This system will allow departments in the entire region to share records.
WARREN -- Nearly $500,000 in Homeland Security funds will let Trumbull County police departments cast a wider net to catch bad guys.
County commissioners allocated $462,987 Tuesday for the purchase of the first phase of a records management system from ID Networks Inc. of Ashtabula and related computer equipment. This will put all of the county's 20-plus police departments on the same page as far as keeping and sharing records.
"Information is what's going to catch the bad guys," said Ernest Cook, chief of operations at the Trumbull County Sheriff's Office. "This will probably be the biggest tool in the county for fighting crime, because now we know we can look at each others' reports."
The Homeland Security money was funneled through the county's Emergency Management Agency; Cook is chairman of its executive board.
The Trumbull EMA, like other counties in the state, has appointed a Weapons of Mass Destruction committee of local police, fire, rescue and hospital experts to decide how to spend available Homeland Security grant money.
It was decided that having more than 20 police departments in Trumbull County doing their reports in different ways, using different formats, makes information sharing among the agencies difficult.
"I've never met a police chief that didn't have enough bells and whistles and toys," Cook said. "But this benefits the entire region, and it's going to be used on a daily basis, on an hourly basis."
ID Networks Inc. is the state-approved vendor, Cook said. With the Internet-based, searchable database that officials hope to have on board within six months, everyone can share police data -- even the part-time police departments. The grant will pay for the computer hardware and software, related equipment and professional services.
Different agencies will be brought on to the records management system at different times. There is a provision for public access to certain portions of the records, Cook noted.
The sheriff's office will be the county repository for these records, which the office will also forward to the state. Eventually, as other counties come on board, the information sharing will be statewide -- saving time, travel and labor for short-staffed law enforcement agencies.
"This is very, very important," said Cook, whose own department this year has been hit with deputy layoffs because of tight county finances. "We have to reinvent the way we do business. We have to reinvent ourselves and our product, our service -- and come back lean, mean and better."
Future grant phases involve wireless data with computers in patrol cars for sharing photos and facts, Cook explained.
"This first phase is to get it available to all the officers and their departments," said Daniel Faustino, Brookfield police chief and a member of the WMD committee. "This is the backbone to the information sharing."
There's even a traffic accident investigation package and access to impound slips.
"Say we have a burglary that had a white van," Cook explained. The new system will bring up a countywide list of any incident that has involved a white van for investigators to peruse and make connections between jurisdictions.