Police department updates records management system

By Jami Makan

The Blaine police department has updated its records management system as part of the migration to the What-Comm 911 dispatch service.

To quicken response times and improve safety for law enforcement, the city of Blaine switched to What-Comm 911 for emergency dispatch services in October last year.

All calls made to 911 in Whatcom County connect to What-Comm 911, a dispatch center located in Bellingham, where a dispatcher determines if a caller needs police, fire or medical assistance. Prior to switching over to What-Comm 911, calls that required a police presence in Blaine, for example, were transferred to the U.S. Border Patrol dispatch center, adding an extra time-consuming step.

As part of the transition, Blaine police recently updated their records management software to a new program called Longarm, run by the Bellingham Police Department. The department hired Canada-based Compuwork to migrate data from their previous software system, Justice, a process that was completed about three weeks ago.

The Blaine police department had been using the Justice software since the mid-1990s, and the software has not been updated since its initial installation, apart from some minor bug fixes.

Police department staff recently attended training sessions with Bellingham Police Department staff, and the new Longarm system was expected to go live on May 1.

“It’s a more robust and user-friendly interface,” acting police chief Ryan King said at the April 22 city council meeting. “When someone calls dispatch, they collect all the data on the individual. They pull that from existing databases and they enter that into Longarm. So when we go to do our reports, most of that contact information is already in there. So it’s a real time-saver for us.”

The new Longarm system will also help save valuable time in submitting mandatory reports to the FBI. Nationally, each police agency has to report certain criminal incidents to the FBI for statistical purposes. These include rapes, robberies, manslaughters, arsons, burglaries and thefts.

“It used to be a three to four-month project because we had to go into the back end of our previous program, Justice, to extract the data,” said King. “Longarm is able to do this automatically and almost seamlessly. So at the end of the year, you hit a couple of buttons and it automatically populates the information into a report and we can send that off to the FBI.”

The switch to What-Comm 911 is costing the city an estimated $70,000 to $80,000 per year. In addition to lowering response times, the switch is also expected to increase the safety of Blaine police officers. Using updated computer aided dispatch systems in their vehicles, officers will see real-time data from What-Comm 911, including the location of nearby law enforcement personnel.

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