PRIME-BC A Canadian RMS Case Study

By Brewer, Brad | Law & Order, April 2008 | Go to article overview
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PRIME-BC A Canadian RMS Case Study


Brewer, Brad, Law & Order


British Columbia (BC) is Canada's most western province with total land and freshwater area occupying an area larger than France and Germany combined. British Columbia occupies about 10% of Canada's land surface and has 4.5 million people. This population is policed by 11 municipal police agencies, a provincial transit police (GVTAPS), a tribal police force and a provincial organized crime agency (CFSEU).

Outside these urban areas, Canada's national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) do the contract policing but primarily in rural areas or jurisdictions that cannot afford a municipal police department. These agencies had their own stand-alone RMS with the exception of the RCMP, which had its database known as (PIRS) Police Information Records System.

In May 1998, the British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police adopted the vision of a common information system for the province of BC. Until this time, the separate RMS systems were not shared unless an officer knew someone he could phone and ask about a specific file or person. Essentially, the criminals didn't respect jurisdictional borders, but the police did. This led to various law enforcement agencies targeting the same criminals without ever knowing what each agency was doing.

It was almost impossible to read another agency's reports because, of course, they all wanted to protect their own information. Front-line officers rarely ever saw files on criminals unless they were handled by their own department, and even then it was an arduous process to find them.

Access from the patrol car was nonexistent; a trip to the police station was mandatory. Unfortunately, this narrowminded thinking has led to many embarrassing consequences. One only has to look at the horrific consequences in the province of Ontario with serial killer Paul Bernardo and how law enforcement was severely criticized over the lack of information sharing.

Time for a Change

Then along came the Police Records Information Management Environment of British Columbia (PRIME-EC) project. Phase 1 saw police officers in Port Moody, Vancouver, and Richmond (RCMP) successfully convert from a paper-based records environment to an electronic environment. The Phase 1 project was funded and delivered under the auspices of the Emergency Communications for Southwest BC Corp. (E-Comm), which is a quasimunicipal corporation owned by its users. E-Comm has a technology and physical infrastructure that is likely the most advanced in the world.

Future participating agencies were funded through the Province of British Columbia, which has adopted PRIMEBC as the provincial police data-sharing network.

Today there are more than 2,228 mobile work stations (MWS) operational in British Columbia, with more to follow. The total number of sworn officers in British Columbia is 7,788. As of Dec. 31, 2007, 93% of all the sworn officers are on PRIME-BC.

There are presently four PRIME-BC servers in the province: The LMD server, which serves all police agencies (independent and RCMP) in the Lower Mainland of Vancouver; the VIR server, which serves all police agencies (independent and RCMP) on Vancouver Island; the NSE server, which serves the rest of the province; and CFSEU, which serves the Organized Crime Agency of BC.

Originally it was thought that E-Comm would benefit by having a single tri-service CAD system that would integrate police, fire and ambulance services while maintaining separate RMS systems. Altaris CAD was chosen to interface with the Versaterm RMS and mobile client. Interfacing costs were prohibitive and often technically restrictive.

Many of the Versaterm's mobile features could not be used by the officers in the field because the Altaris CAD interface didn't have the ability to map data over to the Versaterm fields or simply didn't allow for that particular function. Eventually, it became clear that police, fire and ambulance could not use the same CAD system as their information requirements are very different.

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