Butler County police adjusted to paper, maps dispatching after hack of sheriff’s communication system

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office dispatch center on Princeton Road in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
The Butler County Sheriff’s Office dispatch center on Princeton Road in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office communication system was hacked last week, and cybersecurity consultants are working to determine if information was compromised.

Chief Deputy Anthony Dwyer said emergency 911 operations were maintained throughout the incident and the computer aided dispatch (CAD) system took the brunt of the impact. He said that system is back online.

“Everything worked well, we didn’t lose anything and now we had to take stuff offline and kind of rebuild and reinstall CAD and now we’re back up and running,” Dwyer told the Journal-News.

He said the malware got into the system, and officials have been checking everything to see if any sensitive information has been compromised.

“It was a matter of common sense not to run arbitrary things (during that time),” Dwyer said. “But it was not hard to do if there they were doing an investigation, such as in during the (Hamilton) homicide. You could do what you had to do,” he said.

“Maybe a slight inconvenience, but not an operational failure.”

Dispatchers were using paper and looking at charts to know here to send emergency units.

“CAD is a computer system,” he said. “All computer systems can fail and we have a plan in place as back up. It is planned for. Now is it difficult, yes. Anytime we do a CAD update where there is a loss of functionality for a while and there is a plan to continue to function. Operations don’t just stop.”

The paper-and-maps system for dispatching brought back memories for Oxford Police Chief John Jones.

“I started as a dispatcher that’s how we stared we did things on paper cards,” he said. “It still works.

“Here at OPD, luckily we had some fall back because we used to be our own dispatch center. We still employ dispatch clerk. We were still able to access (a law enforcement information system) and run license plates and IDs when just had to switch to a different channel for the information.”

Jones said the department entered warrants and stolen car data for agencies and brought in extra personnel to help out.

The department uses the same reporting system as BCSO, so officers used printouts of forms to write report. They will be have to enter them into the system when it is fully functional.

“Fortunately, it is a slow time of year. I think we take for granted that infrastructure and how critical the security of it is,” Jones said. “Certainly impacted the agencies.”

Ross Twp. Police Chief Burt Roberts said his department has its own new record management system, so report taking and entering were not impacted. Roberts said there were other options they used to access law enforcement information systems.

“Law enforcement didn’t just shut down,” he said. “Believe it or not we actually did police work before computers came along.”

All along, law enforcement leaders stressed, the work was still being done.

“Technological issues are anticipate and we all have a back up plan,” said Fairfield Twp. Police Department Chief Robert Chabali. “The safety of the community and the officers remained intact.”

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