Cleveland replaces outdated police radio and command and control systems

Cleveland replaces outdated police radio and command and control systems

Cleveland is spending $18 million to replace outdated public safety radios and modernize police dispatch and recording technology.

The reforms include an early warning program to monitor the use of force by police officers – a requirement of the city’s nine-year-old settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The city council approved the spending at its July meeting on Wednesday.

Cleveland’s current inventory of radios dates back to 2012 and is no longer supported by the manufacturer, said Larry Jones, deputy commissioner of public safety information technology.

“Imagine having a cell phone from 2012 and using it today for your daily business,” Jones told council members on Wednesday.

The new portable radios function more like smartphones than walkie-talkies. Officers can receive alerts on the devices. The radios also use GPS to track officers’ locations. The city is purchasing 1,840 radios for police officers, firefighters, EMS and animal control personnel at a cost of $13 million.

The council also approved $4.25 million for a new computerized dispatch and data management system. The improvements will reduce officers’ paperwork, Jones said. Police will also be able to issue digital tickets instead of the paper tickets they currently issue.

“Believe it or not, there is a lock box,” Jones said, “and someone goes from precinct to precinct picking up tickets and taking them to the justice center.”

As part of the dispatch updates, Cleveland will be connected to the Chagrin Valley Dispatch system. This move would allow Cleveland police to more easily share information with other participants in the network, which includes 31 suburbs, the Metroparks and the Cuyahoga County Sheriff.

Another $300,000 will support the early intervention program. Cleveland’s 2015 settlement requires the city to collect a variety of statistics on officers, including sick leave, discipline, chases and use of force.

The goal of the program is to “intervene before disciplinary action is necessary,” the settlement agreement states. But the system is designed to do more than just track potentially bad behavior, said Leigh Anderson, executive director of the Police Accountability Team.

“This system will in principle be able to help improve the performance of civil servants on a regular basis,” she told the council. “But I would also like to stress that it will also capture good performance.”

The remaining $450,000 will be used for project management costs. The city got the money for the new equipment and programs thanks to higher-than-expected income tax and other revenues this year, Finance Director Ahmed Abonamah told the council.