The Right Rugged Mount: A Selection Guide

Oct. 21, 2020
There’s a lot of equipment and technology modern patrol vehicles need, here’s a brief guide on what you need to know when buying your next solution.

The modern law enforcement patrol vehicle has become more of a mobile office than merely a car with a lightbar on the top wrapped in a themed graphic paint job. There’s officer protection inserts, mounted firearms, tactical equipment, first responder gear, traffic safety items, a computer, a radio (or two)—and maybe a teddy bear. That’s barely the tip of the iceberg and it all has to be secured (maybe not the bear).  

If you’re searching for rugged products online, what type of products are you likely going to find? You’ll find keywords like durable, strong, dependable, maybe even tough. At the end of the day, its often said that rugged products for mounting equipment in a law enforcement vehicle were designed to withstand use in hostile terrain and must reliably work in the harshest environments. At a minimum, any item labeled as “rugged” should be designed to at least last the life the police vehicle. That life includes being used day-in, day-out, for eight to ten hours a day.

Figure out your pain points and wants

When in the market to select a mount, the first thing you should do is determine what type of device (or devices) you are mounting. Whether it’s a computer, tablet, or firearm there are multiple solutions for each one. Know if and when plans include upgrading the device(s). The footprint of an upgraded laptop might not change from model to model, but more consumer brand computers tend to be slimmer than popular more rugged models.

“Make and model of devices that require mounting is critical for us to spec out the correct solution,” says Michael Inglima of RAM Mounts. “We are starting to see a trend in police cruiser technology switch to more of a phone-turned-computer type of deployment, for example Samsung DeX powered devices synced up to a monitor and keyboard is a very popular solution we’re currently enabling across the nation.”

A special thank you to the following companies for their assistance:

• Havis Inc.,

• Jotto Desk,

• RAM Mounts, and

• TruckVault Inc.

Are you using a docking station? If not, have you considered if it meets the needs of your agency? A docking station might work better for some policies that leave the computer in the vehicle. Otherwise, it may be a lot of steps to take the computer in and out each shift. Consider all the equipment and tools mounted in the vehicle—from the cab to the truck, even onto the walls of your APC.

Officers should make sure that the version of storage solution is going to meet their needs, to match special weapons or special equipment. “For instance,” explains Don Fenton of TruckVault, “we build units that contain breathalyzers [and/or] drones basically for any make model of vehicle on the road, whether it be SUV, pickup, van, or sedan.”

This is also the part of the process where you need to define why you are selecting a new solution. If it’s as simple as upgrading equipment, great. At the same time, know where the current item sits in relation to you and if you want to move it. There are options to give the passenger more or less room. Analyze the ergonomics of your current equipment and note if you’d like things closer or removed quicker/easier. Curt Hatton of Jotto Desk put it quite simply, “At the agency level, it’s all about ergonomics, ease of operation, and the amount of room it takes up…at 5’11” 190 pounds [without gear on] you don’t nearly take up the amount of room as a cop that has a duty belt and a gun and a taser and two sets of handcuffs and two magazines and body armor on.”

That said, analyze your environment and how often your vehicles are being driven in rough terrain. For example, while the paved roads are mostly flat, the intersections of Albuquerque, Ariz. dip to manage water flow that could cause equipment to jostle. Knowing your area will help you determine how rugged or heavy duty of a solution you actually need.

TruckVault’s Fenton recommends asking a lot of questions: know what you’re securing, if you need fire protection, heat protection, etc.

Know the make, model, and year of your car

This may be a no-brainer to note, but it is a vital piece of information to figure out which product will fit with you in your vehicle. I say “with” because all your equipment must work with you ergonomically. Why purchase new equipment or invest into something that brings you a brand-new list of pains?

Often mount manufacturers will receive CAD from the major vehicle brands. Where changes from one year to another may not affect anything of the interior, it will make a big difference if a shifter just happens to move from the dash to the floor, or should the vehicle manufacturer have a subtle change in how much vertical space the new SUV has to clear the gate.

Know the make and model of everything else

Look, you have a lot of stuff in your car. Each of these items are likely attached to something else. Make a list of every mount you aren’t replacing and note how they’re secured to the vehicle. What type of console do you have? Do you have a partition? Do you mount the patrol rifle or shotgun on it? Know your radio. Even if the mount is a competitor’s product, knowing if it’s mounted in one way or another can make all the difference to ensure your new solution is compatible with the products you’re keeping. It’s all vital data for the manufacturer to help you reach the right product.

There are situations where manufacturers will be proactive to ensure new products will work with “complimentary” competitive products. For example, Havis received a demo vehicle from Ford while developing new products for the 2020 Interceptor Utility. “We took all of our 3D scans designed to fit that vehicle but had no idea what Setina or ProGuard was going to design for that vehicle and how they’re going to fit…when ProGuard introduces a partition to the market, and we get our hands on one, and we try to install it with some of our parts.”

Sometimes a redesign or correction may be needed, so it can be imperative to be able to provide any pertinent information. At the same time, other manufacturers like RAM Mounts state that they’ve focused more on universal solutions.

Tip: Have a plan for the printer. This can be an often overlooked item but having an idea on where you want it placed will aid the conversation—and all driving officers.

Installation

Some mounting and in vehicle storage manufacturers/distributors have a network of installation shops, if the in-house fleet manager isn’t installing 50 side-console docking stations, so be sure to inquire about installation. If installation is being done in-house, ask the manufacturer if there are experts on hand for questions and how to contact them.

Tip: Try to take photos of the situation. While the seller may have the CAD and measurement numbers at hand, a visual aid might be the thing needed to help you solve your problem.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a T&E

There may be a test and evaluation option to make sure the mount will work. Ask about if there is a program and the details. As complicated as it can be, your mobile office must conform to and work with you. Plan ahead. There’s no need to rush this decision.

Editor’s Note: This article was designed to act as a guideline only. Factors such as budgets, customer service, personal preference, and others may weigh in your selection.

About the Author

Jonathan Kozlowski

Jonathan Kozlowski was with Officer.com, Law Enforcement Technology, and Law Enforcement Product News from August 2006 to 2020.

As former Managing Editor for Officer Media Group, he brought a dedicated focus to the production of the print publications and management of the Officer.com online product and company directory. You can connect with Jonathan through LinkedIn.

Jonathan participated as a judge for the 2019 and 2020 FOLIO: Eddie & Ozzie Awards. In 2012, he received an APEX Award of Excellence in the Technology & Science Writing category for his article on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in police work, aptly titled "No Runway Needed".

He typically does not speak in the third person.

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