THE ULTIMATE POLICE LAPTOPS BUYER'S GUIDE

In the fast-moving world of law enforcement, it’s vital to have quick, reliable communication and ready access to critical data. Perhaps more than any other profession, law enforcement can be the most unpredictable. Continual contact among officers is necessary to foster more rapid response times, and will help keep personnel and citizens safe. This guide reviews the specific requirements to look for when purchasing police laptops. It will describe 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. When selecting a police laptop, consider the following key areas of functionality in order to guarantee the best possible fit:

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 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 upon 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 individuals both on the driver and passenger sides of the car. Swivel mounting could 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. They standing 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 helpful.

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:
  • 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 cell 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
    • Cameras
    • Phones
    • Barcode and RFID readers
  • Continual connectivity.  Determine whether the computer will resist vibration and shocks and bumps on the road while maintaining 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 exhibit 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 determine if the memory is expandable in case new applications are added later.
  • Battery operation. Police officers need batter power that will last through their shift at a minimum.  Hot-swappable options may be appropriate.

Durability

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 the first responders during severe weather events. At times like these it is crucial to have a durable laptop that will reliably communicate and provide access to data despite punishing treatment. Military standards such as MIL-STD-810G and IP ratings guarantee the durability levels that are often needed in the tough and unpredictable law enforcement environment. MIL-STD-810G standards apply to levels of performance requirements for military computers used on the battlefield and in nature’s extreme conditions. An IP rating indicates the device’s level of water and dust resistance. For conditions specific to law enforcement, features to look for include:
  • Shock mounted hard drives
  • Protective casing
  • Meets appropriate MIL-STD-810G and MIL-STD-461F standards
  • Appropriate IP ratings for specific environment and use

Security

More than anyone, police officers understand the need for security. While data security if 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 rubberized metal cable is a barrier against theft.
  • Password security.  Law enforcement laptops should be password-secured at the device level.
  • Fingerprint scanner. In the event of the need for biometric security measures, check for options such as fingerprint scanners.
  • Optical disc storage. When optical storage such as CD, DVD and additional hard drive storage may be required. Internal policies will dictate specific security measures. Understand these requirements ahead of time before you buy.
  • FIPS 140 compliance.  Levels within FIPS 140 specify degrees of tamper evidence or resistance as well as modes of user authentication. Understand the specific needs in various departments and use cases and select accordingly.

Custom Configuration

Unlike the military with its over-arching 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 makes of vehicles or use different applications.  Features 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.

Value

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 laptops, according to PC Magazine in 2011, is 15 percent, while Panasonic Toughbooks service records show an annual failure rate of only 2.4 percent.  When you add that statistic to the superior features of Toughbooks, the value is unquestionable. Through rigorous testing in the laboratory and in the field, Toughbooks have been proven to last for years. While the most recent features may be important must-haves, in many situations it is the signature characteristics 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 these highly affordable Toughbooks, or call 1-877-532-8088 for more information.

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