Newswise — For Cynthia Vetter, the worst of all possible nightmares came true on August 3, 2000. That morning, at 10:25 a.m., her 28-year-old husband—Texas Department of Public Safety highway patrol officer Randall Wade Vetter—pulled over Melvin Hale, a 72-year-old driver, for not wearing a seatbelt. Hale was known to some local officers in Hays County, Texas for threatening to shoot any officer who tried to issue him a ticket for this very infraction. However, since law enforcement agencies do not share information, other local law enforcement officers and agencies were unaware of the threat, nor was the Texas DPS. What should have been a routine stop turned tragic when Hale exited his vehicle and mortally wounded the trooper. Trooper Vetter died four days later, leaving behind his grieving wife and their eight-month-old son.
As it turned out, the Vetters were friends with two other law enforcement officers, Russell Chaney and J. Shane Rapp. In the wake of Vetter’s death, Chaney and Rapp resolved that such an incident—in which an officer was put in harm’s way due to failure to disseminate information in a timely manner about a potentially dangerous individual—should never happen again. The company they subsequently founded, Dallas-based COPsync, Inc., has developed remarkable technology to achieve this goal. And 15 years after the tragedy, Cynthia Vetter is honoring her late husband’s memory—by serving COPsync as its Director of Communication.
COPsync’s Network includes COPsync Enterprise, a suite of 20 modules that enables law enforcement patrol officers to communicate in real-time, share non-adjudicated information, and send real-time alerts of crimes in progress to officers in other law enforcement agencies, regardless of agency jurisdiction or distance. Officers on the COPsync Network thus can communicate between and among themselves as if they were one law enforcement agency. The Network also equips officers with electronic tools to speed efficiency, such as e-citation, e-crash reporting and electronic law reference. So far, COPsync has attracted more than 1,100 law enforcement agencies, courts and schools to its subscriber base, with subscribers in Texas, Louisiana, California, Mississippi and New England; and the company is working to expand its network nationwide. Additionally, the COPsync Network fulfills the purposes of the national “Blue Alert” law, signed into law by President Obama in May 2015, requiring instant nationwide “Blue Alerts” to warn about threats to police officers and help track down the suspects who make them.
COPsync’s technology turned out to have a substantial additional benefit: it could help keep schools safer. The importance of this was not lost on Cynthia Vetter, thanks to her professional background in education: she has worked as a teacher consultant for the National Writing Project, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction and co-director of the Central Texas Writing Project at Texas State University, and professional development coordinator for the North Star Writing Project in Rio Grande Valley, Texas.
COPsync’s alert system for schools, COPsync911, is activated by school staff when a threatening situation arises, and allows the staff to send an immediate and silent alert to all other staff, the local law enforcement dispatch center and the closest law enforcement officers in their patrol cars as determined by GPS. The system can inform patrol officers of the threat faster than dialing 9-1-1; hence, they arrive on the scene quicker and equipped with up-to-the-minute situational information about the unfolding violence. A simple click of a button is all that is required, rather than a conversation.
Through the service, officers receive the threat alerts directly to the computers in their patrol cars. They can then immediately access a map to see the location of the school, and view a diagram of the building’s interior so no time is wasted determining the exact location of the threat. The school staff, the responding officers and the local dispatcher communicate about the incident as it unfolds via a “crisis communications portal.” Thus, when arriving on the scene, officers are equipped with up-to-the-minute situational information, which helps them develop an effective tactical response plan. The COPsync911 threat alert system can save minutes, when seconds count.
In the decade and a half since the Randall Vetter tragedy, police and schools are still being put in harm’s way, as today’s headlines reveal with depressing regularity. But an observer like Cynthia Vetter—with both personal and professional interests in improving matters—can look with satisfaction on how her company is making a positive difference.