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Limestone County, Ala. Sheriff and Rugged Notebooks collaborate to meet new NCIC requirements

Under the most recently published FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) security guidelines, all systems accessing National Crime Information Center (NCIC) data must comply with new advanced user authentication requirements.

These guidelines apply to access from both secure and remote locations, including office-based computers and in-vehicle laptops. FBI-approved advanced authentication methods include username and password; fingerprints or iris scans, which are grouped under biometric authentication; and a smart card or token that must be inserted into the USB port.

Section 8.3.2 of the CJIS Security Policy states that the CJIS system’s data is sensitive information and security shall be afforded to prevent any unauthorized access, use or dissemination of the information. Improper access, use and dissemination of Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) and hot file information may result in the imposition of administrative sanctions including, but not limited to, termination of services and state and federal criminal penalties.

“With the FBI issuing new compliance guidelines for NCIC access, many smaller police departments and law enforcement agencies are under tremendous pressure to find a solution that fits their budgets,” said Alan Shad, president of Rugged NotebooksTM.

By the end of the year, many agencies will have to re-evaluate their security protocols to be compliant with the Department of Public Safety (DPS), and there are some that may not even be aware these new requirements exist.

Limestone County, Ala.

Earlier this year, the Limestone County, Ala. Sheriff’s Office learned of the new guidelines from their IT expert while he was doing security protocol for DPS. Lieutenant Lee Cox began the arduous task of researching laptops that were rugged enough to withstand abuse, easy to see and use, and met the advanced security requirement for sensitive information that deputies need to do their job—all while staying within a strict budget.

“Originally everyone looked at the Panasonic Toughbook, but we were looking for an alternative that was going to meet our budgetary needs.” Lt. Cox began by looking online, typing in words like “affordable rugged notebooks” and found several sources.

“I looked at pretty much every provider there was for ruggedized laptops: Dell, and all the other major brands, and none of them had the type of solution that we were looking for, that was going to work for us, until we came across Rugged Notebooks,” Lt. Cox stated.

Although many resources offer a biometric (fingerprint scanner) option, typically they are just that—an option, which must be added to the cost of the computer. These cost prohibitive add-on modules can break down, get misplaced, and wear over time, Lt. Cox said.

“Of all the ones I reviewed, I didn’t find any that were built in, that came standard; they all had to be added on, which was an additional cost, whereas with the RNB EagleTM series from Rugged NotebooksTM, it is a standard feature,” Lt. Cox said.

“The way it saved us money allowed us to purchase more laptops because the budget was able to go further. Originally we were only going to get it for the street deputies, but we were able to outfit everyone. We purchased 24, including notebooks for the Sherriff, the detectives, our narcotics position, and the regular patrol guys—we purchased one for every single vehicle that is in operation.”

Having biometrics built in allows a deputy in the field to get secure information that helps keep them safe, the public safe, and do their job more efficiently while protecting the County from compromising information that could lead to costly and unnecessary litigation.

“It’s about getting the best information to the place it’s needed in time to use,” said Gary Beckman of Rugged Notebooks. “It’s also about keeping it from being misused in ways that might harm innocent people or cause legal issues to get in the way of justice.”

Biometrics keeps the general public from being able to see or access the Deputy’s computers. For example, for a person to get information on a computer with biometric security they must authenticate themselves using the biometric fingerprint scanner. This prevents the public from obtaining sensitive information that could potentially cause a civil liability suit.

Having the rugged laptop with built-in biometrics in the patrol car gives the deputies instant access to information such as criminal history, driving record, in-house information, prior experiences, etc. So rather than having dispatch look up this information, deputies are able to access it right there, on the scene, at traffic stops. If deputies come across a violent offender tag, or a cautionary warning involving a certain person, they are alerted immediately.

“If we’re on a call and we identify someone, and dispatch is backed up with other calls, that person could walk off and slip away amid the chaos on scene,” said Lt. Cox. “However, if we’re able to check them right then and there, the deputies know instantly without having to wait on dispatch and they can go ahead and secure that person who might be a danger to the public.”


With the Rugged Notebooks RNB Eagle series, decisions can be made quickly and confidently, Lt. Cox said. The RNB Eagle comes standard with the latest security features including a biometric fingerprint reader and SmartCard (CAC) reader that adhere to the new NCIC advanced user authentication requirements set forth by the new FBI CJIS policy guidelines. Every agency will need a solution to fulfill these advanced authentication requirements, and the RNB EagleTM is a cost-effective (under $2,000), comprehensive and rugged solution that can be mounted in cruisers to provide simple and secure access to the NCIC database. It also comes with optional GPS capabilities, a built-in Web cam and much more.

“Well, as far as our solution that we found, I would definitely recommend that any agency should call and ask about it,” Lt. Cox said. “It’s been a perfect solution for us budget-wise, hardware-wise and installation-wise, and the screen size is bigger and brighter due to its advanced and proprietary Transflective LCD technology than a lot of the other laptops so you’re able to see your information better.”

“The RNB Eagle comes standard with the Smart Card reader, basically any kind of media outlet that you could imagine on a laptop: USB ports, mini cards, air cards for wireless,” Lt. Cox explained. “It comes with all those ports, and they are covered with rubber stoppers to keep out the dust—it’s a really good system, we really enjoy it.”

Lt. Cox is also very pleased with RNB Eagle series’ five-year warranty. “I’m really happy with the warranty so far—we haven’t had to use it because the laptops have been great, but with the warranty language it seems like it’s going to be a really good deal if we ever did.”

What is the NCIC?

The NCIC is a computerized index of criminal justice information (i.e., criminal record history information, fugitives, stolen properties, missing persons). It is available to federal, state, and local law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies and is operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

What is the FBI CJIS?

The CJIS Division was established in February 1992 to serve as the focal point and central repository for criminal justice information services in the FBI and is the largest division in the FBI. Programs initially consolidated under the CJIS Division include the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR), and Fingerprint Identification. In addition, responsibility for several ongoing technological initiatives was also transferred to the CJIS Division, including the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), (NCIC 2000), and the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

Published in Public Safety IT, Nov/Dec 2010

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