Information technology has become indispensable to modern law enforcement. Many jurisdictions are replacing legacy information systems with sophisticated network applications. They're also equipping patrol cars with mobile computers capable of linking patrol officers to vital databases and other services.
Against this backdrop, IT training is more important than ever before. Law enforcement employees must effectively use these new technologies in order to catch criminals and handle an ever-growing workload. Technology in the field also increases officer productivity by allowing them to write reports quickly on the road, which results in keeping them out of the office and out where they belong -- in the community. All of this adds up to increased efficiency and improved public safety. That's why the San Joaquin County, Calif., Sheriff's Department relies on Gateway training to ensure its workforce knows how to get the most out its technology.
The 500-member department, located in California's Central Valley, uses a mix of instructor-led and CD-ROM-based classes to educate its civilian office staff and law enforcement officers on basic computer techniques and office productivity software such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The organization also uses the courses to train its workforce in IT security policies and procedures, a vital concern for law enforcementagencies that routinely deal with sensitive data.
"We use a myriad of softwareapplications and specific technologies to accomplish our objectives," said Lt. Myron Kelso, a member of the department's Technology Oversight Committee. "Our task is to provide up-to-date technology and training to operate the technology."
The San Joaquin County Sheriff faced several training challenges triggered by technology upgrades and a staff with varying technology education needs.
The department recently replaced the legacy equipment used by its civilian office staff with networked PCs. "When our civil division changed to PC-based connections to our networks, they were totally unfamiliar with them. They had been using old, dumb terminals for many years," Lt. Kelso said.
The department's sworn officers faced a similar hurdle when the Sheriff began implementing a computer-aided dispatch system. That system included the installation of mobile computers in sheriff's vehicles, providing officers a connection in the field to critical data. Therefore, all of the department's deputies had to quickly become computer literate.
And, with 500 employees, developing an effective training solution to meet the varying needs of all technology users was a concern and a requirement.
After meeting with the sheriff's department to understand its requirements, Gateway developed a customized training solution to meet the needs of its civilian staff and officers. The solution included a mix of instructor-led training at the department's own facilities as well as off-site at a local Gateway store.
For office staff, Gateway created courses that included audio, video and hands-on training specifically designed for an adult workforce. "As you get older, it gets harder to teach old dogs new tricks," said Lt. Kelso. "Interactive instruction is very important when you're dealing with adults." The courses covered standard office productivity applications such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Word and Excel. The basic techniques covered in these courses were necessary to build a foundation for learning how to use the department's records management system and other specialized law-enforcement technology.
Thanks to Gateway training, the department's office workers use new technology to perform their jobs more effectively.
Lt. Kelso estimates the courses have boosted efficiency at least 10 percent by showing employees how to access information faster and produce reports more quickly.
In addition, the Sheriff's staff and Gateway instructors worked together to educate the entire workforce on proper IT security procedures. This is particularly important as the department begins to install networked PCs in its jail facilities and sensitive data is involved. "We are introducing them to security concepts at the same time they are working with the systems," said
Lt. Kelso. "We have to make sure the officers are totally security conscious around the equipment all of the time."
Gateway training also helped the department prepare officers to use the computer-aided dispatch system. As in any organization, the computer abilities of this workforce varied greatly, ranging from complete novice to power user. Gateway supplied the sheriff with assessment forms that helped determine the training needs of each officer. Then the company designed courses to bring them all up to speed -- without intimidating those who had the farthest to go. "We divided officers into training teams to put them at the same comfort level. So when they walked into the computer room, no one was ahead of anyone else," Lt. Kelso said. "About 25 percent of our officers required training in computer fundamentals."
He added that Gateway training offers the flexibility of holding instructor-led courses at the sheriff's training facility or at a nearby Gateway store location. "I like the idea of getting people away from the office sometimes, so they are not interrupted with pressures and demands from the office" said Lt. Kelso. "But if we're covering something that's on our network, it's hard to show people without being there." That's where on-site training makes sense. Gateway training allows the department to choose the option that best meets its requirements.
Lt. Kelso said Gateway -- which also supplies the department's personal computers -- has been a valuable ally in the Sheriff's effort to get the most out of technology. The company has taken a proactive role in providing advanced IT tools and ensuring that the department's workforce knows how to use them. "The decision to utilize Gateway for training and equipment has been the right one," he said. "Having a business partner that will share in developing technology solutions and take ownership of business challenges is a breath of fresh air."