How one sheriff’s office uses integrated data management to gain actionable intelligence

The ProPhoenix platform provides the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office with a one-stop shop for crime data and analysis

By PoliceOne BrandFocus Staff

The growing burden of data management poses a pressing operational challenge for law enforcement agencies. Successful data management requires thoughtful policies and the right software tools to handle reporting and analysis so the information can be used to develop leads, solve crimes and better serve the community.

Captain Brian Barkow commands the Law Enforcement Analytics Division of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office. This team of six provides tactical, operational and strategic analysis for the entire agency, which has used the ProPhoenix platform since late 2007 to manage its data in a single repository.

Barkow said the sheriff’s office has always been forward-thinking, especially when it comes to technology.

“In 2008 the whole intelligence piece of policing really wasn’t there yet. It was on the horizon, but most departments didn’t know that they needed to have an intelligence or analytics division,” he said. “We wanted to get out in front of the technology and be more efficient and more effective in what we do.”

The agency had considered several records management systems before choosing ProPhoenix because they found it the most user-friendly and the most cost-effective. Additionally, as a sheriff’s office, they needed a system that could handle civil process.

“Cost was obviously one of the factors, but more important than cost is we were looking for a solution that was easy to use, easy to learn and offered expansion of scope and capabilities,” said Barkow.

A single platform for reporting and analysis

Adopting the ProPhoenix records management system made a huge difference, said Barkow. With a single, fully integrated database, officers no longer had to spend valuable time entering information at multiple points because the software automatically filters it throughout the system. Additionally, eliminating duplicate data entry decreased opportunity for error, greatly improving the quality of the agency’s data.

The agency switched its existing computer-assisted dispatch to the ProPhoenix CAD with the Wireless Digital Assistant mobile app in 2014 for full interoperability. (The ProPhoenix suites – RMS, CAD, WDA – are fully integrated, but each requires its own subscription fee for unlimited agency access to the various modules within.)

Details from the CAD are populated into the RMS and delivered to the officer in the field via the WDA, where they become the bones for an officer’s incident report.

This allows officers to stay out in the field and file reports directly from their squads rather than take themselves out of service to go back to the office. The details from these reports are likewise filtered seamlessly throughout the system.

No customization is required for complete interoperability, and training time is minimal, said Barkow. The system also makes it easy to share information with court officers.

“We’re able to follow a call from the time it comes in to our communications center all the way through a charging conference with the DA to a conviction or adjudication in the court system,” said Barkow.

Faster, more accurate reporting

The agency also gained the ability to search for and classify reports and incidents quickly and easily, and the ProPhoenix RMS takes care of CompStat, UCR and NIBRS reporting. Once a report is filed, the system automatically submits it to the state, which in turn sends it to the FBI.

“All of our different dashboards and CompStat reports are automatically generated based on the data that’s contained within ProPhoenix,” he said. “Everything we do is integrated.”

Before adopting the ProPhoenix RMS, two full-time clerical staff handled the UCR reporting and submitting through a separate database. Now one person manages those reports within the system.

“You’re killing two birds with one stone,” said Barkow. “The process is built into the everyday report writing that an officer does.”

The ProPhoenix platform is web-based, which means it can be deployed anywhere, and Barkow said it’s very easy to integrate the data from ProPhoenix into other web analytics or software.

The agency also takes advantage of the Key Global Information Sharing feature, which allows ProPhoenix users nationwide to share investigative data such as names, incident reports and vehicle data through a secure internet connection.

Analysis and actionable intelligence

You can’t control what you can’t measure, said Barkow, and the ProPhoenix system does all the measuring so the sheriff’s office can focus on law enforcement. For example, the agency analyzes crash patterns and maps so they can see where and how they should boost enforcement.

“Our chief benefit is the amount of data and analysis and intelligence that we’re able to collect and analyze,” he said. “We don’t spend any time counting anything because the system does all that and delivers actionable intelligence. All we have to do is look at the dashboard.”

The system handles data validation and quality assurance for the agency, and real-time updates mean they are working with timely, accurate data, something Barkow said was sorely lacking before adopting ProPhoenix.

The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office is now much more confident in the actions chosen for response because their data and analysis are much more timely and accurate, he added.

“It helps to justify why we do what we do and where we do it,” said Barkow. “Given the climate nowadays about law enforcement, that’s an important thing, and we share with community groups why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

Updates, improvements and customer service

Early in 2016, Barkow asked ProPhoenix to create a social media module that links online accounts to known individuals and groups already in the system. Working closely with Barkow’s team, the company developed the module at no cost, and Barkow said they have already made several arrests based on information gleaned from it. ProPhoenix plans to roll out the module to all customers as part of the RMS suite in the next update.

Barkow said he is pleased with the customer service ProPhoenix provides and recommends the system to anyone who asks.

“We’re obviously very happy with it because we keep expanding it,” he said. “For an agency looking to do amazing things with their data and the intelligence they’re able to gather from their data, ProPhoenix is really the solution they should be looking at.”

 

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