The Fairhope Police Department could get a global positioning system (GPS) it hopes will significantly lower response times for 42 patrol vehicles and help dispatchers keep track of officers if the city council approves the $38,347 purchase at its next meeting.
At Monday’s city council work session, Information Technology Director Jeff Montgomery asked the council to consider the purchase of $38,347 in GPS equipment from Illinois-based CDW-G, a branch of CDW Corporation which sells information technology to governments. The purchase, which would be made through the National Joint Powers Alliance buying group, would come from surplus funds from utilities revenue if the council approves it.
The bulk of the cost is $28,896 for 3G/4G LTE routers at $688 per unit for 42 patrol vehicles. Fairhope patrol vehicles currently use personal MiFi routers, which provide internet service for the officer’s laptop and other equipment. The new devices would use the same internet service and would be located in the vehicle’s trunk.
The new device will provide internet service to the officer’s laptop and send the vehicle’s GPS coordinates to a map located at the station to be used by dispatchers.
“The main purpose for this purchase is to decrease response times and so that dispatchers don’t have to call out on radio and find out where patrol officers are,” Montgomery said.
Police Chief Joe Petties said the devices will save dispatchers time because they won’t have to call to determine who can respond to an incident. Instead, they can look at the map and see which officer is close.
“Sometimes with the radios we have, we’ve had problems communicating with cars that were stopped for whatever reason,” Petties said. “We would call them and call them, and they might not have even turned their radio on. By the time they get their radio on, we had people there to look for them.
“The way I understand the way this one is set up, once the car is turned on and driving it tracks it wherever it goes,” Petties said. “If an officer pulls up in front of the police station and turns the car off, that’s the last place he went. If the officer gets out and doesn’t call in that he’s out, we’ll still know his last place.”
Councilwoman Diana Brewer asked Montgomery if other cities are using similar technology. Montgomery said it is widely used and some cities use it to track mileage and locate all city vehicles.
“Some cities use it in every single vehicle they have,” Montgomery said. “They use it to track how their garbage trucks do and they approve routes with it. If a superintendent wants to know where an employee is, they can switch on the map and see where they are.”
Purchasing Manager Dan Ames said the system would also come in handy if the department needed to find an officer who had been shot in the line of duty.
“If you had an officer down or engaged in a firefight, and he’s not responding to calls, you can get to him quick,” Ames said. “If an officer can’t respond for any reason, you can quickly respond.”
Montgomery said the new system would also help him keep the software and virus protection on the laptop computers in each patrol vehicle updated. He said the laptops are not on the city’s network and therefore he can’t update them all at the same time.
“I can’t manage the computers and keep them updated,” Montgomery said. “These devices are always connected to our network.”