Upgrading Technology for Patrol

March 19, 2020
Budget is an ongoing roadblock for just about every department. Getting new equipment may depend on justifying the reason to purchase new technology and creative ways to obtain upgrades.
We all want to see new and improved equipment in our departments. However, it can often be a painstakingly difficult process to obtain that new tech—especially in a timely manner. Presenting the case and explaining the reasons for your department to purchase new tools means preparing ahead of time. First, do your research on the technology or equipment that you have your eye on, and be as specific as possible. Ask around to see what other departments of similar sizes have as far as equipment and gear. 

The Lincoln County, NM, Sheriff’s Department provides law enforcement services through an operations budget. The Sheriff, in consultation with his administrative staff, is tasked with determining how much money will be needed on an annual basis to provide for staffing, employee benefit packages, training, equipment, etc. says Undersheriff Michael Wood. “It can also be a challenge to find that balance between providing this agency with the personnel, training and equipment to do the job and being a good steward of tax payer dollars,” he says. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department then submits the budget proposal to the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners to be approved. Wood says the need to upgrade or replace certain equipment, such as patrol vehicles, is very often determined by safety factors such as age, mileage, and wear and tear. Adding that, “replacement or upgrade considerations can also be determined by the advancement or change in technology itself.” Additionally, Wood says there are some state and federal grants that allow the department to obtain their equipment upgrade goals. “These grants are extremely important and provide some agencies with necessities they would otherwise struggle to find funds for,” says Wood. “The ability to stay up to date with training and equipment in this business can mean the difference between life and death.”

On the other side of the country, Georgia Tech PD, a department of about 80 to 100 sworn officers, was recently awarded a grant to purchase new body cams. Lieutenant R. Shane Barkley says since technology is constantly changing it is important to be scalable with the newer devices that come out. The department had initially purchased body cams in 2017 and used the Body-Worn Camera Policy and Implementation Program grant in order to upgrade.

Efficiency through technology

Say you are requesting the purchase of new computer equipment. Include in your notes the types, models, and year of the ones you currently have. Since rugged laptops are a crucial part of patrolling, it can be presented that since officers require and rely on these devices, it only makes sense to upgrade them so officers can perform their job in the most efficient way possible. A few examples of devices providing this efficiency:
  • Panasonic’s rugged Toughbook 55 is customizable for each unique need. Additionally, the Toughbook 55 offers departments to upgrade or add components to their laptops as needed instead of only at the initial purchase. This allows the purchase to be versatile and accommodate a variety of department personnel and keeps officers equipped with what they need. Alex Nollmann, Sales Director at Panasonic, says the 55 version of the Toughbook was designed with officer safety in mind. This particular edition includes four microphones in it so the laptop is already set up for voice transcription capability, allowing the officer to find information or write reports simply using their voice. Panasonic teamed up with Nuance to customize this laptop for law enforcement specifically. Another officer safety feature is the multicolored keyboard as well as the red-hued screen and a night vision mode. These modes of light allow the officer to see what they are doing without hurting their eyes. The Toughbook 55 has a battery life of 40 hours and the option of putting in a second battery while the other recharges.
  • The GETAC T800 tablet may be used for eCitation purposes. Weighing only two pounds it is easy to hold with one hand making it easy to operate. The 2nd Generation GETAC has a bright screen that is slightly larger than most tablets which makes it easier to view the screen. The rugged design allows the tablet to withstand more weather conditions as well making it long lasting and durable.
  • Devices that go into patrol cars as well as the devices that secure them are equally important. After all, in order to retain the integrity of equipment it is important to ensure they are secured within the vehicle. RAM Mounts has monitors, keyboards, docks, and skins. They use GDS Technology in their products which provides the ability to sync information, charge devices, and protect them. IntelliSkin, a protective skin from RAM Mounts, is military grade, offers maximum protection for devices, and is equipped with GDS Technology charging capabilities. Investing in this type of equipment could be wise since patrol equipment may be put to the test with time and use. The better the device is secured, the longer it will last. Additionally, GDS Technology offers a modern spin on traditional docking stations and protective products that work with the Samsung DeX allowing the officer to have an atmosphere similar to a desktop in their unit. Radios are a crucial piece of equipment, Motorola’s new LMRP radio, the APX NEXT is a rugged and durable and is even able to withstand rain.
    John Touvannas, Senior Director of Product Management of Motorola Solutions says they kept the emergency buttons and rugged design but have a large, touchscreen display on the back. Not only is it easy to use, but the touchscreen functions even if the officer has gloves on and is readable in sunlight. The back of the radio itself is equipped with a touchscreen where several applications are available. These include SmartConnect which automatically detects signal strength and will switch networks when necessary. That way whether indoors, outdoors, or in another jurisdiction, officer’s radio will be reliable. SmartLocate uses broadband capability to update an officers’ location every three seconds. Its Smart Programming allows the officer to update their radio apps using Broadband connection when it is convenient for them. The APX Next radio is also equipped with ViQi—a voice activation software that gives the officer the ability to control their radio three ways. ViQi also allows users to obtain information simply by asking. For instance, an officer can ask ViQi to look up a particular license plate allowing them to obtain key information faster. Not only does this feature allow the officer to acquire information faster, but it lets the officer obtain crucial information without tying up the radio for other responders. In turn, dispatchers can focus on other elements of a situation.  
  • Lightbars for police units are constantly upgrading and updating. Most are equipped with LED lights, making them much more visible and effective. Recently, there have been lights with smart technology integrated into them. Federal Signal offers a several options for newer light bars including some of the Police Navigator lights that include flood light features that are bright enough to remove the need for spot lights on scene. Sirens and signals may even be coordinated with vehicle emergency lights with ease. This allows the officer to choose the settings on their own and program the lights in connection with the sirens. Officers can even program these according to the type of situation or call they are responding to.
  • Additionally, many of the newer siren models are just as easy to install as they are to use. Code 3 has developed newer sirens that enable officers themselves to program them with their lights. The Z3S Matrix Siren offers a variety of options that may be tailored to the type of vehicles your fleet has. It is also easy to operate and has many options including dual tone and low frequency. Federal Signal has a their SmartSiren Platinum which has the ability to coordinate lights with the siren make this siren system a sound choice.

    Prepare reasons for your request, such as why the department needs it and how the purchase would benefit the agency. Back those up with price quotes and possible purchasing options. The more information and details the better. Then, set up meetings with your chain of command and or city council. Often presenting needs allows networking opportunities which may result in donors or other forms of funding. Like any piece of equipment, once those in control realize the importance of the purchase, it will be much easier to make your case.  

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