FBINAA - May 2022 catalog


F B I N A A . O R G | Q 2 2 0 2 2


Law enforcement agencies are increasingly embracing the concept of connected officers, made possible by smartphone technology and powerful mobile appli - cations. With full deployment of smart - phones to field personnel, agencies can effectively expand capabilities and pro - vide officers with ready access to mission- critical voice and data, regardless of their location or their proximity to a patrol vehicle. A lthough the sheer utility of smartphones can provide immediate operational benefits, most agencies have limited budgets and for some, it may be difficult to allocate funding for a mobile program. Recognizing this challenge, Mike Sievert, the CEO of T-Mobile , announced in 2020 the launch of an ambitious and unparalleled public-private partnership known as Connect- ing Heroes . The program is a ten-year commitment by T-Mobile to supply free, subsidized, and low-cost smartphone connectivity and technology assistance to state and local first responder agen - cies. This article provides an overview of two law enforcement agencies that have used the T-Mobile Connecting Heroes program to cost-effectively achieve full smartphone deployment to their sworn personnel. BAY MINETTE, ALABAMA, POLICE DEPARTMENT Bay Minette is a town of approximately 10,000 people and covers an area of slightly more than 17 square miles. It’s located in Southern Alabama, about 30 miles northeast of Mobile. Like many small agencies in the South, the Bay Minette Police Depart- ment (BMPD) must carefully manage their budget to ensure the basics get covered. Nonetheless, BMPD was able to provide smartphones to all patrol officers and they did it without spend - ing a dime.

In July 2020, BMPD Chief Al Tolbert began exploring the possibility of obtaining a grant from the Spirit of Blue Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing officer safety through safety-equipment grants. The purpose of the grant was to cover the acquisition of smartphones and then use them with the Connecting Heroes program for the agency's patrol officers. Tolbert's efforts were successful and Spirit of Blue subsequently provided 20 Samsung A51 5G smartphones, enough to equip every patrol officer at BMPD. Chief Tolbert said that issuing smartphones to all officers was previously unachievable due to budget limitations. The combination of the free service provided by Connecting Heroes and the grant from Spirit of Blue changed that. Tolbert said the officers have been using the phones extensively and he has been particularly pleased with the operational benefit for the school resource officers (SROs). "Four of the phones went to SROs," Tolbert explained. "Previ- ously, we were unable to get cell coverage inside the school build- ings due to the type of construction – the signal just wasn't getting through. The Samsung smartphones running on T-Mobile's network are working really well within the school properties and buildings and this allows dispatch to contact the officers with ease." Tolbert shared that the smartphones played an important role in helping the department deal with the challenges of the COVID pandemic. “ We’re a relatively small community and we send an officer pretty much every time a citizen calls. They [citizens] have come to expect that,” he said. “With COVID, in-person contact wasn’t practical, but the officers were able to effectively conduct business by phone. The citizens felt like we were still engaged and it made everyone more comfortable.” Tolbert noted that officers now frequently handle follow-ups or queries by phone, saving a lot of time. Operational efficiency has definitely improved because of the smartphone deployment, according to Tolbert. BMPD of- ficers are regularly using the smartphone’s camera to document crime scenes or crash investigations, something that previously required having a supervisor bring a camera out to the officer’s location. Officers often share operational information using group texts. And ready access to information sources for tasks like iden- tifying an unknown pill no longer require going back to the patrol car to use the mobile computer.

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