Michigan State Police reaches deal to take Saginaw County’s police database statewide

Mark Tower
Dec. 19, 2014

SAGINAW, MI — The Saginaw County Sheriff Department’s computer record database is one of the largest of its kind in the nation.

Now, it’s getting even bigger with $3.6 million in state funding designed to give thousands of additional police access to the system and to grow its database statewide.

State officials are partnering with the county to take over Sheriff William Federspiel’s Area Records Management System.

The Saginaw County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday, Nov. 17, to accept a $3.6 million state grant aimed at helping ease the transition from a county-run to a larger, state-run program.

The computer system, currently housed in the basement of the Saginaw County courthouse, has 1,500 users in 52 law enforcement agencies spread across 10 counties.

Dawn Brinningstaull, director of the Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center, said her goal is to bring at least one-third of all 17,000-some police officers in the state on board over the next 3-5 years.

Brinningstaull said that the opportunity for agencies across the state to share information from incident and arrest reports as well as training resources and other records maintained by the system is invaluable.

“I think the biggest selling point is the collaboration,” she said.

How the system works

ARMS tracks a variety of information for law enforcement agencies, including incident reports, arrests records, evidence data and internal human resource and training logs. The system can be accessed by individual officers in the office or in their field, from laptops inside their police cruisers.

It does not replicate the state’s Law Enforcement Information Network, which provides officers access to things like outstanding warrants and vehicle registration information. But Federspiel said the ARMS system does provide officers instant access to the LEIN database through their cruiser computers, which saves considerable time when compared to the old LEIN radio frequency where officers needed to wait for a dispatcher to look up information for them.

If the state is successful in growing the system, it would mean Saginaw County’s ARMS, which Federspiel said will now be called the State Record Management System, could have more than 5,000 users within the matter of a few years.

The consolidation will also now include the sheriff’s Jail Records Management System, which is already integrated with ARMS.

Gov. Rick Snyder says the collaborative effort is an example of effective cooperation between local and state agencies.

“Saginaw is our pilot community to say we can all have one reporting system all the way from local and MSP being together to the jail system and the correction system so we can have a one-stop shop,” Snyder said. “I’m excited because I’m in support of that. I think that’s a good idea because, again, it removes another barrier to being efficient.”

Federspiel said there are two major benefits to turning over the system, developed in 2006, to state control.

He explained that promptly being able to see what other agencies are doing will empower officers to do better police work, more efficiently.

“It’s going to be better information for us going forward,” Federspiel said. “From a law enforcement standpoint, that’s huge. It’s a tremendous information gatherer.”

The other benefit, he said, is that the state plans to provide the service to agencies at a lower cost.

“It’s going to be better information for us going forward. From a law enforcement standpoint, that’s huge,” -Saginaw County Sheriff William Federspiel

Federspiel currently contracts with 52 police agencies including all law enforcement agencies in Saginaw, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and Bay City Police, sheriffs in Iosco, Gladwin, Ogemaw and Tuscola counties, multiple agencies in Genesee County and educational institutions like Saginaw Valley State University, Delta College and Mott Community College. Each of those agencies pays a per-user fee of $267 annually for each sworn officer using the system.

Federspiel said that the state has promised to reduce those per-user fees to $200, meaning a lower cost for his own agency and all the others that are already part of ARMS, saving taxpayer money.

Brinningstaull said that all of the about 1,000 Michigan State Police troopers spread across Michigan will transition to the new State Records Management System in the next five years.

New system has advantages

Robert B. Phelps, a retired captain from the Saginaw County Sheriff’s office, now serves as director of the Statewide Records Management System.

Phelps said ARMS will provide the state police with advantages compared to its current records management system.

“It’s just a technological leap forward,” Phelps said.

The system won an award from the Michigan Government Management Information Sciences in 2008 for “Best Technology Project.”

On top of that, Phelps said it is exciting to think that so many police forces will finally be connected instead of all using different disconnected systems, which he said can be “counter-productive.”

The $3.6 million Competitive Assistance Grant will be roughly split in half between staffing costs and purchasing equipment and licenses necessary to expand the system, he said. For now, the servers will be kept in-house in Saginaw County, though Phelps said that could change once the transition to state control is complete.

Saginaw County, as the recipient of the grant, will act as the fiduciary agent, Federspiel explained to commissioners.

Saginaw County commissioners had previously signed off on a $6.6 million grant, the amount for which Federspiel initially applied. The sheriff said the smaller grant award would mean a little less grant-funded assistance will be available at the state level in transitioning the system, though he said he will continue to seek any financial assistance available.

The Competitive Grant Assistance Program was developed as a result of a 2011 directive from Gov. Rick Snyder that Michigan communities share services and be more efficient in order to get state revenue-sharing money.

About $11.7 million is available for this year’s awards, for which more than 40 applications were received by the Michigan Department of Treasury before a June 2013 deadline.

In addition to the Michigan State Police, Brinningstaull said the Department of Natural Resources’ law enforcement division and the Michigan Department of Corrections have expressed interest in adopting the system.

Unable to hide her excitement, she added that about six law enforcement agencies are currently considering joining, some of them “major agencies.”

“There has been a lot of movement,” Federspiel said. “We’re definitely getting a lot of interest in it.”