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Louisiana parish police move to cloud records management

The Orleans Parish Communication District (OPCD) in Louisiana is upgrading its digital public-safety records with a cloud-deployable system that will facilitate data collection and sharing.

In coordination with the city of New Orleans and the Orleans Parish’s Sheriff’s Department, OPCD tapped Hexagon’s HxGN OnCall Records system to replace a homegrown, siloed system. The stakeholders are meeting this week to kick off what will likely be a yearlong deployment effort of the software-as-a-service solution, said Tyrell Morris, OPCD’s executive director.

“We don’t share information very easily here because our systems were not built or designed with integration in mind,” Morris said. “Efficiency was an afterthought. We’re reversing that paradigm now.”

Law enforcement has more data at its disposal than ever, since text-to-911, video-to-911 and ways to access footage from Ring cameras became more commonplace, he added. OPCD, which is the public safety answering point for all emergency communications via 911 within the parish, needed a platform that can support and visualize all those records.

“It’s important for us that the data be in a position or formatted in a way that we can easily share it or integrate it with existing systems or systems coming on in the future,” Morris said.

In fact, migrating historical data will likely be the biggest challenge, he predicted. “We have data from many different systems and many different format, and we have to bring all that information over into the new system,” he said. “We really need to [ensure that we] don’t lose any functionality or the ability to look at historical information.”

When records are coming from multiple systems, including a homegrown one, it’s important that there are checks and balances to ensure that the data is moving over in a consistent, usable format, added Ben Ernst, vice president and general manager of U.S. public safety for the Safety and Infrastructure division at Hexagon, a provider of sensor, software and autonomous solutions.

For instance, in preparing the data to migrate, OPCD will ensure that it complies with the federal government’s new crime-reporting standard, which changed Jan. 1 from the Uniform Crime Reporting Program to the National Incident-Based Reporting System. 

The deployment will start with the parish’s largest police department -- the New Orleans Police Department, which has about 1,400 officers -- before also going to the Housing Authority of New Orleans’ Police Department, Orleans Levee District Police and the Harbor Police Department.

Police officers and deputies will have access to the system from any internet-connected device, and data will be backed up in the Microsoft Azure Government cloud. Other immediate benefits include reduced administrative burdens on officers, real-time alerts and the ability integrate with computer-aided dispatch and mobile systems.

Another impetus for the modernization was a successful ransomware attack on New Orleans in December 2019. Although OPCD’s records management system was unaffected, the system went down for three months, and officers reverted back to paper reports.

“We leaned in a bit and really did an assessment on what some vulnerability points were,” Morris said. “But even before the attack, the system was outdated. It was just time for us to give one of the most critical data systems used to hold our public-safety data … a refresh.”

OPCD builds on past successes with citywide technology deployments such as Quick Base, a low-code platform that delivers a fast, coordinated response.

“We know the faster that an officer can close a case or close a report, the faster they can get back on the street and take the next call,” Morris said. “When we have inefficient systems, we find that they’re off the street for hours or at the jail for hours,” he said. “We want to make the experience for the officers -- from the initial call to the arrest to the booking all the way back to the next call -- as streamlined, as quick and as easy as possible because having technology that’s duplicative of efforts also, we know, reduces morale and causes frustration.”

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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