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New software system will link 40 agencies in 5 counties

When Gresham police officers write a crime report, they have to drive back to the office, type the report on a computer, print out a copy, and then place it in a supervisor’s inbox.

Before the report can be reviewed, the supervisor has to drive back to the office to get it, and that means two less officers on the street, Chief Craig Junginger told the Gresham City Council Tuesday, Jan. 21.

That time-consuming method of filing reports is outdated and could become a thing of the past by this time next year, if all goes according to plan for a new regional law enforcement software system Junginger presented to the council.

After his presentation, Junginger received the council’s unanimous approval for Gresham to join the Portland Police Bureau and other agencies in an intergovernmental agreement to join the Regional Justice Information Network, or RegJIN (pronounced the same as region), a new computer system that will bring state-of-the-art computer technology to 40 law enforcement agencies in five counties.

With the new system in place, officers will be able to file reports from their police cars, which supervisors can access instantly without going back to office, saving time and money, and “remain visible in the community,” Junginger said.

“They type the report, hit send, and it will go straight to the sergeant’s car,” he said. “Then he or she can pull up the report, approve it and send it to records.”

The program will let officers share information with all other law enforcement agencies in the system, said Capt. John Brooks of the Portland Police Bureau, who is heading up the RegJIN project.

For example, if someone is contacted by an officer in Washougal, Wash., one night and by Gresham police the next night, he said, officers would instantly know.

“With a couple of keystrokes they can pull up that report ... and know exactly what that contact looked like,” Brooks said.

Since 2009, Gresham PD has been part of the Portland Police Data System, Junginger said, but the manufacturer can no longer support the software, which dates back to 1982. The old system doesn’t allow integration of “new emerging crime technologies,” he said, and is limited in the number of agencies that can use it.

“Many other police departments in the region realized the importance of having one central base for information,” Junginger said. “However, PPDS isn’t capable of handling additional partners.”

Getting all 40 entities to sign the initial agreement, “the master IGA” for the user board of RegJIN, will be followed by another IGA developed specifically for Gresham, Junginger said. That second IGA will spell out costs, which Brooks said will be divided among the agencies.

“The city of Portland takes care of the initial cost...and the costs are split up based on how big an agency you are. For instance, if Portland is 40 percent of users, they pay 40 percent of the sustainment cost,” he said. “You could put a cap on it for a given year to allow for the budget planning cycle.”

Development of the RegJIN project began early last year and should be complete by 2015, he said, and Gresham officers will be involved in the process.

“With the signing of the master IGA, we will become members of the RegJIN User Board and can offer advice, recommendations and changes,” Junginger said. “It greatly enhances our ability to be heard.”

The area-wide project will include law enforcement agencies in Multnomah, Clackamas, Washington and Columbia counties and Clark County in Washington state. This is the first time the vendor has rolled so many agencies into one system, Brooks said, and it will be “the largest in the nation.” But it will also have room to grow.

“We want the ability for connecting further up and down I-5,” he said. “It’s all the same vendor and we’re looking to build a system that has the capability to be larger.”

Councilor Jerry Hinton asked if the computer system had been tested in a “standalone situation,” and Brooks explained that it was an “off-the-shelf system” instead of one that is custom-built. He said the RegJIN system is used by police departments in Sacramento, Seattle, Houston and the entire province of British Columbia.

“Custom is nice, providing it works,” he said. “With off-the-shelf we know it works, and while it’s not customizable, it is configurable, so we can adjust it and make it do the things we want it to do.”

When Hinton asked about the cost of the project, Junginger replied the cost will be higher than the old system, but will be worth it in the long run.

“We do know there will be an increase, but it is not going to be substantial if you look at the benefits from the system,” he said. “To me, the benefits that we’re going to reap are worth paying that extra money.”

Hinton appeared to agree.

“I think if you were to poll nine out of 10 citizens, they would think this kind of system already exists (here),” he said. “It ties in with the expectations of our citizens, but technology is expensive.”

Councilor Lori Stegmann asked Brooks about training for the new system, and Brooks said it would be about 40 hours, according to the vendor, but that it would be broken down into two parts.

“The first 20 hours would be having to do with the mobile report writing and then another 20 hours with the entire records management system, so you don’t have an officer sitting in a classroom for an entire week,” he said.

Councilor Kirk French also wanted to know if the new system would help reduce overtime for the department.

“I would hope so, because the report process can be done out in the field without having to drive to the station to do it,” Junginger said.

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