Data Sharing Helps Track Down Killer
First responders are used to dealing with the unexpected, but it's not every day that two different calls for service result in connecting two grisly murders.
In September of 2017, dispatchers at the Shawnee County Emergency Center (SCECC) routed first responders from the Topeka Fire Dept. and Topeka Police Dept. to an apartment complex for two seemingly unrelated calls.
The first call involved a small fire at an apartment unit within the complex. The second call involved a person with injuries who needed assistance. Both calls for service seemed routine and first responders were prepared to be on the scene quickly and ready to assist. However, the situation took a turn when responders arrived on the scene.
A body was discovered at the apartment fire — which was quickly extinguished — and first responders knew in an instant that the individual had not died from smoke inhalation.
'Due to the condition of the body, first responders knew in an instant that they had just entered into the scene of a homicide,' training officer with the Topeka Fire Dept. Alan Stahl said.
Meanwhile, the first responders in a nearby apartment unit responding to the call for service regarding a man with injuries discovered they were actually dealing with a violent crime. The individual in the apartment had been stabbed repeatedly, and was rushed to the hospital and died hours later from his injuries.
'Dispatchers provide first responders with as much information as they can,' Stahl said. 'But sometimes, without actually being on the scene, dispatchers can only know so much.'
As first responders from both agencies communicated with dispatch while on their respective scenes, mission-critical information about both cases was linked in the SCECC's computer aided dispatch (CAD) system and shared across the mobile data terminals (MDTs) in the first responders' vehicles.
'Crews on the scene were able to share information with the police department and vice versa,' Stahl said. 'Being on the same CAD system provided us with a way to share everything with dispatch and all of the agencies on the scene in real time. Communications about the case became seamless when the two calls for service were linked in mobile and the CAD system.'
By linking the two separate calls for service, all responders have instant access to real-time information in the call narrative. This data is accessible in mobile data terminals located in all police, fire and EMS vehicles and includes the status and location of all apparatus on the call. It provides every responder with access to the same information about the calls, which helps improve and streamline the response.
'All personnel assigned to the call shared information instantly and without radios,' Stahl said. 'It is quite comforting to the fire crews to see the number of police units assigned to the call and the information the police dispatcher is entering.'
With information about the two calls readily available within the CAD system, first responders shared information in real time between each other and with dispatch. This prevented congestion on radio channels and streamlined the response.
'Once on the same call, all units get information about a call instantly,' Stahl said. 'There is no question. You don't need to ask the dispatcher for more information. Mobile has sped up the information flow and increased the safety of our units drastically. This benefits our citizens as well as we response more rapidly and with the right information.'
As for the double homicide at the apartment complex, law enforcement officers tracked down the suspect who also lived in the complex. The individual — who had an extensive criminal background — was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Watch: Multi-Jurisdictional Data Sharing With the Topeka Fire Department