Navajo Division of Public Safety's new satellite-based mobile network
System will give officers in the field real time database access
WINDOW ROCK -- By Thanksgiving, 250 Navajo police vehicles will have the best navigational, database searching and internet communication technology available in the country.
What sounds like a claim as big as cyberspace itself was inaugurated earlier this week at the Navajo Division of Public Safety headquarters. After years of planning,the Mobile Network Operations Center went online.
Within the next 90 days, all Navajo police vehicles will have "ruggedized" laptop computers installed, and police dispatchers in all seven Navajo police districts will be able to see their locations on large-screen monitors in real time.
"It's going to leapfrog everybody," said Samson Cowboy, executive director of Navajo Division of Public Safety. "We're taking a lead role in technology."
Within the last two years, the Navajo Nation built one of the largest wireless/satellite communication networks in the world. That occurred when Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr., expanded the existing system at each of the 110 chapters, or communities, with computers and wireless satellite technology.
With more than 350 wireless hotspots sites around Navajoland, Navajo police will now take advantage of that connectivity.
"The officers can do all their paperwork in their vehicles near any hotspot," said
Dave Stephens, CEO of OnSat Native American Services, the company that installed the network.
This will allow officers to remain visible to the public up to two hours longer per shift, save them from having to return to a district office to complete paperwork, and dramatically cut down on overtime for the department.
"When a call comes in from an officer in the field, a GPS (global positioning system) can identify the source of the call," Mr. Stephens said. "The officer will know where he needs to go for the police call."
At any one of the district offices, a dispatcher will be able to follow the vehicle on a 42-inch wide monitor that can zoom in from a map of all of North America down to a specific location, such as street address, hogan or windmill on a dirt road. As the officer's vehicle moves, his rate of speed and location is visible to the dispatcher.
The system provides Navajo police with what's known as "inter-operability," which is the capability to tap into information systems such as the National Crime Information Center, INLETS, ACGIS Arizona, Amber Alerts or any information system within a city, county or state government or other information system.
"We'll be able to share information with any agency we want to," Cowboy said.
"There's so much that we can now do with it. This is the first time that the Navajo
Nation will be able to communicate online in real time with other police agencies and homeland security organizations."
All of the equipment for the Mobile Network Operations Center has been purchased through $6 million in tribal resource grants from the U.S. Department of Justice, known as Community Oriented Policing System, or COPS, Cowboy said. The grants, some which languished since 1999, were on the verge of being lost until President Shirley directed Cowboy's office to save them, he said.
"Combined with the CODY software, it's just going to enhance the operational system. It's a great management tool," Cowboy said.
The system also provides FBI-level security, Stephens said.
"This is technology based on tradition and will allow a Navajo police officer to get the information he need to be safer, more effective while still maintaining the sovereignty of the Navajo Nation," Mr. Stephens said. "It's probably the highest technology, computer-aided dispatch system in the United States."
"It's a great system," Cowboy said. "You can't beat it."
(George Hardeen is Navajo Nation Communications Director.)