Computers in patrol cars shave moments off response time

The Douglas County Sheriff's Office has installed computers in 35 patrol cars to make a fast response time even quicker.

Bolstered by a $200,000 donation from the Douglas County Sheriff's Advisory Council, the on-board computers speed up communications between officers and make important information at deputies' fingertips.

"I have to give credit for this to the Douglas County Sheriff's Advisory Council and to (Undersheriff) Paul Howell," said Sheriff Ron Pierini. "Without either one of them, this wouldn't have happened."

Howell said installation of the computer-aided dispatch system propelled technology in the department from "mid-1970s to what's at the forefront."

"When you think about two or three minutes, consider it if your child can't breathe, or someone is holding a gun to your head. What does the time mean to you then?" Howell said. "There's nothing out there that is more advanced."

Pierini said the sheriff's department has been talking about upgrading the communications system for 10 years.

With a link to state information, officers will be able to pull up criminal histories, and drivers license records.

The department used Homeland Security Funds, drug seizure money and the sheriff's advisory council donation for the patrol car computers.

The system makes it possible for sheriff's dispatchers to relay information that formerly was broadcast on the emergency scanner system, available to anyone within range.

"That availability can have a real negative aspect to it," Howell said. "People out committing crimes or otherwise up to no good could track what we were doing. This system makes it more efficient to get to the scene without people knowing."

The software includes extensive mapping capabilities.

"If your child was missing or abducted, this system can scan a radius around your home that would bring up sex offenders immediately," Howell said.

Advisory council member Bill Henderson said the sheriff's advisory council raises funds privately to pay for extraordinary expenses of the sheriff's office.

He said it only took a few months to raise the money for the computers.

"Without the advisory council donation, we would not have had the money to put a computer in every car," Howell said. "That would have been of little use because all the patrol cars wouldn't have been able to communicate."

The computers have a 5-8-year lifespan, Howell said, about twice the longevity of a patrol car.

He said security is a concern, but the department has taken precautions.

"Anything is hackable, but they are firewalled beyond belief," he said.

Data is backed up every day in the event of a computer malfunction. Howell he said the company, Spillman Technologies Inc., has a good reputation for service and support.

Howell said training was extensive, but the system is user-friendly.

"The first weekend we went live, I spent Saturday and Sunday sitting by the phone. I never got a call. Finally, I called dispatch, and they said they'd had no problems," Howell said.

Deputy Kevin Schaller who demonstrated the system for members of the advisory council said he liked the ability to be in contact with other officers.

He said he won't be tempted to "type and drive."

"If I have an instant message, I'll pull over," Schaller said.


The Douglas County Sheriff's Advisory Council is a nonprofit service organization founded to raise funds for extraordinary expenses of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. Contributions may be made to the Douglas County Sheriff's Council (Federal EIN 20-1308918). Checks should be mailed to Douglas County Sheriff's Council, P.O. Box 1002, Minden, NV, 89423. Contributions are 100 percent deductible.


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