A patrol car isn't simply a way to get you to your calls anymore: it's also an office, a base of operations and the place you stash not only the equipment you need, but the information you rely upon to do your job. And the character of that "office" has changed a lot over the past few decades.
Early patrol cars were less about efficiency and more about transportation. As time passed and law enforcement policed areas that were more spread out, the need for self-contained technology also grew. From cruisers equipped with radios, lights, sirens and a shotgun rack, to the sophisticated mobile information systems available today, law enforcement has stepped into a future that seems straight out of a Michael Crichton novel - only without the rampaging T-Rexes. But because the journey's been rapid doesn't mean it's been simple or bereft of trial and effort.
Police cars were not originally designed to accommodate rolling information centers. As technology progressed and departments began adding Mobile Data Terminals to their units, they discovered many cars were ill equipped to handle the additions. Bulky systems were wired into existing systems - anyone who policed back then might remember the masses of cables and wires, and the continuous glitches that came out of those early efforts.
But officers were thrilled with the capabilities these systems promised. MDTs gradually allowed them to access and disseminate information, file reports, pull up mug shots, get directions, communicate more effectively and keep tabs on criminal activity with an ease only anticipated in futuristic police movies. Who knew technologies like bio recognition were literally around the corner? But it was, and is, and every day brings with it new and astonishing gains.
Law Enforcement Technology took a look at some of the new technology available for patrol units - both established and brand new - and gathered information on those we think might interest departments both large and small. Take a look and see what might be part of your agency's future policing menu.
1. See what you're getting into
Firetide HotPort wireless mesh nodes; Firetide Mobility Controller
HotPort 6000 mesh nodes provide flexible multi-radio Ethernet backhaul. Firetide mesh networks are a wireless solution for real-time fixed and mobile high-bandwidth data communications, VoIP and real-time video. All HotPort nodes can operate with the HotView Controller software for high-speed infrastructure mobility, enabling reliable connectivity for Wi-Fi access on public transportation or video surveillance from moving police vehicles. This is a new approach to transmitting high-bandwidth video to patrol cars; it enhances present capability of narrow-band communications via cellular technology. Mesh delivers up to 35 Mbps throughput in sustained mode (over multiple hops), versus 1-2 Mbps over cellular data networks.
Where deployed: MBTA (Boston) Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority: The wireless mesh network enables transmission of live video feeds to laptops in MBTA police officers' networked vehicles, allowing first responders to view an onboard incident as it unfolds. Consequently, responders can plan and execute tactics faster and smarter - enhancing the safety and security of on-scene personnel. Other possible applications: Airport police, campus police.
Cost: Mesh nodes: range is $1,295 to $2,995 depending on configuration (indoor/outdoor) and number of radios (one or two) HotView network management software - 30 node license is $2,995; 10 node license is $1,295.