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2007 Michigan State Police Patrol Vehicle Tests
As technology becomes more pervasive and important in the daily routine of working professionals, the potential impact of a technology failure has caused organizations to place more priority on safeguarding information and ensuring its workers stay productive. This is especially true for first responders, for whom the consequences of being disconnected can be a matter of life and death.
This was a major concern for Police Chief Jeffrey Caudill and information technology director Diane Nelson for the city of Park Ridge, IL, a Chicago suburb of 38,000 people. For seven years through 2007, Commander Lou Jogmen, information technology coordinator Michael Cardenas and information systems coordinator Bernard Malkov oversaw information technology deployments for the Park Ridge Police Department (PRPD) and were tasked with finding solutions that increased police officers’ mobile productivity that could be relied upon in demanding environments.
In 2000, the built-in computers in PRPD squad cars were equipped to handle only simple information requests, and PRPD began the process of evaluating more robust solutions. The department had deployed a rugged Panasonic Toughbook notebook, which it found dependable and useful. So, when a new version of the Toughbooks became available, PRPD decided to mount them into every squad car.
Seven years later, the PRPD is still using Toughbook laptops in its squad cars and has vastly expanded its mobile capabilities as a result. The department currently uses 17 fully rugged Toughbook CF-29 models, known as the industry’s most durable notebooks. These are widely used by U.S. armed services and more extreme industrial and field service applications. With a sealed magnesium alloy case and shock-mounted hard drive, the water- and dust-resistant Toughbooks are thoroughly tested to withstand harsh conditions and keep information secure.
Embedded Wireless Capabilities
While the Toughbooks’ durability gives PRPD officers and information technology staff peace of mind, they are also reaping the benefits of its wireless capabilities. The CF-29 features built-in wireless support for a variety of next-generation data networks, giving PRPD officers instant access to critical information using CDMA technology and several private Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the city.
Embedded wireless capabilities allow officers to access two valuable resources for the first time. The first is the Illinois Wireless Information Network (IWIN), the largest public safety mobile data network in the country that provides access to drivers’ licenses, license plates and other information from the state. The second is the Illinois Citizen and Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting System (I-CLEAR), a joint partnership of the Illinois State Police, Chicago Police Department and the Cook County Sheriff’s Police that serves as a continuously updated criminal database.
The Toughbook’s wireless Internet capabilities keep PRPD officers connected not just to state databases, but to each other as well. “Officers can check e-mail from their Toughbooks, and an Intranet forum allows the officers to keep each other abreast of new developments,” Chief Caudill said. “Our officers work 12-hour shifts and rarely interact directly with their colleagues who cover the same area, so the forum is important for them to share warnings or advice about the areas they patrol.”
Digital Video Solutions Yield Operational Efficiencies
About a year ago, PRPD added digital video capabilities to its squad cars with the aim of improving the process for recording and documenting videos of police activity. The problems of the previous VHS-based video system were beginning to stack up, literally, by overflowing the PRPD’s evidence room with tapes that needed to be saved for all pending trials. The manpower and time required to collect videotapes from the cars, fill out reports for evidence, view them to identify relevant incidents, and make copies for use in court were overwhelming the system.
Cardenas and Malkov decided to address this problem by implementing a digital video recording system, the Panasonic Toughbook Arbitrator, in all squad cars. The Arbitrator is a next-generation, solid-state recorder engineered specifically for demanding environments.
The Arbitrator integrates seamlessly with Toughbooks and is tamper-resistant, securing recordings for unbiased accounts of events. It is also much easier to archive, search, manage and track audio and video, saving time and space while helping to protect the chain of evidence.
Searchable Video Saves Time and Protects Evidence
The Arbitrator has also made it much simpler to capture, store and review videos. After recording to a high-capacity P2 memory card, video can be wirelessly uploaded from the vehicle to the central PRPD network. The card allows for 100,000 data rewrites with no decrease in quality.
In addition, officers can review previous Arbitrator recordings from any computer in the Park Ridge Police station, searching by time, date, car number or officer name to instantly locate the video they’re looking for. This is in stark contrast to the process for reviewing an older VHS copy, which required the officer to go through a property clerk to get access, wasting time and resources.
A Broader Mandate
The city’s IT staff oversees not only the PRPD’s IT needs, but the needs of all city workers including the fire department. The city’s firefighters are also using Toughbook CF-29s mounted in fire trucks and EMS vehicles. Among other benefits, the built-in wireless capabilities give firefighters access to a valuable program called CommandView, providing digital layouts for buildings in Park Ridge allowing firefighters to prepare for incidents while en route.
PRPD officials plan to continue deploying Toughbooks for Park Ridge’s city workers facing demanding environments for the near future. They are always looking for new ways to improve efficiency, such as allowing police officers to file reports and even process arrests without coming back to the station. Traffic accident reports are already completed on scene with the help of a printer.
Park Ridge public safety officials have experienced the benefits of mobility and security. The collaboration between the police department and IT department has allowed for the enhanced ability to seek and deploy new technologies in an effort to protect their community. n
Photos courtesy of Panasonic.
Published in Police Fleet Manager, Nov/Dec 2006
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