Man looks quizzically at VHS tape

Oklahoma jail's lesson: Don't get fooled by familiar tech

When upgrading a system or trying to solve an old problem, agency IT shops should be wary of looking only as far as familiar technologies and price tags. Sometimes you have to spend money to save money, especially if it means acquiring new technology that is more efficient and cost-effective, says Capt. David Baisden of the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office.

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“Don’t waste good tax dollars on buying old technology,” said Baisden, who is in charge of support services for the Oklahoma County Jail in Oklahoma City. “Too many vendors are still pushing old technology and too many people are buying old technology because that’s what they know.”

Faced with a need to improve security in the county’s 13-story jail that was understaffed and violence-prone, the county opted to replace its legacy analog video system with a high-definition digital system that cut costs and reduced the number of violent incidents. In addition to getting a more comprehensive view of the jail, the HD quality allows official to clearly identify detainees involved in altercations, which has made detainees less inclined to start trouble.

That decision has produced a significant return on investment in only a few years, but finding the right new technology means doing your own homework and not cutting corners, Baisden warned.

“Don’t rely on a vendor to sell you a solution,” he said. “Don’t allow vendor to engineer a solution for you.” He recalled one IT project that was engineered by a salesman. “It failed miserably, and I’m not going to let that happen again.”

Officials should take full advantage of industry and professional resources, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology and — for law enforcement — the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center  (funded by the Justice Department). “They are invaluable resources,” Baisden said.

Having a track record of making the right choices can make it easier to get the money from higher-ups needed to upgrade to more cost-efficient technology, he said. “That’s why they are willing to listen to me” when he proposes upgrading the HD video system with new cameras.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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