Field Use of Online Databases

One very important aspect of police dispatch, directly related to data accessibility, is the recent introduction of CDPD (cellular digital packet data). CDPD is a wireless encrypted data network that employs 128-bit (DES) encryption. CDPD coverage is very widespread, and although it operated at a low rate of data transfer (19.2 k) at roll-out, it was anticipated to increase to 28.8 within months.

Following the Los Angeles riots of 1992, supporters have touted CDPD as a strong supplemental system assisting police agencies in the dissemination and accessing of data through police units employing MDTs (mobile data terminals). CDPD allow police to transmit confidential information by wireless.

Linking MDTs with CDPD enables law enforcement officers in the field to readily access their record management systems (RMS) and other databases. Although many of these databases, such as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and/or State Crime Information Center (SCIC), are clearly outside the scope of this book, CDPD technology also makes feasible access to databases of direct interest to public health authorities. MDTs are not limited to laptops; recent advances are also allowing local law enforcement to consider wireless palm pilot services or BlackBerry® handheld computers for similar applications. New Jersey State Police Officers have begun using these devices while patrolling commuter trains. The World-Wide Web can be used for this purpose; virtually any Web-enabled device can participate.

CDPD/wireless web applications must be kept simple because of screen size limitations, with image transfers or large data files kept to a minimum. Data distributive systems using MDT/CDPD could also be invaluable during major catastrophes (such as the bombing of the World Trade Center) because they are supported by the inherent robustness and flexibility of the Internet; however, there still exists the potential for failure if the telephone system itself fails. CDPD is available in virtually all telephone company service areas in the United States, except for a few remote rural areas. Not every 911 call center in a CDPD-capable area harnesses it, however.

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