Paradise Valley police at cutting edge of law enforcement technology

Paradise Valley Police Lt. Michael Horn, right, delivers a strategic plan update to Paradise Valley Town Council as Police Chief Peter Wingert looks on Thursday, Sept. 24 at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Paradise Valley Police Lt. Michael Horn, right, delivers a strategic plan update to Paradise Valley Town Council as Police Chief Peter Wingert looks on Thursday, Sept. 24 at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Top officials at the Paradise Valley Police Department say various technological upgrades ranging from license plate readers to body cameras are now operational and being used in the field every day.

Paradise Valley Town Council held a work session discussion Sept. 24 focused on a technology update that over the last 24 months has involved updating software, equipment and policies meant to bring the law enforcement entity into the 21st Century.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly called the work discussion one focused on an overall police department strategic plan. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

While the municipality is expected to spend up to $40.8 million this fiscal year, the General Fund — what is used for day-to-day operations — stands at $24.7 million. The largest piece of the budget, 43.6 percent, funds the police department, which is budgeted at $8.9 million.

The public safety line item represents about a $2 million increase from fiscal year 2014-15, mainly due to a $1.1 million addition to the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System and to continue to pay for technological upgrades.

The focus of new Paradise Valley police technologies comes from six recommendations handed down last year from a resident task force comprised of more than 50 residents who met over an 11-week period. The advisory committee was created following a series of home burglaries in late 2012.

Paradise Valley Town Council in fiscal year 2014-15 approved $1,482,924 worth of technology initiatives ranging from in-car computers that allow for electronic ticketing capabilities, to new photo radar technologies meant to thwart major accidents.

Since last year, the Paradise Valley Police Department has seen the purchase and implementation of state-of-the art records management programs and an overhaul of the department’s computer-aided dispatch system.

Paradise Valley Police Lt. Michael Horn, who delivered the update along with Police Chief Peter Wingert, primarily focused on usage of the new technology and the policy discussions emerging because of their usage.

Topics included:

  • The usage and retention of data with license plate readers now active throughout town;
  • The usage and retention of data of body camera images;
  • Computer aided dispatch software installation;
  • New general investigation system mapping software;
  • The creation of an accident interface with the Arizona Department of Transportation.

But with new technology comes concerns over the security of personal information. Paradise Valley Vice Mayor Paul Dembow questioned how police plan to protect the privacy of those whose data is recorded and collected.

“Where does the data go?” Vice Mayor Dembow asked following a one-minute video presentation of a recent incident where body cameras were functioning. “So with that incident, you showed there were several cameras. Two officers and two cars. How much data is that and where does it go?”

Lt. Horn says all data is encrypted and housed locally at the department’s nine terabyte storage device.

“Everything gets downloaded through an encryption and we then house that data here locally,” he told Vice Mayor Dembow.

“We may want to go back and tag that video after the fact. In those instances we may want to go back, retain for 365 days. The only time it is not tagged is if it is an inadvertent turn-on.”

Vice Mayor Dembow expressed concerns over privacy for existing residents.

“I just wonder how secure things are,” he said. “I am worried about the security and for the incidents that don’t amount to anything. I want to make sure we are protecting their privacy.”

Paradise Valley Councilwoman Maria Syms asked for the latest status of home robbery trends.

“How are we on robberies?” she asked of Chief Wingert. “Are we rising, staying the same, or going down?”

Chief Wingert says the data points to no rise in home burglaries.

“Our stats last month show that we are pretty steady,” Chief Wingert said. “It is still pretty random. We have been pushing officers to be in their beats.”

Paradise Valley Town Manager Keven Burke pointed out response times have dropped almost a full minute year to date.

“One thing I noticed in last month’s report was that our response times are down to four minutes,” he said of the drop from an average police response time of 5 minutes 20 seconds to 4 minutes 40 seconds.

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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