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New technology for New York Mills police

Last month, the New York Mills City Council approved allocation of funds to the police department to acquire new software for its records system.

The software is in every Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) that officers use in their vehicles and offices on a daily basis.

Officers can now see where other officers are, if they are available and what event they are covering.

MDTs have the capability to instantly send information on a small or massive scale to all agencies.

The new technology was launched on Oct. 22 with full implementation in place by Nov. 2.

The previous software was more than a decade old and created a large redundancy issue between the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Department and the NY Mills Police Department, according to Police Chief Jim Van Schaick.

"We're very happy the city approved it," he said. "This was a real need in my opinion. I've had very positive feedback from the staff about it."

Records management

The issue arose due to calls for service (CFS) being created by both the sheriff's department and the NY Mills Police Department.

The older system had officers writing down each CFS from the county using pen and paper and then entered in-house in NY Mills.

There was also no connection between the in-house records management system and the county's.

The older software had the possibility of creating a duplicate CFS number, which would cause confusion if there was an ongoing investigation or if the court system needed the information.

The potential for data loss was also a concern, Van Shaick said. Now that the software has been updated, it is stored securely with backup systems at the sheriff's department.

"The older system wasn't terrible by any means, but the newer system is more efficient, removes redundancy and lowers the chance for errors," he said. "The sheriff's department uses this system exclusively. We're all interconnected now."

The information sharing capabilities aid officers by updating their MDTs instantaneously to show if a person, place or event had prior involvements.

"I know who's coming and what to expect," Van Schaick said. "In a county as big as ours, the MDT clears up the radio for more urgent information. Dispatchers are multi-tasking very hard with so many agencies. The MDTs make this process much easier."

The learning curve

The county manages the system as a whole and provides information technology staff to the NY Mills Police Department.

Van Schaick said the department has been working directly with the dispatch supervisor, who has provided in-house training for the officers for the sole purpose of getting officers up to speed.

"She's been working with us directly and regularly," he said. "She did so very efficiently and was a huge resource and continues to be. She's helped eliminate the difficulties that accompany any learning curve."

Van Schaick said that the NY Mills Police Department has more of a balanced online presence.

"If members of the community have specific questions on the software we'd be happy to answer them," he said.