During a typical shift, officers can find themselves returning to the police department to write up handfuls of reports documenting the calls they’ve responded to. A more complicated report can take 45 minutes to draft and for every minute they sit hunched over a keyboard they aren’t patrolling the neighborhoods.
Thanks to an antiquated and stiff records system in Forest Park, Chief Jim Ryan said his staff is at the mercy of their typing skills and don’t have the benefit of faster, more fluid technology.
“We are the only United States municipality that has this system,” Ryan said.
The problem, essentially, is the department’s computers don’t get along with one another. The dispatching and records system used in Forest Park was developed in Canada. Here in the U.S., companies that make similar programs haven’t been forced by market demand to integrate their software with the Canadian program.
So, dispatchers here are storing their information on software that isn’t compatible with the programs officers use to draft their reports. Any information that police access from other federal or state agencies, which operate on U.S.-made software, can’t easily be transferred to the village’s records system.
Evidence reports, booking logs, arrest reports and other paperwork all have to be completed from scratch. The result is a labor intensive process in which information is entered multiple times just to adequately document police activity.
To solve the problem, village commissioners are expected to approve a contract this month with a Mokena-based company that also provides dispatching and records software for neighboring Berwyn. The upgrades are expected to cost $185,000, all of which would be paid for by a state grant totaling more than $200,000.
Police and village officials have said the problems with the existing programs don’t have an impact on how quickly emergency crews are dispatched throughout the village.
“It’s primarily a records management problem that we’re trying to overcome with this technology,” Village Administrator Mike Sturino said.
There will be a learning curve in getting the police and fire departments up to speed on the new programs, but officers will eventually be able to generate their reports in their squad cars, meaning they spend less time shuffling back and forth from their patrols to a desk. Information taken in by the dispatch center will also appear on an officer’s in-car computer, lessening the dependence on radio communication. This is significant because Forest Park is one of three towns sharing a frequency, and radio traffic can become dense.
The bulk of the cost to upgrade the system will be for software, according to bid documents submitted to the village by Intelligent Solutions Inc., the company that is expected to get the contract. More than $110,000 will be spent on dispatching software and records management software for the police and fire departments. New hardware, employee training and additional workstations are also part of the overhaul.
Four companies submitted proposals to the village and Intelligent Solutions was by far the lowest bidder. The highest bid came in at more than $500,000, according to village records.