Boston police put better records management on the beat

The Boston Police Department had been using the same records management system since the early 1990s, and Deputy Superintendent John Daley had any number of reasons for wanting to replace it.

“The old system was developed in-house in the 1990s,” Daley said in an e-mail. “It was built on an aging architecture, and our requirements had outgrown its feature set. We definitely needed something new.”

When the Boston PD decided to update its system, it signed a contract with Intergraph, a software and solutions firm, for its inPURSUIT records management system, which is designed to help the department solve cases faster by connecting information that had previously been housed in separate databases.

"The Intergraph system will allow us to be more efficient and ultimately will enhance the safety of the community and of our officers," said Daley. "Officers and investigators will have access to information in the new system that, previously, they may have had to seek in a dozen legacy systems, if it existed at all."

The inPURSUIT system uses master indices that tie individuals to multiple types of information, such as cases, vehicles and addresses, providing police with more-complete information for criminal investigations.

“It also encompasses a number of datasets that previously had been siloed in external legacy systems," Daley said. "This integrated approach will allow for sophisticated crime analysis and internal reporting and production of metrics that we can use to make the department more efficient.”

“The modern records management system is a lot of different systems in one,” Intergraph Vice President and General Manger David McDonald said. “You have a module for vice investigations, juveniles, internal affairs, property and evidence and others. All of those are now are in one database.”

The detective case management module, for example, lets officers in the field add specific, eyes-only investigative information to reports using a squad car’s on-board computer, which in turn connects to the system’s sever.

The inPURSUIT RMS also streamlines the processes for officers filing reports, McDonald said. Typically an officer would hand-write an incident or accident report, pass it to the sergeant who reviews it,  and in a few days it would get entered into the system.

“This system does it automatically. Once the information is entered into the computer and once the officer is done they can send it to their sergeant, who can see it, approve it electronically,”  McDonald said. “If it’s an investigation such as a robbery, it automatically goes to the correct investigative unit” where it can be assigned immediately, he added.

The entire department was trained to use the new system, but there were challenges.

“Users sometimes compare [new systems] to consumer-grade applications that they use on their home computers or iPads,” Daley said. “This RMS is a powerful, complicated system, and some users do find that daunting. But most understand that there is an interface tradeoff between the capabilities of a $2.99 app and a multi-million [dollar] records management system.”

“Any time change is introduced into someone’s routine there will be a period of adjustment, and the new system is much more comprehensive in the types of information it can collect,” Daley said. “In some cases it requires more effort from officers in the field.”

About the Author

Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.

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