Police on Signal Mountain are now equipped with new technology, with all 12 of their patrol cars having received major upgrades. Computers were recently installed that will give officers the tools many other agencies already have.

Prior to the installation, Officer Troy Kennedy said when an officer on Signal Mountain was dispatched to a call, they used to get a transmission on the radio.

"Basically before that it was old-time police work, just doing the best you can to be seen to be visible,” Kennedy explained.

Now, that will change, Mike Williams, Signal Mountain Police Chief said. After three years of planning, the department's fleet of cars received a major upgrade.

It’s the first in-car computer systems ever for the Signal Mountain Police Department and an integral part of an ongoing technology initiative for Signal Mountain Public Safety Personnel (Fire and Police).

"Everything they were having to do via radio and requests through the county, now they can do it themselves in the car," he explained.

The computers will make the work officers do more efficient.

"They’ll say it's a Signal Mountain issue or a Hamilton county or a Red Bank issue and we can see it pretty much as they're typing it in,” Kennedy said.
It’s a direct link to Hamilton County’s 911 center and police officers. Since calls are now dispatched from the 911 center by computer officers will have faster response times to calls the needs of the community, and support of other first responders.

Dispatchers will also have the ability to make sure officers are safe with the on-screen GPS capabilities as opposed to radio traffic only. Williams said it is more accurate, accessible, and dispatchers can send additional help if needed to a very specific location.

Channel 3 rode along with Officer Kennedy to see how the technology works. We saw how dispatchers and police can track where everyone is on a live map that will provide faster response time when every second counts.

"They might not know how to get their expediently and this system allows them to simply click on a few buttons and routes them to that call to assist another officer,” he said.

Officers have the ability to obtain the information quicker through the NCIC and other criminal justice portals at his or her fingertips. They can access vehicle registrations, check for warrants on individuals and other sensitive law enforcement information that they would have to request through the radio before. This also allows clearing and opening roadways and helping the drivers get to their travel destination as soon as possible.

"The officers are now able to put in more data and the more data they put in the better the outcome,” Kennedy said.

The computers were paid for by Signal Mountain’s Town Council and grant money from homeland security. Now they can work more effectively and provide support to other agencies

"They come and back us up, we come and back them up a good bit so we can see where the county cars are also on our screens,” Chief Williams said.

If cell towers ever went down during a disaster or storm, officers could still communicate and respond to calls through the computer. Each patrol car functions as an enhanced communication center, in an event that standard communication infrastructure is damaged and public access is needed.

It’s a resource Officer Kennedy said it’s more than just a new gadget for police, it's a device that will protect the entire community.

Signal Mountain Police Department said now that they have computers in the car and a digital record system they hope to be able to do full reports all from the front seat of their car.

Officers tell us they've already seen how the technology can help save lives. On Christmas Eve, there was a medical emergency call, the computers determined who the closest officer was and as a result, they got to the location before paramedics did.