regional Allocation of Police Services System (RAPS). RAPS is a data-management system that tracks the activities of deputies in the field for the purpose of billing contract cities and to determine the appropriate allocation of personnel.

The old RAPS system was housed on a mainframe and obtained its data from paper logs prepared by deputies. This data was used to justify additional sales of service to contract cities. The reports also helped law enforcement determine if a particular area needed more law enforcement attention.

However, according to Sergeant John Aerts, who was responsible for billing some of the contract cities, the reports were often late. "I would get the reports a month late. In May I would know that I had been 600 minutes short in a particular city [in April]."

But once MDCS eliminated the need for the paper log, those reports went from late to non-existent. Suddenly, L.A. County had no way to track deputies, gather data or compile statistics.

The solution was a program that could receive data directly from the dispatch system, store it and present it in a useful manner. The system would bear the name RAPS, the same name of the system it replaced.

David Ramirez, currently the Data Center manager for the L.A. County Sheriffs Department, was working for the county at that time as a consultant to the sheriffs department and became the main developer of the system. "We developed an application using Oracle RDBMS and tools that captured the data directly from the dispatch system," said Ramirez. "It still carries the same name, but is radically different technology."

Because it was to be an enterprise-wide system, a steering committee was appointed. Twelve RAPS coordinators were selected to serve on the steering committee, one of whom was Sgt. Aerts. Ramirez considered this an asset. "We would not have been able to do it without Johns expertise in the departments business practices ... He has a better understanding of community needs than anyone and wanted to make sure the system could provide statistics to justify the allocation of additional manpower in the communities."

Sgt. Aerts looked at RAPS as a way to make life easier. "It gives you a daily or monthly look at exactly where you are. You know if you are short and have to add cars in a particular area."

RAPS captures data from the MDCS in a download every 24 hours at 4 a.m. The data is processed and stored and available online via Oracles Forms Graphic User Interface. "It was designed," Ramirez said, "to be intuitive and totally user friendly."

There are currently about 10 years worth of data on the system. The

Alison Sonntag  |  Special to Government Technology