Beachwood police updating technology to keep officers safe

Beachwood police updating technology to keep officers safe

BEACHWOOD, OH (WOIO) - The City of Beachwood is in the process of building a city-owned and operated wireless infrastructure system that will provide its safety forces with some of the fastest communications in the region.

The new fiber/wireless network will result in better safety for Beachwood officers, residents and city visitors. In addition, the city-owned and operated network will result in tens of thousands of dollars in annual cost-savings for the community.

Under the leadership of Mayor Merle S. Gorden and Police Chief Mark Sechrist, and with City Council's recent approval of upgraded mobile data terminals, the remainder of the new system is expected to be installed in the coming months and be operational by next year. The city's cutting-edge new public safety network is also being built with the capacity to expand service to the broader Beachwood community in years to come

This type of wireless infrastructure system allows the city to keep up with evolving technologies while operating with nearly limitless capacity and speed. In addition, this type of network provides a platform for a variety of purposes- for example, Beachwood Police are the first in northern Ohio to have "real time video"- meaning a dispatcher can watch live as a police officer engages someone outside of the car. While dashboard cameras are common in police cruisers, many simply compile video for later viewing.

And, Beachwood officers will not only have cruiser cams, but may soon be wearing body cameras - allowing dispatchers to literally walk along with them as they enter buildings or elsewhere on foot.

"In Beachwood, police have an extra set of eyes as the dispatchers watch when an officer approaches a suspicious car," Chief Sechrist said. "This technology makes our officers safer, makes the city safer and makes the entire system more efficient. Beachwood is the first in the region to be using this advanced system, which works very well for us and which saves us money."

The new technology is the result of Beachwood officials examining cost-savings opportunities while seeking ways to limit reliance on cellular networks, which can become overloaded and undependable. The money-saving installation of a new, high-speed Internet system, designed to be used by Beachwood's police and fire departments, will significantly expand the city's current wireless network.

In 2010, the city realized they needed an enhanced system to accommodate the computers that were being installed in Beachwood police cruisers.

Beachwood officials were shocked to receive cost estimates that included nearly $200,000 in construction costs and annual maintenance fees of up to $166,000. Instead, Beachwood officials decided to have the city oversee the installation of a new system -- one that emphasizes wireless technology.

"That was one of the best decisions we've made in Beachwood in the past 15 years," said Mayor Gorden. "We thoroughly studied the ramifications of hiring a private contractor to help us expand this enhanced service, which we ourselves elected to manage. In the end, Beachwood got an excellent fiber/wireless service that will serve us well for many years to come, and which can - in the future - be used by the school system and others."

Gorden said the new network is being designed with an eye to the future - with more capacity than the police and fire departments need right now.

"With technology evolving so quickly, and considering the ability to offer this excellent system to other Beachwood entities - such as our school system - it would have been small-minded not to build it with potential for growth," Gorden said. "The same service will be able to offer wireless service to parks, schools and our residents."

City officials estimate that they have saved nearly $150,000 by installing and managing the new system themselves and hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in the future by not having to pay a private company service charges to manage the system. The city wants to save even more money by eliminating leased phone lines and remaining connections the city has with private providers.

The development of the advanced, high-speed public safety network is another in a series of precedent-setting practices and developments in the city's police and fire departments:

  • The fire department recently acquired a new fire engine that is North America's tallest aerial ladder truck. This piece of equipment will allow the city's fire department to better serve Beachwood and it also represents the city's efforts to engage in regional cooperation. The truck will be made available to neighboring communities at times of emergency.
  • Inspectors at the Fire Prevention Bureau began paperless inspections in 2012 by using iPads. The iPad inspection program allowed for a 25 percent increase in inspections by reducing the amount of time to record information and eliminating the need for administrative staff to later digitally convert the inspections into the city's information management system.
  • In another step toward regional cooperation, Beachwood in 2012 began performing police and fire dispatching services for the City of Pepper Pike.

Mayor Gorden said the city is not standing still, but will instead look to continue to integrate new technology if it proves to be helpful and efficient.