VPI Helps the City of Elgin Police Department Increase Productivity and Security

Customer: City of Elgin Police Department

Industry: Public Safety (Gov. Agency)

State: IL

 

Increasing Productivity in The Communications Center - An updated voice logging system introduces the City of Elgin Police Department communications center to a range of powerful, network accessible features that dramatically boost productivity.

Business Profile

The Elgin Police Department has their plate full providing all of the 9-1-1 emergency dispatch functions for Elgin 's fast growing population of 95,000. The City of Elgin Police Department communication center, located in Elgin , Illinois , covers a 30 square mile area and handles over 20,000 incoming and outgoing calls (including 9-1-1) a month and makes over 200,000 radio transmissions per month. The emergency communications center operates with four shifts of between three and four dispatchers per shift.

The Elgin Police Department is dedicated to working in partnership with the community to promote safety and enhance the quality of life by serving with professionalism, encouraging open communication, and embracing diversity.

Challenge

In the summer of 2002, the Elgin Police Department faced a dilemma. They needed to ensure that accurate and reliable voice recording of all 9-1-1 calls and radio traffic would continue without interruption, but their obsolete digital voice logging system had problems including logger breakdowns, missed calls, and skyrocketing repair costs. The system was on the brink of collapse. Because the short term buffer in the old logger could only hold about a half-hour of recorded calls, when the antique DAT Tape drives regularly broke down, there was no place for the buffered calls to be saved before being overwritten in memory by the next batch. The escalating liability and compliance headaches brought on by all the missed calls were taking a heavy toll. “Anytime things went down, we would say to ourselves, ‘Please God, don't let there be a major event happening right now!” says Joe Bush, Public Safety Systems Specialist. Something had to be done.

Solution

Mandating the purchase of a completely new Voice Logging system at the forefront of technology, Joe Bush, Public Safety Systems Specialist, and Ed Trob, Director of Communications at the City of Elgin, invited all the major voice logging manufacturers to submit proposals to meet the City's challenging requirements.

Basic requirements were made clear—the new system had to be able to record a minimum of 48 channels of voice and radio traffic continuously , 24 hours per day, 365 days per year with no more breakdowns . In addition, it had to provide search and call replay functions for multiple users at remote workstations on the department's existing Novell network. Finally, the service and maintenance agreements had to be spelled out in detail and extend for seven years with no repair cost surprises . The department also included dozens of very specific requirements for the competing vendors to meet, making absolutely certain the department's unique needs would really be met, such as:

  • The system had to be capable of recording VoIP (Voice over IP) as well as analog and digital phone networks to accommodate a planned conversion from the existing Centrex phone system to VoIP
  • The system needed be able to archive independently of a LAN—no lost calls if the Network went down
  • Each vendor had to explain precisely how their system would be able to save all calls for 90 days—the legal requirement—and automatically remove them from storage on the 91 st day
  • The system had to offer a wide variety of call search criteria, including—but not limited to—channel name and number, date/time, Caller ID, DTMF, annotations, or any combination thereof
  • The system had to be fault tolerant, with built-in redundancy, including hot-swappable mirrored hard disks, power supplies, fans, etc.

After evaluating six proposals, Joe Bush, Public Safety Systems Specialist, and Ed Trob, Director of Communications, decided on VPI's — a Camarillo, California-based company that specializes in mission-critical voice recording and dispatcher/call taker assessment solutions — network friendly Activ! Voice logging system. Meeting and surpassing all the department's requirements, the voice logger could easily handle the department's requirement of 48 recording channels and could be upgraded to handle double that number within the same unit and thousands of channels as a networked solution. In addition, although the department's requirements were only 6,000 hours, the dual, mirrored and hot-swappable 80 GB hard drives offered over 11,000 hours of calls for instant retrieval.

In response to the department's insistence on reliability, Activ! Voice delivered a fault tolerant design with redundant key components, including dual Intel fast Ethernet controllers, dual, hot-swappable mirrored hard drives, and dual, hot-swappable power supplies and fans. In addition, every hardware component in every Activ! Voice logger was non-proprietary and available Commercially-Off-The-Shelf. According to Bush, that meant if anything ever did fail, they could go to their local high-end computer store, pick up a replacement part and have one of their staff members install it without ever shutting down the logger eliminating the dependence on expensive and hard to get proprietary parts available only from the original vendor.

Finally, Activ! Voice's software provided Elgin 's need for the centrally managed retention of recorded calls for exactly 90 days, delivering intelligent flexibility. Bush says, “We looked at different vendors, and  a lot of them didn't have a very good answer to our question, ‘How can we maintain 90 day retention on calls, but on the 91st day they're gone?' ”

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Significant Benefits

The most dramatic and ongoing benefit has been a huge increase in staff productivity. For example, the VPI system's ability to instantly find, retrieve and email a particular recorded call (or calls) has saved the Department's dispatch staff countless hours. Bush recalls, “We email calls to the DA's office frequently … we have four supervisors in our dispatch responsible for pulling calls when it's needed. They can do that so much faster now … the speed and capabilities of the VPI system are phenomenally different from the old system.” Increased productivity also came as a result of the system's seamless integration with the department's LAN network. The Police Department's administrators used to make frequent requests for audiotape copies of calls, resulting in a big drain on the dispatch staff's time; now, an administrator could logon to the Activ! Voice server over the network and access, playback and make their own copies of the calls they needed. “The old system had such limited capabilities,” recalls Bush. “This system has easy network access, and so it increases the accessibility of the calls. It's less of a drain on our dispatch supervisors to make more tapes.”

Featuring extremely fine grained control over key security issues, such as which user—or user group—has permission to use or see a particular function, screen, or channel, the graphical user interface made it easy for Department administrators to fine-tune their new system. Bush comments, “One of the other things that we really liked about the product was the user management—being able to configure down to the channel level. It's just a much more robust tool.”

VPI reliability brought peace of mind to the Elgin 's Police Department as well as significant savings in time and money as well. Hundreds of staff hours are no longer wasted dealing with equipment failures and recovery efforts. The City is no longer paying exorbitant fees for on-site service visits to fix equipment that fails repeatedly. For the support and service that is needed, VPI came through with flying colors. Not only did the VPI solution solve the immediate problems of unreliable equipment and antiquated storage media, it introduced a whole range of powerful, network accessible features that boosted productivity dramatically. “Support has been extremely flexible and accommodating. The support department has been very willing to come in early hours if it's needed,” reported Bush. “And that's been very much appreciated.”