There is a nearly unlimited number of applications for new and advanced technology in the public sector. EMS, Firefighters, Police, and the government itself have proven, time after time, the potential they have when combining their mission with the best the IT Channel has to offer. This has only become more pronounced as the pandemic has continued, according to Mike Gambrell, SLED Vertical Alliance Manager for TD SYNNEX. But what does that mean for VARs and Cisco Partners selling to the public sector?
Gambrell is a 30-year retired law enforcement officer who has served his community as an officer, a detective, and in various supervisory roles across divisions including Operations, Support, and Administration. Having retired in 2014 as a police chief, Gambrell set out to find a way to bring much-needed technology to the first responders and Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) who help safeguard and protect communities across the country.
At the start of our conversation, the EDGE360 editorial team wanted to dive into the big question that remains on most minds today: Where are our emergency services now in light of the pandemic? “The COVID-19 pandemic was an unpredictable crisis,” Gambrell began. “It imposed some severe challenges for the city, state, and even federal governments.” One such challenge was the loss of LEOs due to COVID-related illnesses themselves. “It was a very deadly time for active-duty LEOs,” he said. “What people need to understand is that these first responders are risking their lives every day, and on top of the potential danger of regularly responding to an emergency is the chance you can become infected with this disease. It was hard to ensure the safety of both the community and of the responders.”
These safety issues, coupled with a depressed budget and economic changes, have created a unique set of challenges that many in the state and local government sectors are still grappling with today. “LEOs and responders have had to change their services to embrace the digital transformation,” Gambrell noted. “Video reporting, finding ways to preempt responders/LEOs interactions with citizens, addressing occupational exposure, and finding ways to bridge the gap between judicial and healthcare services with citizens where they are, are just a few of the issues that the IT Channel can help our public sector partners overcome.”
To Gambrell, overcoming those challenges is not impossible; in fact, it is entirely possible thanks to new emerging technology. “We have tech that is playing an increasingly crucial role in the daily work of public safety officials,” Gambrell said. “Investigative tools that can impart better information, connected and mobile platforms, video streaming, all of this can change how responders and LEOs operate.” More importantly, Gambrell adds, the new technology can provide all the benefits, and be significantly less expensive if implemented correctly. “Budgets are tightening, but there have been many initiatives that can either bring money to the table or subsidize the total cost of this new technology because many departments are looking at local budgets that require more accountability and transparency. Building those into the system requires a lot of the same technology as upgrading them already.” Gambrell adds that this is a great situation where responders and LEOs can benefit, and citizens can feel more secure in their communities.
High-priority budget items vary, but Gambrell notes that there are many initiatives from several federal agencies that State and Local governments can take advantage of to bolster stressed budgets. “Deployments of mobile phones, autonomous vehicles, AI and ML operations, IoT solutions, video chat – the list goes on – but these are all areas where we have seen interest from LEOs, responders, and citizens looking for greater accessibility and accountability,” Gambrell told EDGE360.
What brought us to this crisis is the digital divide, which Gambrell explains as being the gap between those who have access to computers and the internet and those who do not. “In cities, the digital divide is a barrier to urban revitalization and the full realization of the smart city.” A smart city is the idea of a city-wide IoT solution that brings together a multi-jurisdiction team of LEOs, first responders, and civil servants at the local leaders. “When we start talking about smart cities, we have to recognize that there must be an element of connectivity for the citizens, as well,” Gambrell added. “Connectivity is a foundational pillar, and the IT Channel has some great solutions to do that and to help realize the expanded idea of a safe city, and where all citizens can benefit from the digital transformation of basic city services to digital services.”
At the heart of that transformation, Gambrell emphasized, it all comes back to sensors and smartphones. “Citizens want departments that are digital, where they can access the same resources that are available to them if they went in person,” he said. “They have certain expectations, and those expectations help set those budget expectations that I mentioned earlier.” The Biden Administration’s recent Executive Orders highlight connectivity and set aside a significant portion of its $1.9 trillion packages to help address the digital divide. “Those funds are targeted at the three pillars of public safety: Creating mobility and connectivity, finding more ways to integrate sensors and smartphones into the IoT, and processing all the data,” Gambrell noted. That ability to generate, store, secure, and analyze data is at the heart of modern IT needs, according to Gambrell, and is where the IT Channel is needed the most.
While that is a tall order, Gambrell emphasized two technologies that are a top priority for creating a safer and more just system. “By utilizing mobility, we can significantly reduce the number of potential issues that come up during the everyday interactions of citizens and government services.” Gambrell added that there are two situations where mobility can create a safer interaction for LEOs and citizens. “Car stops and domestic violence are two of the riskiest interactions for both citizens and officers, but with mobility, technology officers can access information on cars or addresses, and then make informed decisions about how to proceed in each situation,” Gambrell said.
The other technology that is a top priority for creating a safer system is emergency command centers. “In 2020, we had a piece published in Police Chief Magazine that detailed this, and I encourage anyone reading to go there to learn more,” Gambrell said. “In short, these command centers provide a critical service by leveraging all of the cumulative data that is available during an emergency. If it is created efficiently, no matter the level of emergency or how high the level of command goes, it provides the technology that they need to make the important and lifesaving decisions.”
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