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Chief Tracy Aaron and the Mansfield, TX, PD Test CONNECT/Evertel

All across the country, law enforcement agencies have turned to the Genasys Protect CONNECT (formerly Evertel) app as their chosen solution for faster, compliant communication. The Mansfield, Texas, Police Department was able to be one of the beta testers for the software. And not surprisingly, they’ve continued to utilize the platform through all of its updates—and even share it with some of their neighboring cities.

Meet Chief Tracy Aaron

Chief Tracy Aaron is based in Mansfield, Texas. He assumed the role of Mansfield Chief of Police in 2014 after serving as Chief Marshall for nearly six years. When he first started with the Mansfield PD in 1989, the city’s population was 22,000. Today, the city has grown to 72,000 with 106 sworn officers. The suburban city is just south of Arlington and is located within the greater Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex area. New neighborhoods are being built all the time. Naturally, the PD has had to keep pace with the developments.

Living in the area for decades and working his way through the chain of command has helped inform Chief Aaron of how to strategically build and expand a team along with the population growth. A major component of this is to hire the right employees. Yet he’s also someone who always looks out for new ways to get the best tools for the job. That’s why the opportunity to beta-test the CONNECT software was really appealing to Chief Aaron. He was in a unique position to share crucial, initial feedback on the features that would help make this app even better right out of the gate.

The CONNECT Beta Experience

The CONNECT app was specifically designed for law enforcement and first responders. The company’s president and co-founder, Jeff Halstead, is the retired Fort Worth Chief of Police. When he personally reached out to invite Chief Aaron in 2022 to be part of the original beta testing for the CONNECT product, there wasn’t any hesitation. True to character, Chief Aaron was immediately onboard and ready to learn more. Improving LE communication means faster response times, and that directly translates to saving lives.

Chief Aaron’s beta-testing process for Mansfield included himself, his supervisors, and the public information team. All in all, it was a great experience. They were able to provide plenty of feedback, and the CONNECT developers were all ears.

“I feel like I was a valued partner,” said Chief Aaron. “And that partnership helped make CONNECT even better over time, for sure.”
This type of collaboration benefits all parties. Following up with real-life app users means the CONNECT team will continue to make their software solution even better. Plus, it also gives Chief Aaron the ability to work with a tool that’s truly built with public safety professionals in mind.

“Literally any type of issue that we brought to their attention was addressed,” said Chief Aaron.
Having a dedicated customer service team with a good response time was yet another great reason to move forward with CONNECT permanently. Plus, the onboarding process had also proven to be pretty seamless for his team.

Deploying CONNECT

The initial setup with CONNECT was easily completed without any problems. Even better, he already has knowledgeable staff members within his agency.

“We’ve got good IT people—three absolutely great IT people,” said Chief Aaron. “They’re dedicated to the police department and take care of the mobile devices. But there’s not a whole lot of maintenance with CONNECT.”
Having a point person to manage the department’s issued phones is still critical, though, especially for their specialty units, such as SWAT and negotiators. What’s more, his captain over the IT department can have people coming on the app on any given day. They make it a point to get new hires on the CONNECT platform right away.

“When you have new officers, they don’t have the information for all that’s happened, even what started two days ago,” said Chief Aaron.
But with CONNECT, every employee can get brought up to speed. Once their account is set up, all they need to do is scroll through the messages. This is similar to texting threads, yet much more organized. The app also has “easy searchability for previously submitted data,” said Chief Aaron.
CONNECT isn’t like other communications platforms, where it’s hard to find the exact content you need. Whenever someone joins the SWAT team, for example, they can go back and review any information that other people had access to days, weeks, or even months ago.

App Communication vs Email

Law enforcement agencies across the country are eager to increase their speed in responding to events. But there’s also the struggle of bringing a faster timeline to day-to-day operations. The traditional way of doing things simply isn’t viable anymore.

“Finding information in email is impossible,” said Chief Aaron. “It takes forever.”
This is a common complaint all across the industry. Email simply isn’t well organized. Then we have the problem of a typical response time with email. Law enforcement professionals aren’t able to check their email accounts around the clock, so it isn’t realistic for someone to expect an immediate reply, even if the situation is critical. Fortunately, communicating on an app makes it easier to respond ASAP.

“I check CONNECT and text messages immediately,” said Chief Aaron. “But I’ve set CONNECT on a different tone, so I know which messages are coming through. It draws attention a lot quicker.”
Because the CONNECT solution operates similarly to public texting apps, it’s accessible and intuitive. Keeping our phones within reach is almost second nature. That makes it more convenient to respond quickly to any crisis or question. Moreover, communicating on CONNECT keeps all of your case information in one place.

Chatrooms for the Mansfield PD

Every PD knows that it’s imperative to protect their intelligence and keep organized because it is discoverable in trials. Working within CONNECT keeps conversations simple and effective because you can set up different chatrooms by topic or team.

“My executive staff room and direct reports have a room. And my lieutenants over the night and dayshift have a room to communicate just with the shift,” said Chief Aaron.
This level of organization in CONNECT makes workflow streamlined, secure, and more efficient. The agency’s media team is able to extract the necessary information at a moment’s notice, and it’s easy to assign case numbers to any conversation, include them in their case files, and then close the room. The CONNECT platform even saves those records automatically.

The Mansfield PD also uses CONNECT to plan ahead. Chief Aaron already has a chatroom created in advance for live incidents that stays on the app dashboard. Then, whenever a serious event comes along, the team can start communicating right on scene to quickly share the site address and status updates with other officers.

This has proven to be much more effective than fielding multiple phone calls to all of the supervisors. CONNECT allows everyone to receive the same information at the same time. A quick look at your phone can get you up-to-speed about what’s happening on scene and help you learn who the point person will be.

“This also helps if I get a phone call from the press. We have a PIO room that lets the group talk about any live incident going on, so I always have the latest information,” said Chief Aaron.
Chief Aaron will even run monthly and weekly reports to review activity within the app. This helps confirm that employees are using CONNECT as their primary means of communication.

“Once the people assigned to patrol can get on the app and demo it for themselves, then they’re more comfortable with using it, and it becomes second nature when they show up on-scene,” said Chief Aaron. “They just send a text instead of an email because everyone gets those messages right away.”
Chief Aaron also said that a significant change in efficacy came recently when he issued city cell phones to all his sworn personnel. With that update, officers are now able to take quick crime scene pictures in anticipation of the crime unit arriving. The officer can then route the photo to the case file on the CONNECT app. They no longer need to have issued cameras and drop such pictures into evidence.
The CONNECT platform helps his employees respond to situations as soon as possible, all throughout the city. And every step of the way, the app works to keep all of their conversations and files organized too.

Interoperability on CONNECT

The fact that CONNECT keeps his agency and employees compliant with the records retention requirements is a huge benefit regarding peace of mind for Chief Aaron. He also appreciates that the platform’s chatrooms have the ability to invite officers from other agencies.

“We’d love to have even more guys collaborate,” said Chief Aaron. “We already work really well with them, and two agencies near us are getting on CONNECT, which is good for everyone.”
To help facilitate these connections, the Mansfield PD has set up a CONNECT chatroom for the entire North Texas police organization. This helps reduce crime in their region even faster. On CONNECT, agencies can quickly sync up their intelligence for any type of situation, whether that’s responding to a natural disaster, a missing person report, or even a live shooter event. Speed makes all the difference in keeping their communities safe.

Forward-Focused for Public Safety

The Mansfield PD has been able to enjoy great success with the CONNECT platform, and they look forward to sharing the communications solution with other agencies. Every employee can use the app to protect themselves from civil liabilities with the records retention requirements, and CONNECT is also making their workflow more effective and streamlined too—across the board.

“I don’t even think we’re utilizing everything that CONNECT has to offer yet,” said Chief Aaron.
This potential is exciting because it means that their agency could be able to address public safety concerns even faster, year over year. It’s truly been a win-win for everyone in the community and beyond!
 
The team at CONNECT is always happy to speak with law enforcement, public safety professionals, and elected officials across the country! If you have any questions or you’d like to set up a demo of the CONNECT platform, please don’t hesitate to contact us.