‘Driving a culture change’: Calif. sheriff’s department new tech center to increase efficiency, communications By:

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By Annika BahnsenThe Orange County Register

TUSTIN, Calif. — The Orange County Sheriff’s Department unveiled its new $110 million technology center Thursday morning, a one-stop-shop for its communications and technology operations.

Located in Tustin, the center features a real-time communications section, terrorism center, media briefing room, collaborative office spaces for trainees and developers and a mechanics area for police vehicles.

“We are driving a culture change in the way we utilize technology, and I look forward to seeing the solutions-focused ways we will prevent crime, solve cases and improve quality of life for our residents,” Orange County Sherrif Don Barnes said.

The department will now, Barnes said, be able to “synergize technology that was not necessarily available beforehand.”

All dispatch, emergency communications, federal partnerships for crimes and hazardous detection services will be run solely out of this new center.

The center also brings three OCSD divisions — technology, operations support and intelligence, and special operations — together under one roof. This will “enhance our ability to protect our community,” said Barnes.

“This has all been incorporated into a single location that’s intended to increase efficiency of our operation,” Barnes said. “It gives us information about our outcomes and immediate responses to incidents that are occurring in real-time.”

One new feature the technology center provides is the ability for law enforcement to “tap into” public and private cameras — from entities that partner with the department — around the county.

Through an interface called Fusus, the Sheriff’s Department will be able to connect to cameras at any partnering city, school or private business to properly asses a potential crime or emergency situation. To be a part of this program, a business or city must have the Fusus technology, OCSD spokesperson Jaimee Blashaw said. Once permissions are granted by both parties, OCSD can access and use the cameras when needed.

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For example, if there’s an emergency, like a shooting at a school, OCSD’s technology division will be able to connect to the campus’s cameras to find out where first responders are needed, Barnes said.

OCSD already has a partnership in place with Lake Forest . The department utilizes “license-plate reading cameras” throughout the city as well as a new crime-data reporting system which gives OCSD the ability to spot local crime trends in real time, said Lake Forest spokesperson Jonathan Volzke.

And in addition to all of the new technologies at the building, the center is also home to decades of OCSD memorabilia.

A portion of the bottom floor of the building holds artifacts from the department’s 100-plus-year history, including an original replica of a county jail cell and a 1962 Chrysler Newport patrol car. Since the new center is not open to the public, the memorabilia room will just be available to trainees and anyone the department invites, but it may be open by appointment in the future, Barnes said.

The 120,000-square-foot building was bought in 2022 and fully funded through tax dollars.

“I am a big believer in taxpayer dollars being invested wisely,” Barnes said. “We don’t throw money in the hole, and we don’t have the money to get thrown in a hole so every dollar we spend in my budget is a dollar not available somewhere else.”

The memorabilia museum, however, was privately funded by about $750,000 in donations. The goal is to raise a total of $900,000 for the space, which Barnes said is on the horizon.

The building has been up and running for just over a month now and has already been utilized. The conference room served as headquarters for local police authorities when a pro-Palestinian encampment was cleared on May 15 .

“We had our intel analysts and officers coming here and we were getting real-time feed off of cameras at UC Irvine,” Barnes said. “This center was really robustly used then.”

On Thursday, June 27, OCSD hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony with local community leaders, including Orange County CEO Frank Kim and Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Doug Chaffee.

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