As a result of the extensive preparation combined with the continued commitment to exceeding recognized national standards of excellence, the Cobb County Department of Public Safety E-911 Communications Bureau was selected by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies to receive the Accreditation with Excellence Award in July. The department received the highest standard of national accreditation for the fifth consecutive three-year accreditation period. Only 1 percent of the 911 centers across the nation have been recognized with this achievement.
With changes in the employment process, more police recruits are being hired. The need was identified to increase the number of academies being offered each year by the Cobb County Department of Public Safety Training Center. Each mandate class is now approximately 20 weeks, allowing for additional training cycles without sacrificing the superior level of training for which Cobb County is known. Mandate classes will be held in four times each year until vacancies have been filled. Previously, classes were only offered twice per year.
The police in-car video system was upgraded to provide an enhanced user interface, advanced search capabilities and additional reporting functionality. The upgraded system allows for the integration of FirstVu body cameras that attach to officers’ uniforms. At this time, 40 body cameras are deployed.
The Board of Commissioners approved an upgrade to the Viper phone system in November which will allow the phone system to accept text to 911 calls. Not only will it accommodate those with hearing and speech disabilities, it provides silent access to 911 for those in situations where a voice 911 call could endanger the victim further such as domestic violence or home invasion.
Medical dispatch software used by 911 was upgraded to enable dispatchers to move smoothly through case entry and key questioning during emergencies. Dispatchers can identify the appropriate determinant code and the response specifically assigned to that code more quickly, thus improving diagnostics and response for 911 calls.
In June 2014, Cobb Fire purchased 80 modems for a total of $120,376 to upgrade data connectivity to 4G, and allow for a GPS feed into the Cobb 911 Computer Aided Dispatch/Automatic Vehicle Locator system. These modems allow for a much more stable and faster connection, and are purpose-built to operate in a heavy truck environment.
The fire department purchased four Ford Taurus vehicles at $23,589 each for command staff personnel and put them into service during November 2014.
Due to increased growth in the county and the ongoing Braves project, the Board of Commissioners approved two new fire inspector positions and one plan review supervisor in the Fire Marshal’s Office to be filled in early fiscal year 2015.
The Fire Marshal’s Office continues to make technological progress, and now more than half of the 33,000 records on file are stored in electronic format only. The office is also involved in collaborative projects with Cobb Community Development to implement electronic plan review and permit application processes, which will improve service delivery.
A total of 32 fire recruits completed the 28-week dual-certification academy for fire and emergency medical technicians in April. All these recruits received national certifications as advanced EMTs and were recognized by the state as certified firefighters. These firefighters now serve the residents of Cobb at their newly-assigned stations.
In August 2014 the BOC authorized the fire department to use fund balance to purchase a 21-foot boat at a cost of $61,705 for swift water rescues in the Chattahoochee River and Lake Allatoona. This boat was a replacement for the department’s previous boat, which had been damaged beyond repair.
Cobb County Public Fire and Life Safety Division taught more than 31,000 students during more than 1,700 classes throughout the year. The department distributed 621 smoke alarms and installed 67. The division also began an active senior program and educated over 625 senior adults to date.
A Computer Aided Dispatch system upgrade was completed in January 2014. The Motorola Printrak CAD system was upgraded to the latest version. The upgrade will provide mobile mapping, automatic vehicle location and other feature upgrades at a cost of $1.9 million. The CAD Premier One system allows officers in the field to query call information in their vehicles. It allows officers and dispatchers a secondary method to communicate which expedites the exchange of call information, ensures accuracy of the information and promotes officer safety.
Planning began for an assigned car program for police officers. While the primary purpose of the assigned vehicle program is to improve the department’s efficiency, improved retention of officers will be a secondary benefit. The program will place our agency in a better position to compete with area jurisdictions. It will be administered through an application process that considers years of service, disciplinary history, driving ability and residency. Although full implementation will take several years, the goal is to begin the expansion of the assigned car program by March 2015 using existing cars. Approximately 230 additional vehicles are needed to implement an assigned vehicle program department wide.
Educational incentive pay is standard in police departments across metro Atlanta. As a means to encourage and reward those employees who attain a college education and to attract qualified and professional applicants, incentive pay funds have been approved from the fiscal year 2015-16 general fund.
Providing 24-hour public safety requires employees to work non-traditional hours. These shifts cause personnel to work less desirable, more dangerous hours, and often take a tremendous toll on family life. Beginning fiscal year 2015, Shift Differential Pay will be implemented at the rate of 50 cents per hour for officers working evening shift and $1 per hour for officers working midnight shift.
In an effort to optimize operational efficiency, the department is moving from a traditional eight hour shift, to a 10-hour shift. The current eight hour shifts do not allow for additional staffing levels during high-demand periods. One precinct has implemented a 10-hour shift schedule by creating personnel overlap, which allows officers to remain in the field for emergencies at all times. This results in enhanced officer and public safety. The four-day/10-hour shift also offers the officers more time to recuperate (especially ones assigned to nontraditional shifts) and results in reduced overtime. As staffing goals are met, it is the intent of the department to implement the 10-hour shift schedule at the remaining four precincts.
Additionally, the lateral entry program was streamlined, allowing an applicant who is currently certified as a Georgia law enforcement officer, to attend a minimized period of training.
During 2014, the police department purchased 265 rifle systems (including electronic sights, spare magazines, bags and other equipment) at a cost of $354,000. These Smith and Wesson MP 15 rifles were ordered to replace the previous Vietnam-era rifles, bringing the police weapons up to date. This purchase will ensure that the department has a rifle for each officer. Each officer was also issued newly purchased ballistic plate carriers and helmets to provide additional protection during certain types of emergency situations.
In October, the police department successfully completed an Urban Area Security Initiative Full Scale Exercise with other metro Atlanta departments. The event, which simulated a large-scale terrorist event with multiple suspects and locations, was held in Clayton County. Additionally, with a more than $1.3 million grant from UASI, the police department took delivery on a Lenco BearCat vehicle for the SWAT team, a Ford F250 fully equipped response truck and a pontoon boat and trailer for the dive team and equipment that can be used by the bomb squad during a biohazard-explosive situations.
In an effort to better prepare officers for terrorist attacks or other civil disorders, all officers received training in active shooter situations. The training proved to be invaluable during an actual active shooter incident during the year.
To improve operational efficiency for police detectives, laptop computers will be phased in as older desk tops are replaced. This will allow detectives to enter data and information at the crime scene versus returning to the office and composing reports from handwritten notes. Additionally, funds have been approved from the fiscal year 2015-16 General Fund for anticipated costs associated with providing county issued cell phones to investigators.
During the course of 2014 and continuing into 2015, the Cobb County Police Department Ranger Unit has been presented with the opportunity to replace and upgrade much of the unit’s specialized equipment. The unit will replace a 2003 John Deere Gator utility vehicle with a 2014 Kubota RTV1140 utility vehicle. The Kubota RTV is a four-seat configuration which will allow for transport of multiple officers or medical personnel through rough, off-road areas. In addition, the vehicle will be equipped with an emergency patient transport system to allow for the quick removal of injured persons from remote areas. The vehicle will also be supplied with a removable K-9 transport system to allow for the transport of officers and their canine partners into and out of remote areas.
In addition to the utility vehicle, the police department ranger unit expects to order two new replacement golf carts with one in a four-seat configuration and one in a six-seat configuration. The primary use of the golf carts is for patrol during high profile, high visitation events such as the North Georgia State Fair, the Yaarab Shrine Circus and the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. These will allow the rangers to quickly and efficiently patrol these areas in a quiet, electric vehicle. The carts will help us to transport officers to needed areas, quickly transport medical personnel when needed and transport civilians when necessary.
The police department ranger unit expects to receive two 2015 Zero DSP electric motorcycles. These are fully electric patrol motorcycles and will be valuable in patrolling not only the off-road areas of the county but also patrolling the 12.8 mile Cobb County section of the Silver Comet Trail.
The Cobb County Police Explorer Program is made up of 25 young adults ages 14-21 and designed to educate youth in police operations, to interest them in possible careers in law enforcement and to develop confidence and leadership skills no matter which career path they choose. In June, the Cobb Explorers participated in the Georgia Explorer Championships where they competed against 24 other teams to demonstrate their proficiency in law enforcement functions. The Cobb Explorers won the 2014 GA State Championship for the sixth year in a row.