Section 1. How Mobile Devices Enhance Productivity and Give Access to Critical Data in the Field
Agencies of all sizes are beginning to recognize the power of technologies designed to help their officers protect the security needs of the public in the most efficient manner possible.
Technological developments are already affecting the law enforcement community in profound ways. Field data collection and recordkeeping, and quick access to vehicle records, for example, are now vital tools in everyday law enforcement. But officers don’t join law enforcement to deal with data-entry or advanced technology. That’s where the emergence of in-vehicle computing devices comes in — making it easier on officers to take advantage of data out in the field.
While the types of devices and technology used varies, 84% of agencies report using mobile field technology, ranging from rugged laptops, tablets and handhelds to consumer-grade devices, according to a September 2016 Police Magazine survey sponsored by Panasonic.1 Information technology encourages police efficiency in ways that ultimately improve their service and performance. Officers are able to access necessary information out in the field that is instrumental in apprehending criminals within the moment.
As the capacity to collect, share, and use information continues to gain momentum in modern policing, the right technological tools and secure policies that aid and support law enforcement are critical. The key to successful implementation lies in understanding the far-reaching benefits while administering safety policies that safeguard this growing age of information technology.
Keeping Officers Connected
Recent advances include in-vehicle computing solutions such as the rugged Panasonic Toughbook® mobile laptops and Toughpad® tablets — robust systems designed to withstand the physical demands of a police officer’s rigorous duties.
These same Panasonic mobile computers provide on-scene incident command software crucial to the pace and urgency of incidents such as disaster and missing person operations. The software enables improved efficiency and effectiveness during critical situations by allowing the successful coordination of professional personnel, volunteer teams, vehicles and equipment from multiple agencies by providing optimal connectivity and situational awareness. Field technology has the capability to help make officers nearly omnipresent — enhancing their abilities to securely receive and share sensitive information without delay.
In the Police Magazine survey, more than 60% of law enforcement agencies surveyed cited using a rugged laptop, tablet, handheld or 2-in-1 device. Rugged devices give agencies peace of mind that their technology investments will last in the field and can perform reliably under harsh environments, so it’s no surprise that more agencies are choosing rugged over consumer-grade devices. These durable, commercial-grade tools are becoming increasingly indispensable for efficient and well-informed policing.
Newest to market, 2-in-1 devices (a laptop and tablet in one such as the Panasonic Toughbook 20) are likely to become adopted by more agencies. In the same survey, 81% of respondents felt that they would benefit from a rugged 2-in-1 device on the job. Rugged 2-in 1 devices are drastically changing crime scene investigations by providing total mobility and expediting real-time collaboration among all key members and departments. Investing in a 2-in-1 device provides officers with the best features of a laptop and a tablet on the job.
Either way, no matter the device best suited for an agency, the in-vehicle computer makes using other mobile technologies like in-vehicle cameras easier on officers so they have one central place where they can funnel and find information. It also allows officers to take further advantage of these other technologies, such as being able to easily include field information in reports by spending less time doing so.
Section 2. Case Studies: Real-World Law Enforcement Benefits
A Department of Justice survey conducted in 2013 demonstrates the increase in the number of local police officers who rely on in-field computer technology. In the year 2000, only 25% of departments relayed incident reports electronically from the field, but that number increased significantly to nearly 70% by 2013.2
A rising number of agencies also share information on protection orders, prior calls for service and criminal histories as well, according to the DOJ survey. The DOJ survey also showed an uptick in other forms of technology and safety equipment being harnessed. The percentage of police departments using in-car video cameras increased overall to more than 68 percent in 2013, higher than figures in 2007 of 61 percent.
What Does In-field Technology Equate to?
Case Study #1: Wyoming Highway Patrol
The combination of fully rugged Toughpad FZ-G1 tablets and e-citation software has proved invaluable to the Wyoming Highway Patrol. The agency’s previous solution had high failure rates, which created unforeseen expenses due to device replacement, more IT support, and reduced trooper productivity.
After switching to Panasonic for field technology, the agency’s rugged devices are proving their durability. In one example, a trooper was in a severe crash — he survived but his vehicle did not. When the Toughpad was recovered, it turned on and worked right away. With a purpose-built device designed to withstand these types of situations, Wyoming Highway Patrol is able to lower their total cost of ownership and save valuable time and money over the life of the product.3
Case Study #2: Eaton County, Michigan - Charlotte Police Department and other agencies
Eaton County, Michigan and its law enforcement agencies have also discovered the benefits of technology engineered for the rigors of law enforcement. Having previously relied on consumer-grade mobile computers, the agency upgraded connectivity of first responders to avoid failing equipment and continuous connectivity problems. Now, not only are Toughpad FZ-G1 tablets employed by Eaton County's 16 law enforcement units but also by fire and EMS agencies as well. This network provides each emergency response agency the ability to connect to real-time information, such as where other vehicles are located, valid record databases, and most significantly, to each other.
"We're way more efficient with the Toughpad. It's a really valuable tool," said Sgt. Paul M. Brentar of the Charlotte Police Department, one of the Eaton County agencies using the Toughpad. "We can run plates right from the device and are now able to do all our crash reports in the car on the Toughpad. It gives us extra time we didn't have before, because we don't have to come back into the office and we can stay on the road longer." Plus, not only are the devices proving to be ideal for first responders in the field, but the IT department now spends less time and money to support a greater number of devices across more county agencies.4
Case Study #3: Brazos County Office of the Sheriff
Combinging rugged mobile computers with a mobile digital evidence collection system provides substaintial savings in cost and time to agencies. Brazos County Office of the Sheriff was a long time user of Toughbook mobile computers when it added the Panasonic Arbitrator solution, which included a wearable camera system and in-car video.
The Arbitrator systems' ability to easily capture and manage high-quality video evidence greatly increased efficiency throughout the department. "It's keeping our guys from having to come back in and go to court," said Lt. Tom Randall. "That in itself is a huge savings to us as an agency, to reduce or eliminate overtime and comp time needed to bring guys in to testify in court. While they may get subpoenas, generally they don't end up having to go because the video speaks for itself."5
Section 3. How to Successfully Integrate Mobile Field Technology and Avoid Service Disruptions
Implementing effective IT security policies is essential to protecting the information assets of an agency from any outside accidental or malicious compromise. While it can be a complicated process to develop effective information security policies, it is not unfeasible. Technology can empower, enhance and economize various forms of police training when integrated correctly.
Here are some tips on how to rollout new technology:
- Developing security policies to manage your IT systems must be a top priority. Ensure significant security enhancements are made so your agency is confident you are not exposing sensitive data to the unacceptable risk of tampering, disruption, and misuse. Until consistent and efficient security practices are implemented, all of which should be mandated by senior management and followed through by an agency, you bear the responsibility for all the risks inherent in the operation of your agency’s IT systems. Controlling risk is crucial; assign responsibility to appropriate persons for ensuring system security and encourage them to exercise due care in the performance of their duties.
- Personnel training is another essential responsibility of agencies. Commit to staff training to enhance the effectiveness of technology integration and be open to their input on implementation. Encourage feedback by creating an open forum that promotes communication between the officers utilizing the technology out in the field and the departments receiving the data. Training will give both parties the background they need to make informed decisions about the information they are handling and encourage productivity. Data entry and analysis is not why everyone seeks to become a police officer, but technology can be used to market law enforcement and serve as a magnet for younger recruits interested in working with the latest technology
- Plan rollout in a way that makes sense to officer schedules. Actually getting the technology installed and into vehicles can take some install time. In addition to considering each officer's schedule, take advantage of scheduled appointments for vehicle maintenance such as oil changes, if possible.
- Consider the resources your selected or potential technology provider will help with. Beyond the quality and flexibility of devices, when selecting a provider it’s important to consider the type and quality of support they will give your agency. For example, in the case of Wyoming Highway Patrol, the agency deployed 215 Toughpad FZ-G1 units across 18 cities. Panasonic sent three members of its ProServices team who helped the agency deploy the devices and resolve any issues in deploying the technology into the field. "I can't speak highly enough about the services that Panasonic provided, both on the hardware and the software side of things," said Application Support Manager AJ Myers, who has more than 16 years of experience in the IT industry.
The deployment of in-field technology should only enhance day-to-day operations rather than disrupt. Successful integration plays an important part in freeing up an officer’s time for more proactive, crime prevention strategies. Ensuring that they can, above all, remain on the street rather than at their desks tasked with data-entry enables them to prioritize the protection of their communities.