Aug 10 2018

Clarkstown Police Department Improves Operations with G Suite

The suburban New York law enforcement agency has turned to Google’s cloud platform as a way to improve communications and boost efficiency.

Clarkstown, N.Y., a town located about 30 miles outside of New York City, is rated the sixth-safest town in New York and has always had a technologically advanced Police Department, with computers in police cars back in the 1990s. The department is still striving to do all it can to evolve with the times, thanks to Google’s cloud-based G Suite.

In January, the Clarkstown Police Department spun up its own instance of G Suite, separate from the town’s account, according to Sgt. Brian Gorsky, who serves as the department’s head of IT.

The switch has enabled the Police Department to more effectively collaborate on documents through Google’s Team Drives feature. Having its own instance also gives the department more flexibility to add new features at its own pace. Additionally, it provides more security.

The Police Department, which has 156 officers and 70 civilian employees, has been using some form of G Suite since 2011, and the cloud suite has enhanced the department’s collaboration and communication, Gorsky says. He notes that for many police departments, the transition to the cloud “is sort of inevitable in some ways.”

Google declined to disclose how many local police departments use G Suite, saying that it does not break down customers by vertical market. “Cities and state governments across the country rely on G Suite to communicate and collaborate within their departments, with external agencies and constituents in the community,” a Google Cloud spokesperson tells StateTech.

Police departments, including the Maryland State Police, “use G Suite to increase productivity and collaboration and ultimately, improve community services,” the spokesperson adds.

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Clarkstown Police Department Modernizes Its IT with G Suite

Gorsky has been with the Clarkstown Police Department since 1994, and became a sergeant in 2001. In 2011, the department, realizing how much technology it was dealing with on a daily basis, created a new position akin to a director of technology, which Gorsky filled. He manages everything from computers to audiovisual equipment and the department’s communications center.

However, when Gorsky took on the role of IT sergeant in 2011, he says the department wasn’t “doing a great job of keeping up with the times.” The sergeant supervising the IT staff at the time was an administrative sergeant nearing retirement who wasn’t very computer savvy, Gorsky says.

“There was a little bit of a lack of focus and planning and proactivity,” Gorsky says. “I’d like to think that, when they created this position, I tried to pull everything together and look at the big picture.”

At the time, the town of Clarkstown was moving away from a locally hosted email system to Google’s Gmail, and the Police Department decided to migrate as well. Not every officer even had an email address back then, and the department only had Microsoft’s Outlook email client on five computers, which Gorsky rectified.

The switch to G Suite enhanced collaboration within the department, Gorsky says. “Communication was the biggest thing,” he notes. The Police Department gets a “tremendous amount” of information thrown at it, including intelligence on security threats from local, state and federal law enforcement authorities. The switch to the cloud has enabled simple yet powerful enhancements to the way the department does its business.

“Instead of printing out paper bulletins, we’re now putting them into Google Drive,” he says, and displaying them through Google Sites.

The Police Department now has the ability to search through documents much more easily, Gorsky adds. Previously, if an officer was looking for a specific document, “you had to go look through a stack of papers and hope that somebody didn’t throw it out,” he says.

Police Department Gets Its Own Instance of Google Cloud Services 

In January, the Police Department migrated all of its email, calendar and Google Drive data from the town’s G Suite instance to its own.

The department made the switch for several reasons, Gorksy says. He and another system administrator had backend access to G Suite, but could not easily add new cloud services. “It got to a point that there were features we wanted to use that we were paying for, and it was like pulling teeth to get services turned on,” he says.

The town’s instance of G Suite was “basic,” Gorsky says, and the Police Department wanted newer features like Team Drive that allow entire organizations to take ownership of files and easily store, search and access their files anywhere, from any device.

The use of Google Sites, combined with Google Drive, enabled the department to migrate from SharePoint to Google’s solutions.

Now, the Police Department has “the ability to control our own destiny,” Gorsky says. As Google introduces new features, the department can control whether it gets them on a rapid- or regular-release track. The department also now has a dedicated G Suite representative who helps workers learn more about G Suite and Google Cloud.

The Police Department is still delving into different areas of G Suite, and there is the potential to take advantage of new features down the line. “I can’t thrust too much technology on people here,” he says. “Their heads will explode.”

Gorsky says the Clarkstown Police Department is fortunate that it has as many resources to devote to IT as it does, since many police departments lack any technology officers.

Moving to the cloud allows law enforcement agencies to stop maintaining internal data center infrastructure, which saves time and money, Gorsky notes. However, that forces police departments to investment more in ensuring strong network connectivity and access to the internet. Clarkstown has a fiber-optic line and a cable modem as well as a wireless internet backup.

Over time, more police departments will embrace the cloud, Gorsky says. “As the generations move through the police departments … you’re going to see the lines of thinking of people coming up the ranks shift, and it’s going to be cloud-based.”

Photo courtesy of the Clarkstown Police Department

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