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How D.C.'s Police Department Is Trying to Improve Data Analysis and Sharing

The Metropolitan Police Department is using a cloud-based records management and moving toward a computer-aided dispatch systems.

WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department transitioned to the Mark43 cloud-based records management system almost two years ago in an effort to improve data analysis and information sharing. But the arrest and incident reporting platform has proven to be a fundamental element in the modernization of D.C.’s other police operations.

Work on Mark43 began with research four years earlier into how the Massachusetts State Police was using data and the conclusion was that clunky, hard-to-use law enforcement systems weren’t allowing agencies to collaborate.

Drawing conclusions about things, like how arrests affected the homicide rate, wasn’t a simple process.

“[Mark43] has made the work of our officers easier by streamlining the reporting processes,” Ralph Ennis, the MPD’s Technical Services Division commander, wrote in an email. “Computer-Aided Dispatch systems (CAD), used by our sister agency, the Office of Unified Communications, also store and organize information related to dispatching and calls for service. These systems also increase the efficiency of policing because they relay data in real-time.”

Replacing old, on-premise systems, innovative RMS systems focus on user experience and enable officers in the field to enter data into fields more quickly.

An officer responding to a robbery and starting to learn the facts can enter them into the system via a tablet or ruggedized laptop in his or her squad car. From there the information is sent to the detective on the case, who can open an investigation, interview witnesses and collect statements all added to the system.

“It’s structured to collect data more efficiently and improve how [police] share information and gain new insight from it,” said Scott Crouch, CEO and cofounder of the New York City-based law enforcement software company.

MPD has four or five employees continuing to build the system out, Crouch said, and former Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who retired from the force in September, was “enamored the ability to do something new.” MPD now saves 240,000 patrol hours a year, Crouch said.

The newest RMS systems provide redundancy and guarantee more uptime for the department.

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