The Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) is finishing an overhaul of its computer and database systems, which when complete will enable troopers, administrators and citizens to have immense amounts of data at their fingertips.
The Missouri Criminal Justice Modernization Project was started more than five years ago to replace the agency’s criminal history database, message switch system (used to connect officers to the National Crime Information Center and other information), records management system (RMS), computer-aided dispatch (CAD) program and in-car mobile computer clients, with new technology that seamlessly integrates all five tools.
The mobile client and CAD program are currently online and being used by MSHP troopers, while the other systems will be rolled out later this year. The mobile client, PortalONE, is developed by Fatpot Technologies and was the most recent portion of the project to go live. The computer system was installed in more than 800 MSHP vehicles in the past couple of months and has streamlined the reporting process for officers making traffic stops.
Capt. Kim Hull, director of the MSHP’s Communications Division, explained that while troopers can now produce automated citations, further capabilities of the mobile client system are still a work in progress.
“We’re working on the rollout of the rest of the forms [including] accident investigation and criminal investigation,” Hull said, regarding what other data can be compiled by the mobile client. “It all starts with running a license, and we want to be able to capture that information and populate all the forms. But we’re not there with it yet.”
The upgrade of the MSHP’s systems was sorely needed, as most of the agency’s technology was far behind the times. Hull called the databases “old and disparate” and revealed that there was no records management system to speak of.
The MSHP was awarded a Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant in 2005 to begin work on the overhaul. Hull said the grant was used to develop a strategy on how to best replace the agency’s outdated technology. Another COPS grant followed in 2007, giving the project a budget of approximately $10.5 million.
A consultant was hired and after determining the MSHP’s needs, the agency held what Hull called a “vendor fair” where agency officials invited all the competing vendors under one roof to display their wares. But when the smoke cleared, no single vendor provided everything the MSHP required. Instead, decision-makers elected to cherry-pick systems and find a way to integrate them.
“We decided to go with best of breed in each category, which made it a lot more complicated,” Hull said.
Along with Fatpot handling the mobile client; xwave, a Canadian company, was chosen for the CAD system; Niche Technology, also from Canada, was selected for the RMS; and Computer Projects of Illinois was tapped for both the message switch and criminal history systems. The latter three parts of the project are expected to be operational this fall.
Hull said the group was called together in January to iron out the integration issues the four vendors were experiencing. Once the various companies were in the same room, the integration plan came together.
“Vendors aren’t used to doing that a whole lot,” Hull said regarding the massive integration between companies. “Some of them, like Fatpot, has [its own] RMS, so they were not used to integrating their mobile client with another RMS or CAD. So it took a lot of work on their part.”
The hard work has begun to pay off, however. Hull admitted that some of the more senior officers that have been doing paper reports for 25 years grumbled a bit, as the new systems require troopers to capture more information than ever before. But Missouri law enforcement personnel are starting to see the benefits of upgraded technology.
“They just have to realize that these growing pains in capturing more information [are] going to be beneficial in the end,” Hull said. “I heard one thing last week that an officer said they can now do a traffic ticket in a quarter of the time it took them before. It’s a lot more proficient.”
Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.