Rural Michigan sheriff’s office joins FirstNet to improve community response

by FirstNet editorial

Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Office uses smart devices to increase field connectivity

Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Office in rural Michigan serves a population of about 47,000 people across 600 square miles. Communication is central to its daily work of protecting the community – at headquarters or in the field.

With a staff of 24, including deputies and supervisors, the agency expressed a need for better technology to be more effective when responding to community requests. In an internal department survey, deputies cited smartphones as their most important tool.

Todd Moore, Operations Lieutenant for Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Office, applied for a community grant to fund the technology requests. But when it was denied due to the high expense, he continued researching his options. That’s when he heard about FirstNet, the dedicated broadband network built with and for public safety, when and where they need it.

Lt. Moore worked with FirstNet, Built with AT&T, to create a package to fit the department’s operational needs. FirstNet equipped Hillsdale County deputies with Samsung devices, including Gear S3 wearables and Galaxy Smartphones.

“FirstNet is a great program that was cost-effective for a smaller agency,” said Lt. Moore. 


New technology is critical 


Having that reliable connectivity has made the biggest impact for the sheriff’s office. Before FirstNet, deputies had to drive up to 30 minutes back to the office to make follow-up calls. The staff is much more efficient now that deputies can make calls on-scene or directly from their car using FirstNet. And they save countless hours and valuable resources, Lt. Moore said. FirstNet has also helped the agency make progress toward other goals, such as “going paperless.” Personnel do most of their reporting electronically now.

“We use the smartphones as a staff camera to take crime scene photos and upload them into our report writing system,” Lt. Moore said. “We also use them to scan documents, including booking sheets and written statement forms, allowing us to move closer to being a paperless agency.”

Officer safety and community engagement

The network and new devices have helped strengthen officer safety, Lt. Moore said. The smartwatch wearables have a feature that allows deputies to send an “SOS” notification with the push of a button. This way they can communicate with dispatch if they’re in a compromising situation and need backup; or if they can’t place a call or radio for assistance.

Staying connected with the community is also a high priority for Hillsdale County. The department created a mobile app that allows the public to receive department notices in real-time. And the public is able to make direct contact with staff members via email, through the app’s “contact us” tab. Lt. Moore said the department eliminated voicemail completely because calls now transfer automatically to the deputies’ smartphones.

“FirstNet is moving us into the next generation of law enforcement,” Lt. Moore said. “It’s a huge help for us and we’re able to keep up with the times with dependable technology.”