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Cisco IP Communications Increases Safety, Saves Dollars for Bernalillo County

Metro Courthouse in Bernalillo County, New Mexico seeks converged network solution for new courthouse building.

New IP network enables innovative procedures, including conducting interviews and arraignments via video saving money, increasing officer and public safety, and providing the infrastructure for growth.

September 21, 2005

By Cindy McDowell, News@Cisco

Bernalillo County, New Mexico planned its new court building around the use of new technology. The new building would be four times the size of the existing courthouse, and county IT Director Paul Royball and his team wanted to implement a converged network solution. A new network would help enable innovative procedures, such as using video to conduct prisoner interviews and arraignments-saving money, increasing officer and public safety, and providing the infrastructure for years of growth.

Royball and his team selected Network Architects, with headquarters in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to help them fulfill their technology goals. As the largest Cisco® Gold Certified Partner in New Mexico and West Texas, Network Architects has designed and implemented WANs and LANs for businesses; local, state, and federal governments; universities; hospitals; banks; and other institutions throughout New Mexico and Texas. The firm holds Cisco specializations in IP Communications, security, and wireless.

"New Mexico is forward-thinking," says Mike French, CEO of Network Architects. "The state government understands that consolidation is critical to cost savings, and uses proper governmental structure to achieve this."

The positive, ongoing business relationship with French and Network Architects was a crucial component in the design and deployment of the Cisco IP Communications solution for the new courthouse.

"We had a lot of time to plan this deployment, but the cutover needed to happen in a few hours," says Royball. "Network Architects had the expertise we needed, and is a Cisco partner, which was extremely important."

French and the Network Architects team worked closely with Royball from the project's onset. French understood the type of converged network infrastructure that Royball wanted, as well as its intended use in addressing the court's business processes.

"We took Paul's vision and designed a Cisco Unity voice communications system and a Cisco IP Contact Center application to meet the county's specific voice, video, and data needs," says French. "Paul wanted to use the converged network fully-and run applications 24 hours a day."

The biggest challenge for the Network Architects team was the cutover of the phone system. The court could not afford to have any downtime and its staff needed to retain existing phone extensions as they transitioned to the new building.

"Coordination and timing were critical and the cutover had to be expertly executed," says Royball.

The Network Architects team tested the converged network system at the new courthouse facility prior to the cutover.

According to French, it wasn't easy. "Until the carrier cut over all the lines, we couldn't fully test it, but we did as much as we could and it alleviated a lot of the problems that could have cropped up after deployment," he says.

Royball attributes the problem-free cutover to Network Architects' planning and testing, and to thorough end-user training.

"We made sure every end user was properly oriented to the new system," says French. "Many people don't realize how different voice is from data. Voice is end-user technology-you have to familiarize every single user to have a successful implementation. We worked closely with the Metro Court to ensure a thorough and formal training program was in place." Bernalillo County now enjoys a converged network that helps court employees work more productively, provides greater service to the public, and offers flexibility for necessary expansion and the addition of new technologies.

One of the greatest benefits of the new system is the use of videoconferencing to arraign prisoners. The prison is located approximately 17 miles away from the court building, where nearly 100 prisoners were arraigned each day. The county was spending about $30,000 a month to transport prisoners to and from the courthouse. When a prisoner being transported for arraignment killed a sheriff, the county and state were committed to finding a better way to handle arraignments.

"Losing that sheriff was a catalyst for putting a better system in place," says Royball. "By handling arraignments through video, we not only save money, but we ensure the safety of the public and of our corrections officers. When it comes to somebody's life, you can't put a price on safety."

Video arraignments have proved so successful that the county has expanded the use of video to include the interview process for people being held in custody, as well as the process of issuing bonds. Now that these tasks can be accomplished at the court building through IP video, the county has been able to reduce the number of staff needed at the jail.

"We are reaching the critical adoption point of IP communications, and with Cisco's help we are moving our business to the next level," says French. "Cisco has the right structure to bring value to both its channel partners and its end users."

Cindy McDowell is a freelance journalist located in Santa Cruz, CA.

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