Technology has long played an important role in law enforcement, but in recent years the pace of technological advancement has quickened — and not just for police forces. The world today is increasingly digital. To respond successfully to many situations, first responders need to keep up with the rapid pace of technological development without letting these changes get in the way of doing their jobs safely, efficiently and effectively.
Police departments also face unique challenges in adopting new technologies because of the nature of how they need to use it. The environments police officers work in and the ways in which they need to use technology do not often align with the capabilities of consumer tech products. Law enforcement personnel need tech that is designed specifically for them and their needs.
To meet these requirements, growing numbers of police departments are turning to tablets designed for first responders. Rugged tablets can serve as the foundation upon which police forces can build their technological portfolios.
Challenges Facing Law Enforcement as They Move to Embrace New Technologies
Police departments face some unique challenges in regards to embracing new technologies. The conditions in which they work, the capabilities and specs they need their devices to have and various other limitations make it difficult to find the right tech for the job.
1. Harsh Conditions
Police officers work in a wide range of conditions and cannot ensure that their devices won’t be handled roughly. The tech they use may need to be able to endure bumpy, high-speed rides in police cruisers, getting dropped on the ground if unexpected events occur and environmental hazards such as exposure to high temperatures, moisture and dust. Police officers even need their tools to be able to operate under extreme conditions such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Consumer products typically aren’t designed for this kind of use, so first responders need specialized tech solutions.
2. Varied Usage
No day is exactly the same for a police officer. The technology they use must be able to accommodate this variation. In the case of tablets, officers should be able to use them both inside their vehicles and outside so they can effectively use it when responding to various types of situations.
3. Cannot Be Cumbersome
New high-tech devices can actually be detrimental to police officers’ effectiveness if they weigh them down or restrict their movements. Law enforcement personnel must be able to respond quickly to unexpected and potentially dangerous situations. They don’t want to be fiddling with a smartphone, for instance, as they walk up to the door of a home to talk to a person who has a history of violence.
4. Reliability Is a Must
Law enforcement personnel deal with life-or-death situations, so the equipment they use must be reliable. They need dependable access to accurate information, for instance, to do their job safely and effectively. Because of the major risk factors of some of these situations, they also need backup plans in case something does go wrong with the equipment.
5. Safety and Security
Police departments work to keep communities safe and secure and handle a lot of highly sensitive information. Because of this, they have an exceptional need for safe and secure equipment. Consumer products may not be up to their standards in this regard, making finding suitable technology difficult.
6. Budget Concerns
Getting the funding for purchasing new equipment can be a challenge for police departments. They need their technology to be high-quality but also can’t spend astronomical amounts on it. Technology grants from the federal government, as well as from state governments, can help first responders afford the tools they need.
Problems Rugged Tablets Solve for Law Enforcement
Rugged tablets for law enforcement personnel can contribute to finding solutions to many of the difficulties police forces face regarding technology and the daily challenges of their jobs. Below are just a few examples.
1. Harsh Conditions
The TM110 Rugged Tablet from Datalux is designed to be durable, as its name suggests. It’s been designed to MIL-STD 810G standards and can stand up to rough use, being dropped and the vibrations and bumps in the road it may encounter with in-vehicle usage. It can also endure exposure to dust, dirt, high temperatures, excessive sunlight, moisture and other severe environmental conditions. The device also features a large screen for enhanced readability and is readable even under bright lights.
2. Varied Usage
Police officers can use rugged tablets whether they are in a car, on a motorcycle or bicycle or on foot, as they feature both custom mounting and portable use capabilities. You can alter the tablet so that it functions more like a rugged mobile computer by attaching a docking keyboard to the device for easier in-vehicle use. Alternatively, you can use a hand strap for more comfortable use when on foot. Convertible tablet PCs are ideal for law enforcement because officers can easily and quickly modify them based on the demands of the current situation.
3. Cannot Be Cumbersome
Rugged tablets are designed to be easily accessible when needed but also to stay out of the way when not being used. The TM110’s 11.6-inch screen is large enough to be easy to read, but the tablet itself only weighs 2.7 pounds and is just three-quarters of an inch thick. The included hand strap makes it even easier to handle.
4. Reliability Is a Must
Mobile computing innovations for police, such as tablets, enable officers to reliably access information in real-time no matter where they are. You can use the device with fast 802.11ac next-generation Wi-Fi or 4GLTE broadband and it can also connect to vehicle modems. You can choose between the Intel Core i5 processor or the Intel Core i7.
5. Safety and Security
Our rugged tablet features Trusted Platform Modules (TPM) 1.2 for hardware security and a Kensington lock for physical security. You can also achieve compliance with 2FA security standards through the use of optional add-ons for data input or biometric peripherals. It’s also designed not to get in the way or distract the officer while they’re driving.
6. Increased Efficiency
Using tablets can also improve the efficiency and accuracy of collecting, maintaining and accessing records. You can create and manage documents digitally as opposed to with paper records, which are more prone to error and take longer to process.
If the technologies that police forces use cannot coordinate with one another, they can actually make police work less efficient due to discrepancies between systems. High-performance rugged tablets address this challenge by building in compatibility with communications systems, records management systems and other technologies.
Applications for Rugged Tablets Within Police Departments
So what are the use cases for rugged tablets within police departments? These devices have many potential uses and they can easily run many different law enforcement applications at once.
1. Information Access
Tablets provide a fast and convenient way for officers to access critical information from nearly any location at any time. They feature high-speed wireless connections back to central databases, which enables personnel to check driving records, criminal records, medical records, warrants and many other databases. When using tablets, they no longer need to radio dispatch from within their cars to get this information. This enables them not to be restricted to their vehicles and keeps the radios open for emergency calls.
Having access to this information before arriving at the scene or speaking with the person in question, as tablets allow, can enhance officer safety as well as the safety of the citizens involved in the situation. Before they talk to someone they can look up their criminal history, driving record and other information. They might find, for instance, that the subject has a history of violence. Having this information beforehand will cause them to approach the situation more carefully and could improve the outcome.
Officers can also use their tablets to get a broader view of either current or historical information. For example, they can look back at the historical crime trends in an area or view a map of where sex offenders live. This enhanced access to information can give them valuable insights into investigations.
2. Information Collection
Tablets also offer advantages for when officers need to collect information from people on the scene. Tablet PCs for police provide an easy way for officers to give out e-citations and collect signatures for them. They can also be outfitted with a magnetic stripe reader to enable officers to swipe drivers’ licenses. Other compatible identification methods include radio frequency identification (RFID), smart cards and license plate scanners.
Collecting this information digitally makes the whole process more efficient and less prone to error. A police officer can collect information directly from a person and submit electronically for immediate processing and storage. Because it gets directly submitted, there’s no opportunity for human error to occur.
Officers can also access information such as email, websites and work schedules. Much of the information the public uses tablets to access could also be useful to law enforcement.
The TM110 Rugged Tablet is also outfitted with both a front- and rear-facing camera, which can enhance visibility and allow officers to take photos and videos of the scene of an incident. Officers can use their tablets to collect pictures and videos as evidence and also use it as a dashboard cam or body cam. Supervisors could even access the video feed to oversee situations and video chat with officers on the scene from any location. The Suffolk County Police Department in New York, whose tablets feature air card 4G cellular technology that enables them to work as phones, plans to use this video conferencing technology.
Having video viewing capabilities via a tablet PC can help make investigations more efficient. Digital surveillance systems that stores and other businesses use to keep watch over their premises often use proprietary technology. Extracting video from a proprietary system is a rather involved task that can take a substantial amount of time and delay investigations. Detectives from the Lowell Police Department in Massachusetts use tablets to get around these limitations and speed up their investigations of break-ins or other incidents at stores with proprietary system cameras. They ask the store owner to play the surveillance video on site and record it using their tablets. While they still get the extracted video at a later point, they use the footage they recorded themselves to start the investigation in the meantime.
Another valuable feature of tablets for law enforcement personnel is global positioning system, or GPS, capabilities. GPS devices can give officers directions for how to most quickly get to the scene of an incident by providing real-time traffic information and routing. GPS tracking also enables officers and supervisors to see the location of all the officers on duty whether they are on foot or in a vehicle. This could enhance officer safety, as it could alert supervisors if an officer’s tracking shows that they are in an unexpected location. It also allows supervisors to track things like the speeds at which officers drive.
Tablets with GPS capabilities also enable officers to report the precise locations of events. This ability could prove useful, for instance, during a high-speed chase in which a suspect tosses drugs, weapons or other illegal items out of the window of their vehicle so as not to get caught with them. If an officer marks the location where the suspect got rid of the items, another officer can more easily find them.
On a broader scale, this location data can reveal areas where crashes, traffic violations or crime rates are unusually high. Data analysts could potentially use this information to improve resource allocation, predict emerging trends in crime rates and spot patterns that could provide insights into why some areas have higher crime or traffic incident rates than others.
Technology Innovation for Police
Technology has the potential to make police work more efficient, consistent and safe. Not just any device will do though. Mobile computing innovations for police departments need to be exceptionally reliable, secure and versatile to be able to function in the unique conditions and situations in which police officers work.
Rugged tablets, such as the TM110 Rugged Tablet from Datalux, meet these requirements with their durable build, nonobtrusive design, superior security and compatibility with custom mounting and other solutions. These devices can form the basis of a police department’s approach to using new technology, as they can connect various systems and support a wide range of applications and add-ons.
Tech will play an increasingly significant role in police work as time progresses. As technology improves and law enforcement continues to innovate new ways of using tech, police forces will become more efficient, effective and safe.