Qld Police rolls out new dispatch system

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Qld Police rolls out new dispatch system

Eyes integration points, future mobile state.

Queensland Police has completed a several-years long rollout of a new computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system across the state, and is preparing to present its business case to bring mobile devices to all frontline officers.

The QPS runs 19 communications sites across the state, with seven major and 12 smaller centres.

The two categories of site run different dispatch systems: the 20 year old information management system (IMS) in the smaller centres and the similarly aged Escort system across the major sites. Both were developed in house.

The dispatch systems are used to record and manage calls for police assistance, including 000 calls, and to send out first respondents.

QPS went to market two years ago for a modern dispatch platform to replace the Escort system.

It selected the Vision platform from US vendor Capita Fortek — which is also used by NSW Police and NSW Fire Services — and renamed it QCAD, before beginning to roll out the system last year.

The last major site, Toowoomba, was switched on in February this year, with the approximately $10 million project officially wrapped up in June.

The Escort and QCAD systems provided the same basic functionality, but Vision offers QPS regular release cycles, upgrades and redundancy features, project lead Superintendent Glenn Horton told iTnews.

The IMS will continue running in the smaller 12 sites while the QPS studies how to rationalise and consolidate a number of those sites while expanding the larger centres, in line with a recommendation in the recent whole-of-government Keelty review

That report recommended the state run only one communications centre and move to a consolidated communications model with the Department of Community Safety and QPS by 2017-18. 

At the moment, the IMS and QCAD systems don’t work together. Horton told iTnews calls for service needed to be manually transferred between sites running different systems, which he said occurred when there was a backlog of calls in one particular area. 

The IMS system is not networked and sits on local PCs at individual sites. The “very basic” recording system logs date, time, place, name and type of call for services, which the police use to send a vehicle out to respond. It was developed internally in the early 1990s.

The QCAD system is networked across all seven "major" sites, with the data stored in the state government’s central data centre in Brisbane. The system has a fallback mode for network outages which is manually switched on at each site, with the data then stored on local servers until the network is restored and it can resynchronise. 

QCAD is integrated with the police's crime database QPrime, and most of the data that comes through QCAD is later stored in QPrime, meaning nothing needed to be transferred over. Any data left on the old Escort system was archived, he said. 

The QPS also used the opportunity to refresh the PCs that were previously running the Escort system, upgrading to new standard issue Acer desktops. 

The QPS will also soon begin looking to develop an interface between the its dispatch system and similar systems used by ambulance and fire services. Despite running on different platforms, an interface would allow police to more easily request fire and ambulance services to attend in the event of a traffic crash, for example, Horton said.

Such an interface was also a recommendation of the Keelty review, which said closer integration was needed across various agency dispatch systems before 2017-18.

Aurion upgrade

Led by Queensland Shared Services in a whole-of-government initiative, QPS was also one of around nine agencies which went through an upgrade of its end-of-life Aurion version 9 human resource and payroll system, to the new version 10.

That upgrade was completed “extremely smoothly” earlier this year, project lead Trevor Holmstrom told iTnews.

Holmstrom and team ran four payroll runs over four months to ensure pay was not affected, but other than getting used to the layout of the new version, the process was fairly straightforward, he said. 

Finding funding for mobiles

Queensland Police also this week kicked off its mobile data strategy, which saw the force build an application to allow officers to access three databases from Apple devices while away from base.

The force has been bedding down the app since July, and on Tuesday handed 50 officers either an Apple iPad mini or iPhone to test the application until January 2014.

The force’s internal IT team developed the app using an HTML5 client and Apple iOS wrap. It lets officers access the QPrime records information management system, Transport and Main roads vehicles database, and national CrimTrac database. 

Previously, officers could only access the databases through desktops located at police stations or by calling personnel at the station.

The application provides a view of the data - none is stored on the mobile devices - and officers need a SIM PIN, eight digit security number and user ID and password to access the data.

Queensland Police was allocated $22.3 million for a range of several new IT reforms in the state government’s 2013-14 budget, but a mobility program is not included.

The QPS will present the government with a business case for funding in November, to facilitate a rollout of iDevices to potentially around 5000 frontline-only police officers.

The funding for the mobile pilot was provided by the Police’s own internal IT department. 

In the meantime, the QPS is using a free web version of the collaboration software Yammer to allow the 50 officers involved in the pilot to give feedback on how the application runs in the real world. 

Queensland Police’s deputy commander of the business improvement unit within the ICT division, Dave Johnson, told iTnews he would consider a similar tool allowing collaboration across the organisation, to move away from a reliance on email, but such a project was not currently in the scope of work for mobility. 

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