When a Russian hacker attempted a cyberattack on a Seymour Police Department server, quick action by IT Manager Ernie Davidson prevented any data from being collected.
When officers need updates on their dashboard cameras or have other technology needs, Davidson is there for them.
When the police station needs a new phone system or CAD upgrades, he is the one to do the work.
When dispatchers have suggestions to make their jobs easier, he is there to listen and make it happen.
For all Davidson does for SPD, Communications Supervisor Toby Ortman knew he was the perfect person to nominate for the Tom Brindle Award.
Earlier this year, Ortman received an email seeking nominations for the award, which is sponsored by INdigital for acknowledgment of technical contributions to 911 services in Indiana. Brindle was a thought leader for 911 in Indiana, providing guidance, ideas and leadership on how to use technology to improve 911 services for Hoosiers.
The Fort Wayne-based public safety provider seeks individuals or agencies that have used technology in some form to improve public safety services within the state to be nominated for the award. That can include deployment of new systems, software, policy, organization and/or procedures that improved 911 services utilizing technology.
“I thought Ernie would be perfect for it,” Ortman said. “We’ve had attempted cyberattacks that Ernie has caught. We’ve had server upgrades, servers that go down, our CAD goes down, CAD upgrades, everything. It’s like coal keeps the lights on, Ernie keeps the lights on.”
Ortman said anyone at SPD can call upon Davidson 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“If he’s out of state, he can remote in and fix things,” Ortman said. “He never tells you no. He always gets in there. He’s pretty special.”
When Ortman and Police Chief Greg O’Brien found out Davidson was selected for the award for 2022, they only told his wife.
While attending the Indiana 911 Professionals Conference, presented by the Indiana chapters of National Emergency Number Association and Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, O’Brien told Davidson they were going to check out new Motorola equipment.
Davidson didn’t suspect anything at that point because the department uses that equipment.
Then he saw signs for NENA and knew Ortman was at that conference.
O’Brien told Davidson they would go over and watch the opening ceremonies. Davidson still didn’t know about the award until it was announced.
“It was good enough to leave me speechless,” Davidson said. “I wouldn’t have ever thought. For that organization, that’s their most prestigious award, so it’s a big ordeal in telecommunications, 911.”
Ortman’s nomination letter was read during the opening ceremonies.
“Ernie works tirelessly to keep our system up and running,” Ortman wrote. “Ernie is a true advocate for 911 and first responders. Ernie’s years of experience and dedication have guided the city of Seymour and namely the Seymour Police Department through deep waters during server failures, CAD upgrades and cyberattacks that would have brought the entire department to a screeching halt if it were not for him and him alone.”
Ortman also noted how Davidson makes himself available at all times and is the “embodiment of what innovation is, as he is always moving forward into the future of technology.”
“Ernie is a friend, teacher and mentor to everyone here at the Seymour Police Department,” Ortman wrote. “Ernie was there in the beginning when 911 first came to Jackson County. Ernie is still here carrying out his mission to the department by protecting the critical equipment that in turn protects not only the citizens of Seymour but every first responder in Seymour.”
Davidson said he has always been partial to dispatch because that’s where he started nearly 40 years ago.
After he leaving the U.S. Air Force, Davidson went to college to become a computer technologist, but he decided he would rather be a police officer. He was a dispatcher for three years and spent 32 years as a police officer.
“I always played with computers and fixed people’s computers and different stuff, so I ended up here doing that,” he said.
He retired in 2018 and was gone from SPD for about six months until coming back as IT manager.
“A server had overheated and had to be replaced and data had to be retrieved. That’s when they called me to come back since I knew it,” said Davidson, who had spent his last five years an an officer helping with IT-related needs for the department.
“When I left for retirement, times were changing. It was time to go,” he said. “But the reason why I came back is because the officers on the street need support. I’m loyal to the police officers of the Seymour Police Department. They soon become like family after so many years, so I didn’t leave them hanging.”
In his role, Davidson keeps up with the latest and greatest technology so dispatchers, officers and other SPD staff can do their jobs to the best of their ability.
With the award, even though his name is on it, Davidson said he considers it an honor for the department.
“It’s more about the whole police department as far as I’m concerned.” he said. “Yeah, my name is the one attached to it, but it’s because of those dispatchers and everyone else is the reason why I was able to do what I do. The award is not all about me. It’s about everybody here. It’s across the board, and it has to be with the technology now. If we don’t keep up with the technology, the criminals beat us.”