Oregon police access old, but high quality, legacy data

Oregon police access old, but high quality, legacy data


The Portland, Ore., police knew they needed a more modern criminal data system than their 20-year-old legacy Cobol one. But they also knew they didn't want to throw the baby'the system's high-quality data'out with the bathwater'the old mainframe.

The police department had stored its criminal records data on a green-screen 3270 mainframe since the early 1980s. The data had a lot of integrity and was much used by police in Oregon's Multnomah and Washington counties, as well as the Portland police, said Bill Wesslund, senior information systems manager for the Portland police force.

Last year the department won a $4 million grant from the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), to upgrade its technology, Wesslund said.

Seagull's Windows

Wesslund and his team opted to put a Windows front end onto the legacy data with WinJa software from Seagull of Atlanta, Wesslund said.

Written in CICS, WinJa runs on the department's Pentium III PCs with speeds of 133 MHz or more. 'But it definitely runs better at speeds of 266 MHz or more,' Wesslund said.

Now WinJa runs on the department's Novell NetWare 4.0 network with a Windows NT server, Wesslund said. But the department is looking at the next release of the software, which will be on a wireless network that police officers will be able to access from notebook PCs in their cars.

Wesslund likes the software because it offers several deployment scenarios. 'We're still assessing whether we should use it as a Windows client or through a browser,' Wesslund said.

The best thing about WinJa is that it handles digital mug shots, Wesslund said. 'We've always had a wealth of text data, but being able to put a picture with the text'that's given us a 'wow' factor,' he said.

The digital mug shots, in Joint Photographic Experts Group format, come from a database of mug shots from several counties. 'You have to have been in some previous difficulty with the law for an officer to get a match with your mug shot,' Wesslund said. But the department is looking at tying the system in with Driver and Motor Vehicle Services' extensive collection of digital photos.

A different car mug

Wesslund and his team are eventually going to quantify the savings from the WinJa project.

'That's actually a requirement of the COPS grant,' Wesslund said. 'We have to quantify the savings we get from using WinJa, which are really time savings. Officers won't have to drive back to the precinct to look up a mug shot. They'll be able to look up a photo from a laptop in the car.'

WinJa also encrypts the data, which adds an extra layer of security to the department's existing passwords and firewalls.

The officers have been enthusiastic about WinJa, Wesslund said. 'WinJa has improved our legacy system vastly,' he said. 'We've extended both the features and the life expectancy of the system. Officers like it because it works.'

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