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Oakwood Hills, Ill. Police Department Upgrades to Rugged Laptops in Vehicles

Ruggedized in-vehicle laptops are a necessity, but not always easily accessible within the tight budgets of city police departments.

These machines are invaluable to an officer’s job. They are used for computer-aided dispatching when service calls come in from the dispatch center. They are integral to the day-to-day operation of checking vehicle registrations, issuing traffic citations, conducting vehicle tow reports, mapping programs, and more.

The Village of Oakwood Hills, Ill. was looking for an alternative to using standard personal notebooks to meet their needs, that wasn’t as costly as some fully ruggedized laptops for law enforcement or military use. Police Commander Peter Goldman for the Village of Oakwood Hills said, “In law enforcement, ruggedized laptops need to be the perfect blend of durability and meeting the budgetary constraints that this economy has put every village under.”

That is why they chose the Rugged Notebooks Eagle. It has the ease-of-use of a personal computer, but the ruggedness of a professional product. And, because of the cost efficiency of this laptop, Oakwood Hills PD was able to outfit four vehicles instead of two. “Essentially it was a two-for-one bang for the buck,” Cmdr. Goldman said. “It was about half of the cost of our intended expenditure, so we were able to double our purchase.”

Although they looked at other products in the market including major brands such as Gateway, Dell and Panasonic, the combination of cost and efficiency with the RNB Eagle made the decision an easy one. With that, the Village of Oakwood Hills PD moved from personal computers to rugged laptops.

On a daily basis these in-car laptops must endure many hazards, from multiple officers using a police vehicle over 24 hours, to rough off-road driving. “We’ve seen zero problems or any concerns with having these permanently mounted in the vehicle,” Goldman stated. “The fact that the monitor door is opened and closed on a regular basis—we’ve seen no wear in that aspect either. And if occasionally someone drops something on the lid by accident when it is shut, we haven’t seen any damage, scuffing or concerns in that manner. In the past, it had been a problem.”

One of the weak points in any laptop is the hinge from the base of the computer to the monitor. Goldman pointed out, “The Rugged Notebook Eagles have stood up and sustained that strength, which is not common in long-term vehicle use.” According to Goldman, the RNB Eagle touchscreen was an unexpected benefit. “The biggest, number one feature that we have found across the board, whether it be an administrative feature or an officer’s in-the-line-of-duty feature, is the touchscreen capability. We haven’t had that in the past and, with all the new software and CAD dispatching programming, that has increased the officer’s productivity.”

The transition and learning curve from personal notebook to rugged laptop has been smooth. There was no real training differential other than the new touchscreen feature. The Village of Oakwood Hills Police Department has had the Rugged Notebook Eagles in service for approximately a year. In that time, they’ve had no issues whatsoever. When the need arises, Commander Goldman plans to purchase more of them for the rest of their fleet.

Published in Public Safety IT, Nov/Dec 2011

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