The Ultimate Police Laptops Buying Guide
BUYING POLICE LAPTOPS FOR ALL LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES
In the fast-moving world of law enforcement, it’s vital to have quick, reliable communication and ready access to crucial data. Perhaps more than any other profession, law enforcement can be the most unpredictable. Continuous contact among officers is necessary to foster more rapid response times and will help keep personnel and citizens safe.
This guide provides specific requirements to look for when buying police laptops and hybrids that may be used as a laptop or tablet. It describes rugged characteristics of devices that can withstand the conditions of a tough environment, efficiently track locations of vehicles and officers, serve as efficient reporting and data collection tools, and quickly retrieve information during routine and critical operations.
To guarantee the best possible fit when selecting a police laptop, consider the following key areas of functionality:
- Ease of Use and Accessibility
- Performance and Response-Enabling features
- Custom Configuration
Ease of Use and Accessibility
Police officers are a largely mobile workforce. Not only that, they may be traveling at high levels of speed while making split-second decisions. The last thing they need is a device that will impede a process or increase risk. Convenient, safe placement, ease of use and accessibility are absolute necessities.
- Appropriate mounting system. The ideal mounting solution for laptops will allow for safe deployment of airbags as well as ease of access. The type of mount will depend on the make and model of the vehicle and may be available in both console or pedestal systems.
- Screen display. Viewing conditions will vary considerably for officers in or out of squad cars, shifting from total darkness to streetlights, glaring headlights, or even fluorescent lighting. Look for nighttime and direct sunlight viewing conditions with high definition and adequate screen size.
- Touch screen and touchpad. An oversized, electrostatic, (allows-scrolling) touchpad, with multi-touch (tap, pinch to zoom, and paging) are important features to have in the field. The ability to use a stylus for digital input should also be an option.
- Swivel screen. Depending on the circumstances, a swivel display could be required either in the office or the car. This feature is especially helpful when information must be viewed by those on both the driver and passenger sides of the car. Swivel mounting would also serve the purpose.
- Weight. Because officers frequently collect data when standing outside an automobile, weight is an important factor in selecting a device. A lightweight convertible tablet PC may be an option, while tablets may be the best choice for officers issuing electronic citations.
- Ergonomic features. Law enforcement personnel do not always work from cars and some stand for long periods of time while using a laptop. Look for features such as a shoulder strap with some elasticity and dome support for the palm of the hand.
- Safety and convenience. For those officers who carry their devices versus mounting them in vehicles, built-in or detachable handles are useful.
Performance and Response-Enabling Features
It is difficult to overstate the need for quick access to the very best communication and safety technologies for law enforcement personnel. Depending upon the tasks at hand, the following features will provide the access and performance that is so important to officers in the field:
- FirstNet connectivity. Establish whether the device can operate on the ground-breaking FirstNet platform that connects to a dedicated network for law enforcement agencies and first responders, enabling mission-critical communications. Ultimately, using FirstNet avoids network congestion, which is essential during any type of emergency.
- GPS capability. Determine if the device is capable of expedited GPS routing to emergency calls. Also establish whether officers’ locations can be provided, thereby enabling dispatchers to quickly direct assistance when and where needed.
- Smartcard and magnetic strip readers.These devices will scan data from driver’s licenses in moments.
- Mobile printers. For providing copies of tickets after issuing e-citations or code violations, look for the interface capabilities for mobile printing.
- Access to data via cellular networks. Dependence upon a single 3G cellular network can be inconvenient and even risky. Identify which systems should be accessed and then determine whether 3G or broadband access will provide the needed connectivity. For example, officers in the field may need to quickly connect to criminal databases and other sources of information. Gobi can make different 3G carriers accessible in the event your regular carrier is not available.
- Interface and integration capabilities. Determine whether third-party equipment or applications will be used. Check out interface capabilities for your specific applications including:
- Fingerprint authentication readers
- Barcode and RFID readers
- Continual connectivity. Determine whether the laptop will resist vibration and shocks and bumps on the road while still maintaining a continuous connection with headquarters
- Dual processors. When officers need to access databases while using communication software, dual processors will allow efficient execution of programs and multitasking. Look for dual processors that show low power consumption.
- Expandable memory. Determine memory needs based on the applications that will be running. The laptop chosen may have plenty of RAM, but check if the memory is expandable in case new applications need to be added later.
- Battery life and operation. Police officers need battery power that will last through their shift at a minimum. So check how many hours of continuous data time the battery provides. Additionally, hot-swappable options are always a good idea because they negate the need to turn the device off to swap out.
While police laptops are not used in the military battlefield, officers face danger as well as nature’s elements on a daily basis, and they are first responders during severe weather events. At times like these, it is crucial to have a durable laptop or fully-rugged hybrid device that will reliably communicate and provide access to data despite punishing treatment.
Military standards and IP ratings guarantee the durability levels that are often needed in the tough and unpredictable law enforcement environment. Generally:
- MIL-STD-810 standards focus on environmental design and apply to levels of performance requirements for military computers used on the battlefield and in extreme conditions including:
- drops and shocks
- blowing rain
- major vibrations
- extreme high and low temperatures
- extreme humidity
- blowing sand and dust
- MIL-STD-810H, issued to update MIL-STD-G in 2019, introduced additional test methods, definitions, and guidelines that apply to “ruggedized” consumer products. Additional tests introduced include:
- low pressure
- high pressure
- low temperature
- temperature shock
- contamination by fluids
- MIL-STD-461G, a standard that establishes interface and verification requirements to control electromagnetic interference (EMI).
- Ingress Protection (IP) ratings, defined by an international standard, IEC 60529, indicate the device’s level of water and dust resistance.
For durability characteristics specific to law enforcement, features to look for include:
- Shock-mounted hard drives
- Protective magnesium-alloy casings
- Ergonomic design
- Appropriate military standards
- Appropriate IP ratings for a specific environment and use
More than anyone, police officers understand the need for security. While data security is of supreme importance, it is also imperative that the laptop is protected from theft and the effects of theft. The following features will ensure the best protection possible:
- Trusted platform module (TPM) security chip. This small piece of hardware authenticates passwords, encryption keys, and digital certificates.
- Theft protection agent in the bios. The presence of this feature will help recover data due to lost or stolen laptops.
- Cable lock slot. The ability to lock the laptop with a rubberized metal cable is a barrier against theft.
- Password security. Law enforcement laptops should be password-secured at a device level.
- Fingerprint scanner. In the event of the need for biometric security measures, check for options such as fingerprint scanners.
- Optical disc storage. This is a great feature when optical storage such as CD, DVD and additional hard drive storage are required. Internal policies will dictate specific security measures. Understand these requirements before you buy.
- FIPS 140 compliance. The Federal Information Processing Standards’ FIPS 140-2 cover security requirements for cryptographic modules and specify degrees of tamper-evidence or resistance as well as modes of user authentication. It is important to understand the specific needs within various departments and to select equipment accordingly.
Unlike the military with its overarching policies, hundreds of law enforcement agencies are governed by their own operational policies. Because of these variations, the availability of customization options is important when selecting police laptops.
For example, forces may have different models and make of vehicles or use different applications. Features that are only optional for some may be necessary for others. The ability to customize features can make the difference in having a system that works efficiently for a department’s unique needs.
Police laptops must be durable, high-performing, easy-to-use with the ability to have the features and options you need, along with reasonable pricing – an equation for value.
The overall industry failure rate for business-class laptops, is according to researchers, as high as 10-15%, while Panasonic TOUGHBOOK® laptop and tablet service records show a maximum annual failure rate of only 5%. When you add that statistic to the superior features of TOUGHBOOK® devices, the value is unquestionable. Through rigorous testing in the laboratory and in the field, TOUGHBOOK® laptops and tablets have been proven to last for years unscathed.
While the most recent features may be important must-haves, in many situations it is the signature characteristics of Panasonic TOUGHBOOK® devices that are actually needed. In these instances, it makes sense to purchase used equipment. This strategy results in considerable value by providing models with the most important features needed in the field at a significant discount.
Check here to find out more about sales of highly adaptable TOUGHBOOK® laptops, tablets and handhelds, or call 1-877-532-8088 for more information.
Through our innovative cooperative purchasing program we are helping organizations take advantage of special pricing by combining purchases across multiple organizations.