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Public Safety Series: EOCs Harness Video to Improve Emergency Response

Last month, I had the opportunity to speak with PoliceOne about how Cisco solutions are helping to improve public safety in an area most people aren’t aware of: emergency operations centers. Emergency operations centers, or EOCs, are the center of disaster response efforts, helping to coordinate the first responders and distribute information to decision-makers in a chaotic emergency situation. EOCs facilitate communication across agencies to allow for coordinated efforts. And in an emergency situation, which is hectic and can be confusing, the clear communication and up-to-date information an EOC providers is vital to helping mitigate the disaster.

Since speed, accuracy and collaboration are all crucial to an EOC’s mission, the centers are constantly investing in new technologies to help them improve in these areas. In more recent years, one of the most effective collaboration technologies EOCs have harnesses is video. Why video? Video improves data gathering, which leads to more increased situational awareness, which ultimately allows for a more coordinated response.

The types of video systems vary. Digital signage, for one example, can be used to display information such as television streams, maps or graphs on a large screen visible by all in the EOC. This type of video system also can function as a display for group videoconference that allows agencies on the local, state and federal level to coordinate quickly and clearly.

A video collaboration tool like Cisco WebEx enables users to share the information on their computer screen while engaging in desktop-quality video chat, and Cisco TelePresence allows for high-quality online face-to-face conferencing. Using these technologies helps build relationships and ensure communication is clearer, as body language can be interpreted and expressions shared.

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Public Safety Series: How the City of McAllen Transformed their Judicial Process with Video Solutions

In my last blog post in the Public Safety Series, I discussed how police forces could use video technologies to improve their training programs. In addition to training, there are numerous other ways that law enforcement agencies can utilize video solutions to both operate more efficiently as a department and improve officers’ ability to protect their community. Today, I want to share with you a real-life example of how one government agency is using video solutions to make tangible changes in how the judicial process in their city works.

The City of McAllen, located in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, is increasingly turning to innovative technology solutions to improve the city’s operations. As a smaller city with limited personnel and resource, McAllen realized that technology can help them operate at a high level and continue to provide excellent service to its residents. Previously, the city had deployed Cisco Call Manager as a solution to its formerly fragmented phone system, which helped simplify and management of its phone system and save money.

Next, the city turned its sights to exploring more efficient ways to connect court activities with police departments and officers in the field. It had always been difficult to obtain warrants from off-duty judges, wasting time and adding unnecessary roadblocks in the judicial process. McAllen hoped that with video solutions, police officers could connect with the city’s judges and receive paperwork for a warrant immediately.

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Video Interpretation Solutions Help Ensure Equality in the Justice System

While I was thinking about the topic of my second post in the court series leading up to the CTC conference in September, I came across an interesting news article. The state of California just announced that it will now provide court interpreters for free in all court cases. In the past, the state – along with many others – has only provided interpretation services in criminal cases. However, ensuring that everyone understands what is going on in the courtroom, no matter the case, is critical to making sure justice is dispensed fairly, efficiently and accurately. This means that court interpretation services are a crucial part of the justice system.

While this move by California is great, it is a bit behind the times. Back in 2010, the Department of Justice issued guidance on the issue of interpreters within the judicial system, noting that a particular concern was, “limiting the types of proceedings for which qualified interpreter services are provided by the court.” The letter went on to state: “Some courts only provide competent interpreter assistance in limited categories of cases, such as in criminal, termination of parental rights, or domestic violence proceedings. DOJ, however, views access to all court proceedings as critical.” This means that all states have had five years to expand their court translation services to cover all types of cases, in accordance with the Department of Justice’s standards.

However, states have been slow to take on this expansion, largely due to the high costs. California, for example, has the nation’s largest court system, spread out across a huge state. They also have about seven million residents with limited English proficiency, who speak over 200 different languages. The cost to provide translators in those locations for these residents is huge; in 2010, California spent nearly $93 million on court interpretation services. So in order to reconcile the challenge of fixed budgets with the increased demand for interpreters, state and local governments need to rethink their manual processes for deploying these services and look toward technology instead.

One major way to reduce the cost of providing interpreters and ensure that all citizens participate in a fair and balanced judicial process is using video services. To address the rising demand for interpreters and to help streamline court procedures, Cisco has developed a Connected Justice™ Video Interpretation solution (CJVI). CJVI allows interpreters to virtually join court proceedings using the high-quality video and audio features of Cisco® Unified Communications Manager and Cisco TelePresence® end-points. Read More »

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Kick-off: A Blog Series about Public Safety and Security for Government Agencies

The Internet of Everything (IoE) is changing the game for public safety. Through connected smart technologies, public safety agencies can continue to drive the needle forward as they serve their growing populations even as budgets remain constrained. Today’s deputies and officers are accustomed to a mobile world and expect these technologies to be commonplace on the job to improve situational awareness for law enforcement and first responders.

First responders pioneered robust and reliable communications. Police and fire radio systems remain workhorses of the professions. But IoE promises new levels of connectivity for personnel in the field, synthesizing real-time data for swift situational awareness. Through the variety of Cisco collaboration and wireless solutions, public safety agencies can provide first responders with real-time information to improve their situational awareness and on-location effectiveness.

Smart technologies are a force multiplier for public safety agencies and unlock the power of collaboration to improve the safety of communities. Improved practices can knock down barriers in agencies and prevent wasted funds and man-hours. For example, Cisco Connected Justice allows courts, correctional leaders and other key decision makers to perform their duties regardless of location to improve the speed and safety of the courts process. Also, consider the transport of inmates from jails to courtrooms. With every hearing, there is a lengthy and expensive checklist of costs to get the inmate to and from the hearing safely and efficiently. Using on-site TelePresence, courtroom proceedings can be conducted on-site directly with inmates – vastly reducing flight risk and enhancing safety.

Today kicks off a series of blogs that will lead up to this year’s IACP Annual Conference in October where attendees will explore the powerful advantages smart technologies provide law enforcement agencies. Over the next few months, my colleagues and I will share stories about how agencies are improving the safety of communities, saving time, reallocating resources and cutting costs by using Cisco technologies. The next blog will feature the city of McAllen, TX where law enforcement is using Cisco TelePresence in its warrant process to accelerate the investigation process within the department and provide immediate access to judges with video adjudication moving forward.

Last month, I participated in a Public Safety panel to discuss how local government and law enforcement are using Cisco technologies to address the scope of environmental challenges sheriffs face. Explore insights from the panel here. You can also go to our website to learn more about Cisco’s solutions for public safety agencies. To learn more about Connected Justice from the users’ perspective, keep an eye out for Judge Patterson’s upcoming blog series this month that will explore technology in the courtroom. There is a lot happening around public safety and security. I look forward to continuing to share insights and agency success stories as we continue to adopt and evolve with new technologies.

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Local Government and Law Enforcement Share Unique Insights

Cisco recently held a public safety panel to discuss how public sector agencies are addressing reduced workforces and constrained budgets. Central to the topic of discussion were cost-effective solutions to keep citizens and public spaces safe. Jonathan Thompson, executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association, and Jeff Teer, a telecom analyst for the city of McAllen, Texas, were among the panelists who led the conversation. These leaders discussed integrating the right technology to enhance public safety and support the justice system.

Challenges for Today’s Sheriffs

Law enforcement agencies in the U.S. are evaluating how technology can reduce costs. Agencies are now working with technology to leverage the right resources, data and location information to support organizational needs and improve efficiency.

During the panel, Thompson explained the scale and scope of environmental challenges facing sheriffs. Due to current federal policies, sheriffs have taken a primary role in securing and protecting the U.S. border. Thompson noted that technology is a key component to helping sheriffs operate successfully. While U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) offers a very robust and viable set of solutions for their personnel, deputies will sometimes have to cover more than 25 square miles alone in remote areas. These deputies need the technology in place to fulfill their roles and communicate with not only each other but other entities (like CBP) to provide support as-needed.

Sheriffs are being asked to do more with less, and be more efficient with less. This type of pressure paired with their unique civic obligations lead to a high-stress environment. Given these circumstances, sheriffs are generally slow to adopt intricate technologies, so they require solutions that are simple and easy to use.

How are public safety agencies improving efficiencies?

Teer explained how McAllen brought Cisco TelePresence into its warrant process to accelerate investigations that require easy and immediate access to a judge. This new deployment has minimized wasted time and maximized its value and efficiency for law enforcement and the judges. The city has plans to use video adjudication to support virtual arraignments. This force multiplier will be cost-effective and improve efficiencies. By using technology to collaborate across jurisdictions, stakeholders from different agencies federal, state and local can connect to improve law enforcement. This kind of connected justice is one of Cisco’s major public safety initiatives.

Law enforcement agencies rely heavily on planning, especially when it comes to planning and evaluating pipelines. Forecasting where an agency plans to be in the next few years is very important. These projections and input from every department can help agencies to improve overall connectivity and proficiencies.

Cisco is committed to providing public safety organizations with the technologies they need to do their jobs as efficiently as possible. Visit Cisco’s safety and security website for more information about how government agencies are using Cisco technologies and solutions to improve the lives of law enforcement officers as well as citizens.

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