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Deputies, dispatchers handcuffed by computer glitches

By Kristen Tribe | Published Saturday, June 29, 2013

Wise County government has communication issues – not among people, but among computers.

At a commissioners meeting June 10, Sheriff David Walker expressed frustration with Tyler Technologies and specifically, the company’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) program used by his department.

He said CAD is not communicating as needed with Odyssey, the Tyler program used by deputies to enter their reports, and dispatchers are regularly forced to enter the same information multiple times because it doesn’t update as necessary.

“It’s not user-friendly for the guys, and it’s not pulling information together,” Walker said.

When dispatchers answer a 911 call, they should be able to enter information into CAD, the information should flow into Odyssey and be accessed by deputies in their vehicles as they respond to the call. The deputies should then be able to access and use that information when they enter their reports.

But it’s not working, said Walker.

“The system is sub-par,” he told commissioners. “We are at least triple entering stuff in dispatch, if not quadrupling. Then when (the deputies) are doing reports, we’re having to go get the rest of the information that didn’t flow over.”

Walker told commissioners that a normal 911 call should take a minute or minute-and-a-half, but it was taking at least that long just to enter a caller’s address.

He also expressed frustration that the company has not responded in a timely manner to maintenance issues.

“If it’s after hours or on the weekend, you won’t hear from them ’til Monday,” he said.

The county pays $100,000 annually for maintenance of the programs at the Sheriff’s Office, and Tyler had recently notified the county those fees would increase by 7 percent.

County Judge Bill McElhaney said at the meeting that he would take action to deny payment of any increased fees.

“The first priority is to protest the 7 percent increase,” Walker told the Messenger last week, “and Susan [Gomez, the S.O.'s communications manager] is researching different CAD systems.”

He added that a Tyler representative admitted to Gomez that their programs weren’t designed for such a big department.

The county has spent $1.8 million since 2006 to install Tyler programs in various departments, including in the justice of the peace offices and the courts, allowing them to access criminal and dispatch records as needed.

“We don’t want to be the one that breaks up the county where they can’t see everything, but it’s not beneficial to our crew for it to take several hours to do a burglary report,” he said.

Walker said he would like a new CAD system that would communicate with the other Tyler programs, but he admitted that may not be a likely scenario.

“The goal was to eventually add Emergency Medical Services and the fire departments so they could receive information in their trucks from CAD, but it doesn’t seem possible at this point,” he said. “It’s not really working for our deputies, much less anyone else.”

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