The Mequon Common Council strives very hard to budget efficiently. Some expenditures save money in the long run and create efficiencies. At tonight’s Appropriations Committee meeting, I am going to ask that we include money in the budget for information technology assistance for the Mequon Police Department. Most of that work is being done by Captains and a Sergeant.
All of us, in our jobs, are heavily dependent on computers and computer-related equipment. However, most of us, if our computer goes down, can work around it, using someone else’s desktop or a smart phone, or we can allow some projects to wait.
Law enforcement cannot wait. Computerized fingerprinting, electronic citation reporting and so forth must be done on time. We do not want our patrol officers to go without body cameras. We cannot allow them to be unconnected on patrol.
In its 2017 study, a staffing consultant engaged by the City said:
One key issue, however, that somewhat extends beyond the scope of this public safety study, is the impact of part-time City assistance in Information Technology support. This part-time service has created a need for sworn staff to become adept at IT-related operational support, and while this has sufficed with existing staff, such expectation that future staff will have these skill sets is not reasonable. As such, the City should explore how the provision of overall IT services can be better facilitated.
The current method of handling Police Department Information Technology is costly and takes sworn officers away from law enforcement and management. It hinders public safety.
Currently, two Captains and a Sergeant are handling the IT needs of the department. A Captain costs the City approximately $137,000 per year, plus holiday pay, comp, workers comp, uniforms and training. A Sergeant costs only about $10,000 less. These high-priced personnel should not be repairing equipment, and these IT responsibilities take them away from their law enforcement and administrative responsibilities.
To just keep the systems running, it requires, on average, a few hours of sworn officers’ time each day. Additionally, the systems and the servers must be updated, backed-up and serviced.
Technology is now a large part of law enforcement. The implementation of in-car squad cameras, officer worn body cameras, computer records management systems, in-car laptops and printers, computerized fingerprinting, electronic citation and accident reporting, in-house surveillance camera systems and all the equipment necessary to keep and maintain these systems. Programs include Digital Ally Video System, Emergency Medical Dispatch System, Pro Phoenix Records Management System, Badger TraCS Citation System, LiveScan Fingerprint Identification System, Cellebrite Phone Forensics System and HIKVISION and numerous other programs and systems.
All this technology takes specialized training. Very little is similar to the technology being used by other departments.
Captain Patrick Pryor, when he was a sergeant, was the department IT person for over 10 years. He was assisted by Len McCaw (IT Advocate) and Jim Green (SPSI/ProShip). Pryor grew into the position as the array of computer equipment and programs grew. The department’s technology needs have increased significantly.
When Pryor was promoted to Captain in 2017, he tried to turn the tasks over to Sergeant Mark Riley. Riley lacked Pryor’s knowledge and skills, so Pryor and Riley shared the responsibilities. Subsequently, with Chief Graff’s retirement, Riley was also promoted to Captain. Sergeant Mark Kastens assumed some of the responsibilities, but he has even fewer computer skills. Therefore, Captains Pryor and Riley have been assisting Sergeant Kastens with day-to-day computer issues, taking time away from their job responsibilities.
The department currently uses Len McCaw (IT Advocate) as much as it can, but he has significant City Hall responsibilities and more projects than he can handle. He is unable to address the department’s day-to-day needs on a consistent, as-need basis. Moreover, Len must be brought up to speed on many systems.
When I was asking about this funding need, Captain Pryor was fixing a printer in a squad car. Is that appropriate for a command officer who costs the City over $65 per hour?
The department needs a full or part time person, or a contracted person, who can provide consistent assistance on a near day-to-day basis. The person would need to learn the various police-specific equipment.
Adding such a person would enhance police services. It would have the side benefit of freeing up some of Len McCaw’s time to address other city technology needs.
If safety services truly are our highest priority, we should enable our sworn officers to spend their time handling their law enforcement and administrative responsibilities. We do not ask them to repair their squad cars. Why do we ask them to handle these responsibilities?