On the heels of a records management overhaul by the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office, the Clinton Police Department will be implementing a similar Southern Software Inc. upgrade that police officials say will allow the department to improve service in the area and communication between agencies.
City manager John Connet said the request, approved by the City Council at its recent meeting, came after a thorough review. A lease purchase agreement will see the city spread a cost of $115,000 over five years.
“Over the last several years, the Police Department has been reviewing the need to upgrade our computer software, but we’ve delayed the purchase to coordinate the purchase with the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management,” said Connet.
The Sheriff’s Office requested to convert its software programs to Southern Software at the beginning of this year and, after months of discussion between sheriff’s officials and county commissioners, that purchase was eventually approved in July. Sampson County Emergency Management may make the same change in the coming months, Connet noted.
“We have evaluated the software and believe it is better than our current software,” the city manager remarked.
By purchasing Southern Software, it will also allow the Clinton Police Department to better communicate and facilitate data sharing with other agencies, notably the Sheriff’s Office, city officials said.
“One of the main reasons we we’re looking at our current software is it doesn’t address our ability to get information from the software,” said Clinton police chief Jay Tilley. “What we’re doing with our Police Department is we’re directing our (officers) based on the crime trends we’re seeing. The software is going to better help us do that. Also, we’re going to have the capability to access the Sheriff’s Office records, as they can access ours, again giving us more information about criminal activity that is going on in the city.”
The Sampson County Sheriff’s Office is currently in the process of overhauling its software after being approved in July by the Board of Commissioners for a $400,000 records management system overhaul,the bulk of which is software, installation and training from Southern.
Sheriff’s officials said a growing responsibility to provide timely and accurate public records upon request while dealing with limited physical storage space and increasing unfunded mandates from other entities, notably preparing “discovery” items for court, necessitated a better filing system. The backlog on detectives’ cases could also be eased, as having a better records management system could free up detectives to be out in the field and not saddled with excess paperwork, Sheriff Jimmy Thornton said earlier this year.
The request was initially presented at the board’s planning session in February and considered again in May before being tabled, with commissioners voting to solicit formal requests for proposals and present them during budget deliberations in June. At that time, the board was told that six vendors were contacted and bids solicited, but only Southern responded, and the Sheriff’s Office and county staff recommended that bid be awarded.
The board went back and forth, deadlocking on its vote and differing over whether the software could be obtained for less money, before ultimately approving the records upgrade in a split vote in July.
There was little discussion involved at the City Council’s recent regular meeting, aside from Connet and Tilley noting the benefits of such a move.
Council approved a contract between the city of Clinton and Southern Software to purchase computer software, hardware and related installation, licenses and training. The Council signed off on utilizing lease purchase financing through Government Capital Corporation for Southern Software Records Management System (RMS) and Mobile Data Information System (MDIS).
Upon city staff’s recommendation, Council approved procuring the new software over a five-year period as part of the agreement, designated by the city as a “qualified tax exempt obligation.” The cost of $114,797 includes all annual maintenance fees and upgrades needed during that time, and would amount to $26,248.56 each year at a 4.65 percent interest rate.
This year’s payment will be absorbed in the Police Department budget, and each future payment will be included in the department’s budget.
The RMS will include, among other capabilities, incident/investigation reports, arrest reports, citations, case management, accident reports, evidence/stored property, ordinances, criminal papers (warrants), civil papers, officer activity logs and victim assistance. Tilley said the comprehensive software capabilities will allow for work to be done in patrol cars.
“We’re going to be able to do everything we need to do in the vehicles, and not in the police station,” the police chief said.
“This will keep our police officers on the street,” Mayor Lew Starling echoed.
MDIS encompasses access to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and state database, chat, administrative capabilities to review chat messages, display of turn-by-turn directions and GPS-enabled field units, allowing mobile units to see their unit and others on a map. Connet said those options would be a huge benefit down the line.
“There’s going to be some mapping capabilities where we’ll be able to take a map of the city and pinpoint where crimes are and look for trends,” said Connet. “And also, possibly as we go along, some additional ways to actually have some real-time data of where our officers are in the city for dispatching purposes. So, if we have a crime in this area, the dispatcher will be able to look on the screen and be able to dispatch the closest officer.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.