Philadelphia Police Prepare for High-Stakes Pope Francis Visit

Published: September 16, 2015

Given that the company’s acronym is NICE Systems, maybe it’s no surprise officials are donating additional 9-1-1 call recording and incident management equipment to the Philadelphia Police Department for Pope Francis’ visit to the city later this month.

Then again, it’s fairly rare to see any company willingly eschew profitability in the name of philanthropy these days, although it’s certainly not unprecedented. Maybe the folks at NICE were just inspired by the idea of ensuring the visit by the leader of the Roman Catholic Church wouldn’t be uninterrupted or inconvenienced by essentially doubling the number of people who’ll be in the City of Brotherly Love hoping to catch a glimpse of the Popemobile.

Either way, NICE is donating its technology and services to help the Philadelphia Police Department—a longtime customer—equip a temporary 9-1-1 center that will be set up to handle the anticipated higher volume of calls during the papal visit. Philadelphia is the third stop on the Pope’s U.S. tour, which kicks off Sept. 22. The Philadelphia Police Department has been using NICE’s recording solutions in its main 9-1-1 center for over a decade.

The department includes more than 6,600 sworn members and 800 civilian personnel. The PPD is the primary law enforcement agency responsible for serving Philadelphia County, extending more than 140 square miles.

“We wanted to be part of the solution for them,” says John Rennie, general manager of NICE Systems. “Even though it’s a business, it’s also part of a community. It’s a rare and popular visit so it’s a bit of an exceptional circumstance. In the public safety space, it’s a little more of a community.”

NICE records and captures 9-1-1 information in thousands of cities around the world. For the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia, they’re sending along temporary software, equipment and services, with the expectation the PPD won’t need it after Pope Francis moves on and returns to Rome.

“From an emergency communications standpoint, preparing for an event of this scope and magnitude is no small feat,” said Sgt. Gregory C. Masi of the Philadelphia Police Department Communications Division.

Chris Wooten, executive VP of the NICE Security Group, says the donation “reinforces our commitment to helping leading law enforcement agencies manage their public safety needs both day-to-day and in special circumstances.”

NICE will have a technician who lives and works in the Philadelphia area when Pope Francis comes to the city on the last Saturday of September, says Rennie, in case the PPD encounters any sort of glitch or problem.

“The chances of something being wrong are low, but the consequences of that could be high,” he says.

Although it’s unlikely Pope Francis was consulted on the security and public safety plan for his visit to the U.S., he’s already shown himself to be a faith leader who embraces modern views and technology.

And NICE’s gesture joins other high-profile philanthropic efforts, including the donation of time and equipment for those who survived the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings a few years ago, an effort that brought competitors together to help those who needed their assistance and expertise.

Before Pope Francis gets to Philly, though, his address to Congress in Washington, D.C., will be shown on several giant LED screens on the National Mall.

GoVision will place a 19-foot-by-33-foot G16 unit and a 17-foot-by-27-foot G12 unit on the U.S. Capitol lawn for the general public to watch the historic summit. They’ll also set up three 9-foot-by-16-foot LED walls comprising GV6mm ultra-lightweight panels on the steps of the Capitol for invited dignitaries and other VIP attendees, the company said.

“One-day events just don’t get any bigger than this, so we couldn’t be more honored to have been tasked with this incredibly important responsibility,” said Chris Curtis, CEO and founder of GoVision L.P., in the announcement. “We know what an enormous undertaking it is to broadcast live video from the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, especially with the entire world watching. But our team is up to the challenge, and we’re ready to be a part of history.”

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