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Supplied by Belleville Police Service
All members of law enforcement take a vital oath to serve and protect their community. Honouring this commitment takes grit, teamwork, and critical thinking, but as the Belleville Police Service in Eastern Ontario learned, access to the right tools and information ranks just as high.
After noticing inefficiencies in their information sharing processes a few years ago, the Belleville Police Service undertook a significant technology upgrade project with the goal of enhancing the way officers retrieved and managed information. One of the biggest gaps to be addressed was a lack of technology within officers’ patrol vehicles. Compared to other services at the time that had in-vehicle computers installed, Belleville officers were equipped with just a car radio and mobile device to make calls and access email while on the road.
Without a way to easily retrieve records and critical 911 dispatch info, officers had to rely on dispatch to receive and relay requests for information. Radio traffic quickly grew to an all-time high, which reduced the channel’s efficiency as a method of communication. Delays in receiving updates, miscommunication, or missed requests for information altogether were a daily reality.
“With a full view of what’s going on, we can proactively grab calls even before the dispatcher assigns them, which has made us a lot more collaborative as service.” – Constable Jordan Wells, Belleville Police Service
As more industry-specific mobile applications were being developed, officers gradually found the use cases for their mobile devices increasing. Access to the dispatch application and records management system on their phones gave them the ability to retrieve dispatch and database information independently. However, accessing this information in a small, handheld form had its limitations. According to Constable Jordan Wells, a 3-year veteran of the Service, the small screen made it difficult to interact with the apps. “Trying to run a license plate check on the phone was difficult because of its small screen and interface,” he said. “Most of the time, I would get the inputs wrong and be forced to pull a vehicle over to complete a check, versus running it on spot to determine if pulling them over was even necessary in the first place.”
After scouring the market for a solution to help officers extend the use of their mobile device, the Belleville Police Service came across an innovative technology from Samsung, which prompted them to equip all officers with Samsung Galaxy S10+ smartphones.
Samsung DeX: Enabling officers to do more with their smartphones
Samsung was aware of a gap in the market for a solution that would help frontline industries be more productive out in the field. In 2016, Samsung and the Belleville Police Service partnered to outfit patrol vehicles with technology that would empower officers to access information independently. Instead of looking to net new PC solutions to install into the cars, Belleville leveraged technology that was already built into the Galaxy S10+ smartphones the officers were already carrying called Samsung DeX.
DeX is an application that enables officers to extend their mobile device into a desktop-like experience by simply connecting a keyboard, mouse, and monitor. Joe Myderwyk, Systems Network Administrator of the Belleville Police Service, believes DeX was an ideal solution for the patrol vehicles, because apart from installing the peripherals, all that the officers needed to get started was an HDMI adapter or cable. “It was something we had already envisioned, having technology that would provide them with additional real estate in the vehicle,” he said. “DeX made this possible, by allowing us to take this 5-inch phone screen and blow it up to make it a usable computer terminal.”
As soon as officers place their phone in the connected dock, DeX is triggered, giving them the ability to view mobile apps more easily on a larger monitor. Along with an expanded view of applications, DeX allows officers to interact with them in a more user-friendly way. Complete with resizable windows, drag-and-drop functionality and the same keyboard shortcuts that are familiar to PC users, officers interact with the applications just as they would on their desktop computer.
According to Myderwyk, the ability to view the applications on a larger screen has been game changing. “The ability for officers to view the live 911 calls that are coming in, the priority of incidents and the dispatcher notes that are available, has been our biggest success story to date,” he noted. “Since they relied on having everything come through over the air, having this information right at their fingertips is something the officers weren’t used to.”
This newfound ability to receive dispatch updates in real-time not only helped to reduce radio traffic (with that channel now being reserved for only the most critical updates), it also helped speed up incident response times. “I would say that having that enlarged view of the 911 incident map, seeing exactly where activity is taking place and having officers triage calls according to their proximity to them, has shaved 2 to 3 minutes off our response times,” noted Officer Wells. “With a full view of what’s going on, we can proactively grab calls even before the dispatcher assigns them, which has made us a lot more collaborative as service.”
Supporting officers’ mobility needs
With so much of officers’ work happening remotely, increasing the usability of their mobile devices was vital from an operational standpoint. With DeX empowering officers to use their phone in a similar fashion to a desktop, officers were at the forefront of a new era of productivity. They were able to reap the portability benefits of the Galaxy S10+ with the added option of using it like a PC; all without the hassle of carrying around extra equipment.
According to Constable Wells, this has given him the flexibility to do more work from the road and to seamlessly transition from tasks that can only be done remotely to those that require the desktop-like functionality of DeX. “A lot of the times when I’m outside of the vehicle responding to a domestic scene, I’ll take my phone with me to take a witness statement, or capture images,” he noted. “When I get back into the car, I can pop the phone back into the dock and trigger DeX to download and work with that data in an easier, more intuitive way.”
Supplied by Belleville Police Service
DeX is also helping to facilitate remote reporting for officers, gradually lessening the need for them to go back into headquarters to complete their administrative work. Myderwyk notes that this capability aligns with the Service’s end goal of making officers more efficient on the road. “We’re hoping to move further down the lines of never having officers come into the office,” he said. “They’re going to be able to complete their documents, fill out forms and manage digital evidence right from within the DeX station inside their vehicles.”
“DeX takes the mobile phone and makes it the brains of the operation, it’s a platform that was truly built for the future of business and law enforcement.” – Joe Myderwyk, Systems Network Administrator, Belleville Police Service
Driving the vision of the ‘connected officer’ forward
Myderwyk believes that as an industry, law enforcement is on the cusp of a new, tech-focused era, one that is being fueled by the smartphone and DeX. Myderwyk says the use cases for DeX will only grow as more mobile applications are developed for the industry. “As more mobile applications are created for law enforcement related tasks specifically, the greater the need for DeX will be, as officers will require that expanded view of them,” he says.
In terms of the benefits the Service has experienced as result of using DeX, Myderwyk believes it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Apart from greater efficiency in how work is completed, and daily tasks are managed, DeX has helped to foster a culture of collaboration between officers, “It’s made officers want to work together as a team in a way that wasn’t present before, and pitch in where and when it makes sense,” he said. He’s personally noticed the demand for DeX growing, as officers have started noticing a reduction in time spent completing administrative work.
With DeX in their toolkit, the Belleville Police Service is well on its way to empowering a new generation of officers that are highly mobile and highly connected on the frontlines. A vision, Myderwyk notes, that wouldn’t be possible without DeX. “DeX takes the mobile phone and makes it the brains of the operation,” he said. “It’s a platform that was truly built for the future of business and law enforcement.”