A good computer case for law enforcement is hard-sided, lockable, and if possible, waterproof and airtight, he adds.
James advises law enforcement to look for a case that:
- is small and compact,
- provides a high degree of protection, and
- offers needed features.
Each department and division will have its own criteria for how they want their laptops protected and what accessories they want to carry with them, James says. Investigations, for example, will be different than warrants.
Just as equipment and supplies can be organized in a soft bag, the same can be said for hard cases. Pelican cases and Storm Cases, for example, have pockets to carry things like power supplies and CDs, and lid organizers to hold pens and papers.
Extra pockets and compartments are important because today more than ever, people need more than just their computers, they need battery chargers, Internet cords, CDs, Zip drives, batteries, cell phones, PDAs, papers, files and folders, Jablonski adds.
To help departments choose which cases best fit their needs, Jablonski says one question they should ask themselves is just the computer needed in the field — or is other equipment such as cell phone, camera or Zip disks also needed? What about papers and file folders?
He says other questions to ask are:
- Will the computer be outside where it will possibly be exposed to water, rain or falls?
- How much foam or padding is needed around the computer for shock protection?
- The case and the foam provide protection from the outdoor elements. A soft bag by itself provides no extra padding to protect a computer or other contents inside when it's dropped nor does it resist water.
- How much weight can be comfortably carried?
Pelican offers a unique option: the 1080 HardBack, a hard shell case, or armor, that fits over a laptop and can be slipped into a backpack or soft case.
While plastic cases tend to be heavier than soft cases alone, some plastics are lighter than others. Some plastics are better at withstanding cold temperatures than others are. For example, Hardigg started using an HPX High Performance Resin about four to five years ago to make a hard outside shell that's lightweight, yet rugged. It can be dropped in cold weather at a temperature of minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit and not crack. The key to this success is not using blowing agents, which could cause microscopic voids or bubbles, Jablonski says.
Latches are another factor to consider.
Making sure latches are secure and strong is important. As James says, "If a latch doesn't stay closed, you can't protect your electronic equipment if the case opens and the equipment falls out."
Pelican's 1490 has Double Safety Locking Latches, while its 1495 has a combination lock built in to the case.
While a latch must be secure, a case cannot be too difficult to open. If it is, an officer might not bother using it.
Hardigg, for example, uses a press-and-pull latch design. It's a wider latch with a strong snap fit that releases easily at the press of a button, yet it requires 900 pounds of pressure to fail.A case in point
"We've all dropped something along the way," Jablonski says.
When computers are dropped, screens can crack and data can be lost.
"Even though you have a data backup, you still face costly repair or replacement and possibly weeks of lost productivity," he says. "When you're in the field, there's no room for error, your job is challenging enough, protecting your equipment shouldn't be."
Rebecca Kanable is a freelance writer and editor specializing in law enforcement topics. She can be reached at email@example.com.