Tech to the rescue: cell phone app saves time, energy, and resources for officers in the field


Huntington Beach Police Sgt. Shawn White was appalled at the wasted time, energy, and resources experienced by officers as they serve the community.

Instead of throwing up his hands in frustration, White determined to find a solution.

Thus was born a unique and successful collaboration between the Huntington Beach Police Department and Joe Ramirez, CEO of Apex Mobile, an Orange County company offering tech solutions to the public safety sector.

The result of their collaboration – an expanded, customizable, and improved cell phone app called Apex IRIS – promises to increase productivity and efficiency while streamlining communications for officers and their agencies.

“Every police agency is shorthanded now,” White said. “Time is of the essence for us when responding to calls, so any way to make the job more efficient and save time is crucial. We’re able to do all this through the app, which offers us all the tools we need at our fingertips.”

Ramirez, who lives in Foothill Ranch, is thrilled about the collaboration and the future of IRIS.

“When we hear from officers who say the app has made their jobs easier and faster, it’s rewarding,” Ramirez says. “We leverage funding and technology… freeing them up for patrol and community face time.”

Harnessing White’s input, IRIS now allows officers to:

  • Keep updated handbooks and phone directories online, ensuring that officers in the field can access the correct phone numbers, procedures, and important information.
  • Access business cards and brochures, fliers, and pamphlets to distribute to contacts in the community.
  • Streamline the forms and information officers need to file, as well as those distributed to crime victims, in one easily accessible place so that forms can be emailed or texted as necessary.
  • Offer up-to-the-minute crime bulletins in an easily accessed, organized format, so that officers searching for a suspect or vehicle description save valuable time.
  • Provide effective communication tools for supervisors managing officers in the field.

In addition, Ramirez notes, officers and supervisors can immediately access forms required by RIPA, the Racial and Identity Profiling Act, which is designed to eliminate racial and identity profiling through collaboration, transparency, and accountability.

“We envision IRIS growing in a collaborative effort to develop solutions with continuous updates, and RIPA provides an easy demonstration of that,” Ramirez explains. “We have an internet form that officers must send to the California Department of Justice, and the form is the same for everyone. Making it accessible to all departments would mean using taxpayer dollars in better ways.”

Another example of IRIS’s efficiency is officers’ ability to pull up current maps and pinpoint locations when responding to a call for assistance from a school, park, business campus, or other large area, White says.

Photo provided by Apex Mobile.

The IRIS app is fully customizable based on each department’s needs, scope, and requirements, Ramirez notes, and since the technology already exists the company isn’t charging new clients repeatedly for development of the software.

Included in the app are four or five key features every agency needs, most of them based on input from law enforcement, with tweaks for the specific needs of each department.

“I foresee that we’ll continue to grow as we translate technology into solutions,” he predicts. “We are building a network of advocates, including law enforcement officers who tell us that they are able to do their jobs better and safer using the app.”

Presently 10 to 12 agencies, mostly in California, are using versions of the IRIS app, Ramirez says, and interest is growing.

Besides customizing Huntington Beach Police Department’s IRIS app for everyday use, Ramirez says, he worked with White to adapt the app for officers faced with changes mandated by the coronavirus pandemic.

White explains that when the Huntington Beach Police Department had to send non-essential employees home, many did not have department email access to receive COVID-19 information. 

“We were able to use the IRIS app to communicate with all our employees,” White says. “We pushed out daily updates, county orders, video messages from our chief, etc. This allowed employees to stay informed of the situation and not return to the unknown.”

In addition, he says, the department added forms and resources to the app that were specific to the coronavirus pandemic for officers to use in the field, including an exposure report that officers complete if they are exposed to the virus. 

“Submitting this form would immediately notify human resources so they could begin contact tracing and getting that employee resources they needed,” White explains. Another form was a daily check-in form that officers would complete daily if they were exposed or tested positive. This form allowed human resources to know what the employee’s daily symptoms were and whether they were improving to help determine a return to work timeline, White said.

Pandemic resources in the app included California executive orders, emergency protocols, Huntington Beach-specific directives, and Orange County Health Care Agency orders. As the information changed, Huntington Beach Police Department could the app so officers always had the most up-to-date information.

“This information was vital in educating the public on beach closures and mandates, and provided enforcement guidelines for violations we were not familiar with enforcing,” White said. “We are still using the app to this day for reporting exposures and putting out updated resources.”  

Presently, Ramirez is working to develop a healthcare app for first responders that will join the suite of apps and services already offered by Apex Mobile.

White says he remains impressed with the capabilities of the IRIS app.

“I would love to see more agencies using it,” he said. “This technology is the wave of the future. It ensures we’re providing the most current and accurate information and saves time and energy for our officers in the field.”

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