In-house system saves time, money
The Mobile (Ala.) Police Department’s 10-year-old mainframe was becoming more and more unreliable, and downtime was increasing due to the scarcity of parts. Every tweaking of its ancient software cost a fortune in time and money. So when its annual maintenance contract reached $90,000, delaying the inevitable became too costly. It was time for a change.
The daunting challenge of overhauling this critical system fell on the shoulders of employees from the municipal information systems and police departments. Initially, the team set criteria for a new system. It had to retain all data currently in the system and integrate it with the municipal court computer system, it needed to use client/server system technology with an open-system architecture@ it had to be compatible with the communications used by the police department and be non-proprietary; it had to be based on the current database management system., and it had to employ graphical user interface (point and click) technology. Nothing short of a miracle would do.
After shopping for ready-made systems and finding them inadequate, the city team began developing a custom-made system in-house. After months of interviewing police department users, the system took shape.
The result was COMPIS, the City of Mobile Police Information System. Old data was converted to the Oracle database running on the city’s existing super mini-computer, and PowerBuilder, a windows-driven development package tool, handles the user interface. All the processing is done on the desktop PCs.
The software is maintained internally, and, although the system is capital-intensive because of its PC-base, the cost of maintenance is low. Repairs are done in-house, and non-proprietary parts are available through a multitude of vendors.
The software packages created within the COMPIS software include.
* AFIS, an automated fingerprint identification system, which is a joint project between the Mobile Police Department and the Mobile County Sheriffs Department to help police officers process information more quickly.
The Cray computer gives the system power and speed and has dramatically reduced time required to conduct a search for prints, purged duplicate prints within the system and tracked criminal alias identities. It is also building a regional database for solving unsolved crimes as well as present and future cases;
* Law on Disk, a program that allowsthe city legal department to save hours, of ten days per month, in the local law libraryby researching issues on-line using a software program designed to manage large amounts of information.
Alabama law and court cases providedon CD-ROM are updated monthly. Cityattorneys access the database from theirPCs. Two of the popular features are thekey word search and the scan with opticalcharacter reader capability; and
* GIS, which contains more than 100layers of maps that provide information tocity departments for manpower deployment,automated zoning application andenforcement purposes.
“In private industry, the big winners arethe people who are first in line to take risksand be innovative,” says Mayor MichaelDow. “Unfortunately, in government, our culture encourages us to wait and see how the innovators are doing before we implement anything. Risk-taking is not encouraged, failure is punished and controls implement posed to prevent waste, fraud and abuse have sometimes stymied innovation. But, as public managers, we can not let these barriers keep us from progressing.”
For more information, send requests via fax to 334-434-7548 or via e-mail to susan mis.ci.mobile.al.us.