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L.A. County Sheriff's Department Gets Tough

Written by Tim Burke

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LACSD) recently made the decision to get Panasonic Toughbook mobile computers for their entire fleet of patrol cars. When the program is fully implemented in approximately two years, more than 2,400 of the units will be deployed throughout the fleet. That’s a lot of computers in a lot of police cars. Captain Scott Edson, Bureau Commander, Communications and Fleet Management Bureau, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department took time out of his busy day to respond to some questions about the program, including how the LACSD picked this brand. “We scored several responses to our agency’s needs in our Request for Proposal,” Edson said, “and the Toughbook, integrated by Raytheon, scored the highest.”

The mobile computers used by deputies, and the system itself, were first deployed in patrol cars at LASD’s Industry Sheriff's station, then Lancaster and Palmdale Sheriff’s Station. Captain Edson further indicated that “they will continue station by station until all the stations and specialized units have them; about 35 facilities in all”

“They are mounted,” he said, “and locked in the patrol cars, patrol boats, command post vehicles and in motorcycle saddlebags. Sheriff’s deputies are dispatched calls over the computer, have access to the Sheriff’s Data Network, Intranet and other criminal databases, all from within their vehicles.”

Additionally, he added, “They can access a variety of law enforcement information systems, fingerprint databases, Global Positioning System (GPS) to expedited routing to emergency calls, report writing and other critical resources deputies need to more efficiently serve the public.

“Our Mobile Solutions unit (within the Communications and Fleet Management Bureau) monitors and oversees the deployment, while the local sheriff’s stations and users provide feedback for future upgrades and improvement.”

The biggest benefit is patrol deputies now have more information available to them, and faster, which increases their knowledge and ability to serve the public more efficiently. This includes access to critical law enforcement information instantly and mapping / navigation features.

The community served by deputies and their new mobile technology in Los Angeles County is extremely diverse culturally, ethnically and socially. The population includes more than 10 million people, one-third of whom were born outside the U.S. The county is more than 4,000 square miles and geographically diverse, from the ocean to the mountains, and from the desert to heavily populated urban areas. The LACSD polices more than 3,100 square miles, including 130 unincorporated communities and 42 of the county’s 88 cities. The computers will have to operate in temperatures of more than 100 degrees and below freezing.

Scott French, Vice President of Public Sector Sales for Panasonic, defined the goals of the mobile technology: “Our firm empowers people whose jobs depend on reliable technology. We deliver collaboration, information-sharing and decision-support solutions for customers in government, healthcare, education and a wide variety of commercial enterprises. Our solutions portfolio focuses on delivering mobility and video. Our products and services include rugged and wireless mobile computers, flat panel displays, projectors and professional video equipment.”

For more than 17 years, he wrote in an e-mail, his company has set the standard in rugged and reliable mobile computing solutions for law enforcement. “Our continued commitment and dedication to our customers in developing the industry’s most dependable technology has made us the trusted choice of more than 5,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide.”

French talked about the highlights of the product: “They are approximately 10 times more reliable than standard laptops. It should be noted that a large number of our technological advances come directly from ideas from our customers.

“With regard to the technology specifically, Panasonic was the first manufacturer to create rugged laptops in a standard form and in a convertible tablet.” Also, he added that they “integrate CD-ROMs into laptops; encase LCDs in magnesium alloy; engineer ruggedness into ultra-portable, business-rugged laptops with shock-mounted hard drives, magnesium alloy cases, spill resistant keyboards and embedded wireless solutions; and deliver integrated mobile broadband with support for EDGE / HSDPA and EV-DO.”

Regarding service and support, he said, “Depending on the project and unique customer needs, we can include comprehensive engagement support such as training, vehicle installation and a variety of professional services tailored to fit the project.” LACSD patrol cars aren’t the only place these mobile laptops are appearing. They are used by 5,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, including many of the largest public safety agencies in the country.

French concluded by noting that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s deployment of Toughbook computers is the largest deployment of mobile digital computers to a sheriff’s department in the U.S. to date. “The Department,” he said, “has taken an extremely important step to empower its deputies with mobile computing technologies that will dramatically improve their productivity and efficiency, and we are honored that Panasonic’s products were chosen by such a large and well-respected agency.”

We’ll leave the final observation about this exciting launch to the person in charge of the product used in the Sheriff’s Department: “The system allows us to access information and provide patrol deputies with numerous other technologies,” Edson said, “which were not available using our previous Mobile Data Terminals. We can now use modern mobile technology to address today’s challenges.” In L.A. County, tough is here to stay, with laptops helping law enforcement operate at their best while out on patrol.

Tim Burke is a freelance writer, editor, designer and photographer. He can be reached at trb4320@yahoo.com.

Published in Public Safety IT, Jan/Feb 2012

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