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The Chicago Police Department (CPD) recently announced the launch of a pilot effort to use Samsung DeX as an in-vehicle computing solution for their officers. About half of the agency’s 13,400 officers currently have a Samsung smartphone and the goal is for every street officer to have an issued mobile device, according to Chief Jonathan Lewin, CPD Bureau of Technical Services. With DeX, those devices take on an additional level of functionality by providing officers the ability to dock their Galaxy smartphones and access policing applications on a dash-mounted display and keyboard.
Lewin has been the driving force behind a major tech rollout which integrates powerful programs like license plate readers, gunshot detection, crime analysis and vehicle location, as well as the city’s network of almost 40,000 surveillance cameras, and delivers the information to Strategic Decision Support Centers (SDSCs) which are located at 20 of the city’s 22 policing districts. Each SDSC operates autonomously yet is connected to a citywide system for sharing of data. Personnel at each SDSC use the incoming data to develop missions for patrol officers that focus on the people and places of the greatest concern. A commander reviews the missions before they are pushed out to field officers.
As the officers work their assigned areas, additional data is gathered and then assessed by SDSC personnel, so continual adjustments can be made. This refined and targeted deployment has proven successful in driving down homicides and shootings. According to Lewin, the same level of information that is currently delivered to the SDSC will be accessible to officers using their smartphone. The addition of Samsung DeX will allow them to view the information on a larger display and use a full keyboard when in the vehicle.
“The old computers had to stay in the cars,” Lewin said. “Even some of the newer computers that could be removed from the cars were left in the vehicle because they were too heavy and cumbersome to carry around. With DeX, the phones become the compute power, and the same phone that the officer carries with them in the field can dock in the vehicle and become the in-vehicle computer. Eventually, we’ll also be able to dock in the station and power the in-station desktop,” he said.
The Power of Information
Lewin believes strongly that empowering officers with access to the same information that’s coming into the SDSC will allow them to be much more effective in the field. For those who might be concerned about information overload, Lewin is convinced that it is a mistake for agencies to limit access to mission-essential information. “The entire concept here is to take everything that is available to the officers in the office and put it literally at their fingertips in the field.
“Never constrain. Let them — the officers — decide what they need,” he said. “Critical info will always have priority, and officers will have the ability to draw down other info that they need as the call progresses. When they’re responding to an emergency, they need what’s relevant to the call, then additional information such as premise history, any risks to officer or public safety, then situational awareness like accessible cameras or other tools that can mitigate risk.”
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Lewin noted that officers who are not in response mode will be able to make better decisions as they deal with trouble spots. “If they’re not on an assignment and being proactive, they can use all the tools available to them,” he said. “Say it’s a problem liquor store, they can do research as to recent incidents, review information on the store’s license and access relevant cameras to view real-time activity around the store.”
Improved Operational Efficiency
Lewin notes there are other efficiencies that will result from smartphone use, including the way officers use their body-worn cameras (BWCs). “Officers will be able to connect to their BWCs and view and tag video from the field. Right now, that has to happen when an officer goes back to the station,” Lewin explained. “Overall, we believe this project will save officers’ time, improve officer safety, increase overall efficiency, save money and provide a platform for growth.”
Lewin stresses that Samsung DeX will be thoroughly vetted before it goes department-wide. “We’ve used in-car computers since the early nineties, and this is a major change,” he said. “We’re moving from a Windows-based environment to Android and apps. And we’ll be continually removing, then replacing the smartphone in the car so that could also create some challenges. However, that’s what a pilot is all about, and we’ll be testing carefully.
The use of smartphones by front-line law enforcement is still a fairly recent development, with agencies across the country in widely varying levels of adoption. The use of DeX, which can effectively replace the traditional in-vehicle computer, is a major paradigm shift. Change is frequently met with resistance in police departments, and Lewin is acutely aware of the need for officers to understand the benefits of the new technology. “With a pilot, we can get feedback and modify to meet the operational needs,” Lewin said. “We can’t remove functionality, we must improve functionality. If these tools can help them do their jobs, they will embrace the change.”
CPD Deputy Chief Sabih Khan is overseeing the DeX pilot along with several other pilots involving new technology. During a focus group discussion at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference, Khan noted that the DeX pilot is garnering a lot of officer interest. “This is the only pilot where officers are asking to get involved,” he said. “With the younger officers, the phone has been everything to them, and they want to see this happen. Some officers are software engineers and they’re developing some apps for us, including a mobile app that pushes information from the SDSC out to officers.”
Khan, who has extensive IT experience, noted that CPD will be using mobile device management (MDM) to ensure integrity and security of the issued smartphones. “With the MDM, we can push out the updates and we can target assignments — like detectives — to provide certain capabilities. If a phone is lost or compromised, we can wipe it remotely from a central location. All of this is really helpful from an IT perspective,” he said.
According to Khan, using DeX will result in less equipment intrusion into the passenger compartment of a patrol car. “With two-officer units, which we use, that’s a huge difference,” he said. “And having the smartphone with them on a call means that when they’re on a domestic, they can run someone while they’re inside the house without using the radio — a big advantage.”
Potential to Save Time and Money
Khan noted that DeX has the potential to save both time and money. “With the traditional approach (laptop in vehicle), it’s time-consuming and expensive to replace something when it’s damaged or not working,” he said. “Replacing parts is a big deal. With DeX, it’s just a keyboard or a screen. That saves a lot of time.”
In terms of actual budget savings, Khan says that DeX is a “no brainer.” “We’re anticipating a 66 percent savings on the PDT [portable data terminal] and an 87 percent savings in computers in the station. This will be really helpful to our budget,” he said.
Both Lewin and Khan had comments about the future of the program. Lewin noted that there will be other mobile-related capabilities, such as voice-command programs, which the department will be piloting, and Khan said that wearables will play a role, noting that the CPD bike unit was already trying out CAD-enabled Samsung smartwatches. “The smartwatches allow everyone to be on the same page in terms of information,” he said. “And they don’t have to use the radio or risk being overheard by the bad guy.” At the same time, Khan returned to the core purpose of running a pilot: “We have to consider the cold environment that we deal with, particularly on bikes and on foot,” he said. “Battery life is a concern and we’re going to see what the in-field experience is.”
Chicago PD is the second largest municipal police department in the country, and its transition to a mobile-centric environment is one that other agencies will be watching closely. The lessons learned from their pilot effort will ultimately improve overall public safety capabilities for organizations both large and small.
Learn more about improving situational awareness and officer efficiency with mobile technology, or download our free white paper, The Ultimate Law Enforcement Agency Guide to Going Mobile.