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Bethel, Conn., Police Ask for $125K to Upgrade Software

The Bethel Police Department is seeking $125,500 to upgrade the department's current computer-aided dispatch and records management system software. Among other things, the system would allow for faster ticketing.

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(TNS) — The police department is looking to improve efficiency and productivity through technological upgrades.

Bethel police are seeking $125,500 to upgrade the department's current computer-aided dispatch and records management system software.

The proposed upgrades have been in the capital plan for "a long time," First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker said Tuesday, when the Board of Selectmen voted to forward the request to the finance board for consideration.

Chief Stephen Pugner said the department acquired its current system about 15 years ago, thinking that the vendor would expand its territory in the Northeast — but that never happened.

"We thought other departments were going to follow us and that we would be one of the first in Connecticut (but) it never panned out," Pugner said.

Being the only agency in the Northeast with the software has put a strain on the department's ability to operate as efficiently as possible, Pugner said, which is why it's looking to team up with a new vendor: NexGen.

NexGen representative Jaime Scatena said the public safety solutions company currently services 156 of Connecticut's 169 municipalities and its software would greatly improve Bethel police operations.

With the department's current CAD system, Pugner said the Bethel officers can't write accident reports outside the station.

"The guys have to come in off the road and use the computers in the station to do the accident reports," he said. "It's not efficient."

The department's current system could be upgraded to allow officers to write reports outside the station, Pugner said, but it would cost about $40,000.

"At this point, we don't want to sink any more money into our current system," he said.

With NexGen, Scatena said Bethel police would no longer need to pay extra for system upgrades — they're done automatically and free of charge as part of the service agreement.

The software would also allow Bethel police to issue and submit traffic tickets electronically all from the scene of an incident.

"Right now, we hand write tickets, go to the station and mail it to the state," Pugner said. "This new CAD system would allow us to ... type the ticket into the computer system from the car, print it out and hand it to the person, and it goes directly to the state after we review it."

While a ticket can take about 15 minutes to write by hand, Scatena said NexGen's software allows officers to write an e-ticket in three to five minutes.

This time-saving aspect not only allows officers to get back on patrol sooner, she said, but is "a great asset to the safety of civilians and officers."

"Being able to disperse a ticket quickly to avoid getting hit on the side of the road when a car has been pulled over is very important," Scatena said.

Pugner said the state will soon require all tickets to be submitted electronically and the department will be left with two options if it keeps its current system — either spend tens of thousands of dollars to update it, or have someone manually enter tickets into a computer at the station to send them to the state. The latter, he said, would be "very time consuming."

The $125,500 price tag for the NexGen software reflects a deal offered by the vendor, Pugner said, but it comes with a caveat — the town must sign a contract with the company by the end of the year.

"When we first priced out this product, it was close to $200,000. The price has come down a little bit, and then they recently gave us a deal that I say is hard to refuse," he said.

If the police department's request is approved, Knickerbocker said the funding would come out of the town's capital and non-recurring fund — or possibly its federal American Rescue Plan funds.

The Board of Finance is expected to consider the request during its next meeting on Tuesday.

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