A few years ago, Robin Jackson, administrator of the Kansas City (Mo.) Police Department (KCPD) training division, was reaching her peak of frustration as she battled against a sluggish mainframe computer system holding training records for the department's personnel.
Recalls Jackson: "It was very limited. I couldn't pull any information out. I couldn't find out who completed a certain type of training or who had not."
Instant access to the current status and history of any officer's training is important since records typically must be sent at year-end to a state's training standards organization. The potential liability stemming from use-of-force incidents that may spur inquiries from lawyers is another compelling reason for streamlined records management.
Therefore, it behooves your police department to consider automating the documentation and monitoring of police personnel's records.
In Jackson's case, luck prevailed. One of her department's police commissioners returned from a seminar on records management with information on the Skills Manager automated records management software program from Portland, Ore.-based Crown Pointe Technologies. Skills Manager is designed exclusively for tracking law enforcement personnel from date of hire to retirement.
The Windows-based software monitors personnel certifications, training, firearms qualifications, employment, and education.
The Kansas City Police Department's training division adopted Skills Manager, and personnel records now are easier to maintain. Skills Manager is particularly valuable for helping the training division—which monitors records for 1,400 people—designate what training courses are mandatory or optional. Once this is accomplished, Jackson says, "You can then fit those (courses) right into each officer's career path for his particular chosen job."
The Skills Manager software is one of several commercial software programs available that automates law enforcement records management.
Training Updates Within Minutes
Nearly every state mandates a minimum number of hours for training each year and specifies what kinds of training must be completed so that law enforcement officers can be re-certified. Jackson's state of Missouri is especially stringent, requiring 48 hours of continuing education over a three-year period, plus completion of at least four hours in each of four curricula areas. "Every year, we have mandatory courses that our officers have to attend," says Jackson. "And with Skills Manager, I can tell within minutes who has had these courses and who hasn't."
Duplicated Classes Avoided
According to Ed Nowicki, executive director of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), "It's important (with automated software) to be able to track the different training that is received by personnel in the different levels within a specific agency or police department." And, he adds, "Officers need to understand their state's particular laws. It's great to have software that can test an officer's understanding of these laws as well as his own department's rules and regulations."
Nowicki also notes such software is an excellent management tool because "it will enable police training managers to ensure that training already provided for certain categories is not duplicated."
Electronic RMS Choices
Today's software offerings each have different capabilities and focus.
Crown Pointe Technologies' software, for example, targets public safety organizations—peace officer standards organizations (called "POSTS"), police departments, police academies, corrections facilities, and 9-1-1 dispatch centers.
For training organizations within government entities such as the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Justice, as well as state law enforcement and public safety training organizations, the Acadis Readiness Suite from ENVISAGE Technologies of Bloomington, Ind., is worth considering.
The Web-based Acadis Readiness Suite allows consolidation of training records from basic training at the academy plus in-service/re-training events in the field via its In-Service Training Portal. So agencies can log onto the portal and provide the POST with training records.
If you have a large police department that, for example, serves a city of 50,000 residents or more, then perhaps a more integrated approach, part of which includes records management, would be best. Tiburon of Pleasanton, Calif., makes software for computer-aided-dispatch, records management, and mobile dispatch and field reporting. These can be purchased separately, but if bundled they form a larger, integrated law enforcement application.
According to Alec Gagne, president of San Jose, Calif.-based Crimestar Corporation, growing populations and larger volumes of data to be captured, stored, and managed are making automation more valuable regardless of an agency's size.
Crimestar offers a wide-ranging software package that includes records management, computer-aided dispatch, jail/custody management, and mobile/field reporting. The software comes in two product editions: Crimestar Professional Edition (for departments with 30 or fewer officers) and Crimestar Enterprise Edition (for departments of 30–200 officers).
Generic records management software programs abound, but usually must be extensively customized to fit the agency's tracking components for training and complying with state standards.
Most training management software packages offer a base records management program and then sell separate modules for additional capabilities as their customers need them. This is done partly to help customers contain cost, but it also may stem from a law enforcement agency's desire to avoid becoming overwhelmed with too many software applications at one time.
Need for Field Training Software
Today's records management software programs tout field reporting capabilities, yet there is an even greater need for field training records management solutions.
Crown Pointe Technologies, for example, has comprehensive FTO (field training officer) and PTO (police training officer) systems designed for initial training of new officers. These police training programs are a model for post-academy field training in law enforcement.
The FTO Program aims to prepare officers in training (OITs) to perform the essential duties of a police officer and to enhance patrol divisions' professionalism through constant quality improvement.
The PTO Program has the same goal, although it uses problem-based learning scenarios with officers in training to address neighborhood issues in partnership with the communities they serve. Problem-based learning is a recent trend within police training, which is why Crown Pointe has focused part of its product offerings on it.
An outgrowth of electronic police training management systems is that vendors increasingly are offering Web-based packages. Two of the vendors mentioned earlier—Crown Pointe Technologies and ENVISAGE Technologies—have Web-based solutions.
Robin Jackson, Kansas City PD's training division administrator, for instance, uses Crown Pointe's SNAPSHOT software module, a Web-based system for publishing personnel department records. It allows police personnel to access their training records online any time. Officers can inquire about employment, certification, training, and firearms records.
By automating your records management system, your department will have more accurate records that are easily accessible, requiring less time and people for data entry. Moreover, this will help ensure that officers keep current with certifications while keeping their community as safe as possible.
Bob Galvin is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes about trends and technology impacting the law enforcement field.
LOOK FOR THESE EXTENSIVE FEATURES
Selecting software to make your personnel records management system go electronic takes time, careful thought, and good planning. Make sure the software you choose at least covers these important categories:
Employee records management
General and firearms training
Generation of pre-defined reports quickly
Generation of certificates showing completed training
Ongoing, reliable technical support, software maintenance, competent customer service
A fully integrated Report Writer that demands no special training, and can be used by all staff members to provide meaningful reports
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Crown Pointe Technologies
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