Thanks to a vote of support from the White Salmon City Council, the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department is poised to join with other area law enforcement agencies in a bold upgrade of its computer information systems.
After hearing a multi-agency appeal from law enforcement leaders around the area, the City Council members voted 5-0 to invest in Spillman Technologies, a new data management system that would allow officers to quickly determine if a specific subject has been contacted by another agency.
For example, if an officer in Goldendale pulls over someone for reckless driving, the Spillman system would let the officer know that the same person had been questioned about a gun theft the day before in White Salmon.
Klickitat County Sheriff Rick McComas and Goldendale Police Chief Rick Johnson came to the June 20 meeting of the White Salmon City Council to ask for support for the proposal.
"This data management system is so badly needed in our area," said Sheriff McComas. "Historically, no one shared what was going on in their jurisdiction. We didn't share across the river. Now, because of new minds moving into law enforcement, we have new technologies."
McComas said a $73,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security was available to cover most of the costs of bringing the new technology to the area.
"This technological advancement is the best way to share daily information in our communities," McComas said. "I want communities to benefit, and I want communities to talk and share. With this technology, you'll see exactly what is happening in every other community. I believe it's critical you support this. The grant funds aren't going to last forever."
McComas explained that the Spillman Technologies network at first would link Goldendale, Bingen-White Salmon, and the Klickitat County Sheriff's Office. However, other agencies could soon plug in to the new system as well.
"Skamania County is beginning to look really seriously at it. If they go to this, it would be real simple to put their system in with us," McComas said.
The same holds true with neighboring Yakima County, McComas said.
"I'll bet we can accomplish that (linking to Yakima County) in the next two years, if not the next year," McComas said. "It's just a matter of getting a line to connect the servers."
The expectation is that Spillman will eventually be available statewide.
McComas said that with the mobility of our society, it was vital that agencies know what is happening in neighboring jurisdictions.
"This program is important because criminal elements do not have boundaries," McComas pointed out. "There are no laws or procedures for them to follow. Criminals will come out here and do what they want."
Bingen-White Salmon Police Officer Jim Andring said he supported switching to the Spillman system.
"We use the Expediter system currently," Andring said. "For those who know computers, it was manufactured long enough ago it is a DOS system. It does all right, but it's a terrible data base. Spillman is a terrific data base. It's used by 60 percent of the law enforcement agencies now, and getting even more popular."
"Expediter was designed for small agencies standing alone," McComas added.
McComas said he, Goldendale Police Chief Johnson, and Bingen-White Salmon Police Chief Bruce Brending all agreed Spillman offered the best package.
"Former Police Chief Ned Kindler and ex-Sheriff Chris Mace think this is the way to go too," added McComas.
"It's a really good chance to step into something better than we've ever had before," said Andring. "Let's start today on something we can use for the next 10-15 years."
Johnson said more technological changes are coming.
"This system is a precursor to possibly going to computers in patrol cars," Johnson said. "If we get this system in place, that is the next progression."
Council member Timi Keene, who serves on the city's police committee, was enthusiastic about the proposal.
"This is a tremendous opportunity to take advantage at very little cost to us and position us for the future," Keene said. "The interoperability and growth options provided by the Spillman program are important for multi-agency use. This is a great opportunity offered to the city by the Sheriff's Office at a fraction of the cost otherwise. Equipment that enables law enforcement to increase public safety, be more efficient, and save public dollars is advantageous for all."
Council member John Mayo also strongly backed upgrading the data system.
"It's a big step forward," Mayo said. "It's part of being part of a bigger community. Obviously, criminals don't respect community boundaries, and our data base shouldn't either. We should all be on the same wavelength. This is really good for the city."
With the decision, the city of White Salmon will invest about $5,000 to help with training and setup costs associated with the new technology. Bingen, which contracts with White Salmon for its law enforcement coverage, is expected to pay about one-third of that cost.
McComas was gratified to see the City Council's support for its Police Department.
"I was very pleased to see the council supportive and moving forward on this. A lot of times councils and commissions can procrastinate on decisions, so I was surprised and very happy. The council members recognized what's good for their citizens and were willing to step forward and be counted on."
McComas said it would not take long to get the new system in place and working.
"We're expecting the equipment to be in and the training to be completed by the first of August," McComas said.