Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Men in Blue: Paul Keys

Officer Paul Keys. Photo by Val Simon

Officer Paul Keys. Photo by Val Simon

by Danielle Dodder

It is no small feather in your cap to say that you worked to help found a police department, but that’s just the opportunity officer Paul Keys found when he came to Marco in 1999. Like many of the Marco Island Police Department officers, Keys arrived from a big city ‘up North’ and used his hard-earned experience to grow the nascent department.

Keys is one of eight founding officers of the Marco PD. “It was a unique opportunity. Police departments don’t just spring up all the time.” When Keys signed up for duty the department was nothing but a concept. “There was nothing: no papers, cars, badges. We begged, borrowed and allocated but in about four months we were certified.” The Collier County Sheriff’s Office helped guide the process. Keys is proud of the progress the police department has made over the years.

Keys has been meeting the Marco PD’s IT needs for 13 years. He has a background in both computer programming and law enforcement. He tends to all the department’s technology needs, from wiring to the latest state crash reporting requirements.

The latter is a New Year’s project for Keys and the department is actually ahead of the technology curve: the State of Florida changed its requirements for crash reports on paper, which the department files electronically because the Marco Island police cars are now connected to the office computer system.

“The officer can access everything he or she needs from the car and it keeps the officer out on the street longer,” says Keys. Vehicle connectivity lets the officer report on a crash from the scene and complete the shift without having to take time to return to the office and report on each incident.

Keys is also impressed with the department’s auto plate reader, a mobile system attached to a patrol car that allows the police to record and quick search a parking lot’s worth of license plates. It also works on speeds up to 100 miles an hour. The system can automatically alert an officer to a license attached to a reported offense or create a list of potential witnesses or suspects in the vicinity of a crime.

“This technology is actually quite old in places like the UK and Germany and it’s just starting to trickle down into the States,” says Keys.

Keys operates FRED, the department’s forensic computer. “We use this as much to disprove allegations as to prove guilt,” he points out. Anything ever recorded on the hard drive of common electronic devices is fair game for FRED to detect.

Greater efficiency in the face of necessary cuts will be part of Keys’ 2011 goals for the department. The Collier County Sheriff’s office is looking to Marco to create an electronic dispatch officer to relay non-emergency information.

When someone calls 911, emergency operations will still relay the call to dispatch and it will still be broadcast over the emergency channel. Routine and non-emergency procedures will need to be relayed through an automated dispatch.

“The CCSO is in a crunch, just like the rest of us,” he says.

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