How to Overcome Agency Technology Challenges Now and in the Future

The use of technology in law enforcement has come a long way since the days of pen and paper reporting and two way radios as a primary means of communication. Today’s officers are leveraging body cameras, mobile fingerprint scanners and rugged mobile computers that are connected to high speed broadband at all time, providing real-time updates that arm officers with the latest information no matter where they are in the field. We recently sat down with Michael McElroy, Director of the Information Technology Bureau at the Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia to discuss the biggest challenges agencies face and key issues to consider when evaluating future technology needs related to law enforcement and public safety.

Selecting the Right Device for the Demands of the Job
Law enforcement is one of the most challenging professions in the country – especially with introducing and adopting new technology. When it comes to computer technology, law enforcement agencies need accurate and reliable information at their fingertips, in addition to technology that can stand up to the challenging environments they face on a daily basis:

  • Climate – Whether it’s freezing conditions, salt-water atmosphere or extreme heat, mobile computers need to reliably perform and connect to the law enforcement network no matter where it is located.
  • Rugged – There is no place for consumer devices that will break if dropped or if something spills on it; mobile computers need to stand up to the unpredictable environments  police officer face and  deliver valuable data when it’s needed most.
  • Portable –Mobile devices need to be light, durable and easy to handle on the go. As the cabins in police cruisers are getting smaller, space is at a premium. Officers need a place to securely mount their mobile computer/tablet, quickly and easily remove it when they need to be out of their car and have enough room for other equipment in their vehicle.

Preparing for Challenges
There are a number of challenges to consider when it comes to mobile technology for law enforcement use. Mr. McElroy found the best way to select a computer or tablet is to conduct extensive field testing over a 6-month period to ensure it can perform in the environments officers are using it in, to truly assess the value of the device. Here are some key features to look for when seeking a mobile computing device to unsure you agency is making a smart investment for the long-term. 

  • Solid State Memory – This capability is one of the greatest technology advancements to come down the pike for ruggedized devices, as a SSD can withstand vibrations, jarring and drops a standard hard drive would not survive. Fairfax County believes this is one of the most important features to consider when purchasing new technology.
  • Processing Power – With dramatically increasing amounts of data that must be captured, processed and uploaded, any device must have the power to quickly process data in order to improve officer productivity and save a lot of time and frustration.
  • Wireless Connectivity – Reliable connectivity is crucial in emergency response. Officers count on their devices for real-time data to help them respond to incidents safely and efficiently. Many departments like Fairfax rely on the intranet of their local county police department, where there is a wealth of information police officers can access to provide up to date information to guide them out in the field. Mobile devices should be able to reliably connect in any environment an officer encounters.

Once a mobile computing technology has been chosen, the challenges don’t stop there. Law enforcement agencies are not immune to the challenges that can occur with both veteran officers that may be slower to adopt new technologies and their millennial counterparts who have grown up in a high tech world.  In today’s multi-generational agencies, the right kind of training is crucial to help aid adoption and make the transition as seamless as possible. In addition, it’s important to find a manufacturer that can provide the right level of 24/7 IT support to help reduce downtime that can occur with regular maintenance updates or with repairs.

Finding the right mobile computing devices for your agency is critical, because it just may be the difference between apprehending a suspect or putting an officers life at risk.

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