Recovery Act Impact: Milford Police
When Milford Police Chief Tom O'Loughlin joined the force nine years ago he almost immediately began working on a plan to update the force's communications system. "People demand we do more and we do better," he said. "We need the technology to do that."
Now they have, thanks, in part to stimulus. The force's new $500K communications systems was facilitated by three stimulus grants: a $42K award that helped with the purchase of the radio communication system; a $10K award that went towards the purchase of an automated fingerprint scanner; and, a $10K award that went towards the wiring upgrade that was required for the new system's installation.
The new system means that police officers can be in walkie talkie contact nearly all the time in nearly every part of the town's 15 square miles, a crucial standard, according to O'Loughlin. "If I walk into a bar and a brawl erupts, I need to be able to communicate and information back to dispatch," he said. The force has hired five more dispatchers and integrated its upgraded emergency dispatch systems with the fire department so they are in constant communication. "Every officer's radio has police and fire on it," said O'Loughlin. The system is also tied into local school buses, local hospitals and security personnel.
"Dispatch is the first critical link," said O'Loughlin, who noted that while standard dispatcher training is 40 hours their force requires 260 hours. "We want them to be first emergency responders," he said. "If someone is choking, our dispatchers can help them on the phone." The dispatchers also have access to critical information that they can provide to officers in crisis, preventing it from escalating. Officers have the ability to access this information in their vehicles.
Dispatchers are also watching the jail cells on their monitors, ensuring that suspects are safe. Recently, a dispatcher noticed there was something awry in a cell of a recent suspect. She alerted the officer, who prevented the suspect from committing suicide.
The force's new fingerprint scanner is another vital ink in its enhanced communications effort. The old system - ink and paper - took over a month to get information on a suspect, often after the suspect was long gone. With the new automated scanner, officers can receive information from the state police and from the FBI within five minutes. "We went from paper and pencil to instantaneous information," said O'Loughlin, who noted that this along with the new camera that is integrated with the scanner, booking a suspect went from 2 and a half hour to one.
"Now our police have the assets to do their jobs in an effective way," he said. I wouldn't have been able to pull this off without the stimulus awards. I can't pull it out of my budget."