At its best, an officer’s patrol car is his or her mobile office. It is chock full of everything they need to get the job done. At its worst, it can be a death trap – chock full of things, and distractions. Auto accidents are consistently among the leading cause of officer deaths, according to The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF). It’s time to ask: Is there a simpler way? How can we retain all of the great technology resources available to officers on the road, but lesson the distractions?
From the moon, to the air to the streets
Rockwell Collins, the communications and aviation company behind the Lunar Launders’ radios and Army Special Operations helicopter cockpits, is now working to improve communication in yet another precarious frontier – law enforcement. Their iForce integrated public safety vehicle solution was created with the intent to bundle pretty much any piece of electronic equipment in a patrol car (radio, lights sirens, license plate reader, video, etc.) into one easy-to-use system. Everything an officer typically controls in-car is condensed inside a single interface. He or she doesn’t have to use one keypad for radar and another for video, a third for lights and sirens and something else for the radio. Agencies can integrate their current products from a number of different companies and bring them together, control and integrate them all through one system, by way of push-button or voice commands.
“There’s a muscle memory factor here in the fact that everything’s in one place,” says Preston Johnson, manager of business development at Rockwell Collins and part-time officer with Mount Vernon (Iowa) PD. Unlike some laptops that integrate control of patrol car functions, Johnson adds iForce will never crash and display “the blue screen of death.”
“If you can imagine flying an MH60 Blackhawk helicopter in the middle of the night, 50-feet off the ground through the mountains of Afghanistan with bad guys shooting at you, if your cockpit instruments fail, you’re a dead man. We’re kind of used to solving problems for folks like that. Having their electronics fail is not an option.”
The iForce system is currently being used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the California Highway Patrol. ?The California Highway Patrol (CHP) was looking for a unique solution to help them provide better communications interoperability from car to car. When they sat down to design the requirements for their new iForce system, they opted to have a vehicle repeater system put in the car that would allow their portable radios to link back to the vehicle radio and have a significantly greater range. Not only can officers manipulate volume and channels via iForce radio control, they can also cross band and connect radios that do not normally talk to each.
Johnson explains, “If you’re a CHP officer and you roll up on the scene of an incident where maybe the Los Angeles Police Department and some other police or sheriff’s departments are on the scene, and you have radios that allow you to talk to both of them but they wouldn’t normally be able to talk to each other, on your iForce you can select those two radios, press a button that says “cross band” and now the officers responding from those two departments can talk to each other on their radios.” This could be of particular value in anything requiring a multi-agency response, such as a pursuit that spans several jurisdictions.
“The CHP cars enable all of those jurisdictions,” says Johnson. “Even ones that wouldn’t normally be able to talk to each other are able to talk to each other directly.”
Trunking the works
When Paul Wallace, Caption of the Jefferson County (Wisconsin) Sheriff’s Department, put the iForce through its paces on a test drive, he realized another feature the system provides: space. “We fight the battle every year trying to figure out where we’re going to put stuff in the car; it’s a constant battle.”