By Kyle S. Richardson, FirstNet Public Affairs
(Originally posted on the FirstNet blog on January 9, 2015; reprinted with permission)
Southern California Police Officer Jason Coillot is using his background in helicopter patrol and street patrol experience to develop mobile applications “by officers for officers.” He got his start several years ago when he came up with the concept for a Vehicle Identification System (V.I.S. – The Patrolman’s Vehicle Guide), which he then developed into a reference tool app. The V.I.S. provides an extensive image database for viewing or identifying a suspect’s vehicle that can be downloaded and used by individual officers, or licensed for use in patrol cars with the goal of making investigations faster and more efficient.
“Being in a helicopter, everything is big picture to you,” Jason tells FirstNet. “You are thinking about all the officers in the area, thinking about the region, and what’s going on.” An active police officer and enthusiastic contributor to app efforts by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials – International (APCO), Jason hopes more law enforcement officers will bring their operational experience to the app development world. “I think I’m really one of the few law enforcement officials who develop apps,” he says. “When I started there were probably five apps that were created by law enforcement officials.”
The challenge, he says, is that having a full-time job in public safety makes it difficult to keep up with an application’s lifecycle, which requires considerable time and resources to implement changes and upgrades. One way to work around the challenges, he says, is to develop web-based apps. As an example, Jason points to one of the concepts he’s working on, which is a regional situational awareness app that is available on department-issued phones/tablets. “There were many times where I saw communications failures by agencies or even just inter-department [communications failures],” he said. “That’s when I put a lot of resources toward building apps.”
Jason continues to think of new apps with different concepts, but all with the same goal in mind – to improve operations and save lives. He’s also looking at ways to improve officers’ access to maps. “There’s so much imagery out there in our available databases – and with all that’s out there online, I still look at a map that is archaic,” he says. “It looks like it should be on an old video game system. But if we’re on 4G devices, we can take data.”
Even though he admittedly doesn’t plan to continue too much longer as an app creator, Jason is optimistic about the future of law enforcement technology. “I am going to continue to do my part to ensure those in the field are heard” by the application development community, he says.