AWS Public Sector Blog

Driving people-centered digital transformation in public safety with AWS

Driving people-centered digital transformation in public safety with AWS

Colonel Lamar Davis of the Louisiana State Police (LSP), recently summed up the law enforcement landscape, saying, “When you look at crime today, it’s not just a public safety or law enforcement problem—it’s a social problem.”

Colonel Davis was one of the speakers participating in a panel at the IMAGINE 2023 conference for education, state, and local leaders from Amazon Web Services (AWS). The panelists, including Matt Polega, co-founder and head of communications and public policy for technology at AWS Public Sector Partner Mark43, and Paul Troxel, 9-1-1 program management division chief with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, explored how the AWS Cloud can facilitate collaboration, connection, and communication to support public safety organizations.

During their discussion, they identified three ways cloud technology can help law enforcement work better internally, in partnership with other organizations, and with the people they serve:

1. Share data and facilitate collaboration

For first responders, poor communication can have dire consequences. Accurate data is essential—whether it’s finding the closest resources to respond to a fire or identifying a stolen vehicle from a different district or state.

“Prior to modern technology, each of our stations worked and communicated in an isolated format,” noted Davis. “We could stop an individual for driving under the influence, process the next steps, and release them on summons. But days later, it could turn out the same person was wanted for a crime in another district. That information was in another system, but we had no clue because our systems were not connected.” Now working with Mark43, LSP state troopers have instant access to these previously disparate data sources.

Mark43’s purpose-built modern data architecture on AWS allows for granular access controls and the ability to share data across agencies and the ability to feed the data into other systems, such as data warehouses and business intelligence tools. This lets agencies share only the appropriate data with the appropriate participating agencies in a secure and compliant manner.

In California, Troxel and his colleagues are working to improve communication between jurisdictions by creating a statewide data repository in the AWS Cloud. Every department can opt-in to the repository and share their availability and status within the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system. The repository has the potential to identify resources closest to emergencies, enabling faster critical response times.

“Before we migrated our legacy systems, we had no access to real-time data,” remembered Troxel. “We had a fire, for example, and our dispatcher sent her known resources that were six minutes away. Unfortunately, the blaze was too far gone by the time they arrived. In the investigation afterward, we realized there was a fire station in an adjoining district only two minutes away, which could have produced a very different outcome. Hosting our shared data on the AWS Cloud has enabled agencies and districts to work in tandem now.”

2. Bolster resource availability—particularly in times of crisis

Louisiana has seen its share of natural disasters—in 2021 alone, seven hurricanes made landfall. After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Davis recalled that their legacy communication system made it nearly impossible to coordinate rescue efforts. “We lost all comms, all ability to have visual and mobile communication—to communicate with our troops on the ground.”

Threats to the availability of communication—both natural and human-made—are a reality across all public safety agencies. Davis has been working closely with AWS Partner Mark43 to increase the resilience of Louisiana’s dispatch systems and to make sure that unexpected weather events, cyber issues, and even ordinary maintenance can no longer impact the LSP’s readiness.

Polega and his team at Mark43 have since created redundancies to improve Louisiana’s public safety infrastructure. “The resiliency that agencies and organizations are afforded by having a cloud-native solution helps us not only in terms of catastrophic disaster—by being able to lift all of those dispatch centers outside of the emergency zone, for instance—but even when they’re trying to push a simple update to the application,” said Polega.  Using Amazon RDS and Amazon EC2 across multiple AWS Availability Zones, Mark43’s cloud-native CAD and records management system (RMS) solutions provide agencies with the reliability and resiliency expected of mission-critical, public safety systems.

Now, Davis and his colleagues feel confident that his team can respond effectively in the event of a disaster. “We need to empower these agencies to be able to fulfill their missions of serving the public,” said Polega. “It’s our job to bring the needed resiliency through technology.”

3. Meet modern community expectations

Troxel acknowledged in the panel that law enforcement agencies use communication channels that are usually behind expectations.

“I flew to Washington about five years ago,” he recalled, “I got off the airplane and called a ride share. My driver, Mike, drove right up to me and said, ‘Paul?'” Troxel said that at that moment, he realized that his own organization didn’t have the technology to locate citizens with that kind of pinpoint accuracy. “That year, I testified to Congress that if I were to walk out and place a 911 call, whoever I was asking for might not be able to find me in a crowded airport that easily.”

In the five years since his testimony, Troxel has collaborated with technology partners like Mark43 to work toward an “app-like” experience citizens expect, all hosted on the AWS Cloud. Additionally, with 80% of 911 calls coming from a wireless device, Troxel and his team are finding ways to deliver supplemental information through dispatch, including medical information, pictures, and videos.

 “In the next-gen 911 world, we’ll be able to do much more because of our partnership with technologists,” said Troxel. “Working with engineers who are passionate about improving those services, we can give a caller that ‘app-like’ accuracy when they need help.”

An optimistic future using modern technology

As technologies continue to improve, artificial intelligence (AI) may help speed the progress. “Our customers don’t want to wait 24 months when AI can get it done quickly. They say, ‘I need this impact for my community right now. It helps us go faster, be much more effective,’” said Polega.

Troxel and his team are looking to use AI analytics to predict and understand outages and incidents to be more responsive in the future. “We can find out: what do we need in terms of staffing? How do we better train our first responders? How do we better train the dispatchers?”

What’s driving this continuous innovation among the panelists? All three panelists emphasized the importance of people-driven transformation within public safety. While the cloud is transformative, if technology doesn’t serve individuals—dispatchers, responders, and citizens—it’s not helping public safety organizations meet their mission.

Colonel Davis said it best when he described how he arrived at a career in law enforcement: “While public safety is my purpose, people are my passion.”

Watch this session and others from the IMAGINE 2023 conference on-demand.

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