Tucson, Ariz., is a challenging work environment, especially if you’re a cop’s computer.
“The insides of our patrol cars routinely get up around 140 degrees in the summer,” says Capt. Bill Richards. “Inside a motor officer’s saddlebag, it can get up around 190.”
Despite the challenge, Chief Roberto Villasenor wanted to get computer-aided dispatch to his motor officers to increase efficiency and improve officer safety. So whatever technology they decided on, it would have to be resilient.
“Our chief is very progressive,” says Richards. “Knowledge is power in policing. Get the information to your people—now. ... We’re truly on the leading edge of technology here.”
After testing several options, the Panasonic Toughbook U1 rose to the top of the list. “The U1 is our toughest Toughbook,” says David Poulin, senior business development manager. It’s proved tough enough to handle Tucson heat.
45 units were deployed to motor officers. Richards says, “We have to wrestle them out of the hands of our motor officers. They love them.”
“Time out of service is reduced. Traffic stop time is reduced. Error rate is lower. Even as our police force has shrunk, our productivity has increased. This technology allows us to manage our human resources better.”
The process is simple and effective. Officers swipe the offender’s license and all their information is brought up in the system. A drop-down menu prioritizes the most common offenses. Officers can even get driver registration over the computer.
“The violator gets a copy, and a copy goes to the court and records instantly,” says Richards. “Just like that.”
How important is this technology? “Ideally, computers would be issued with you badge and gun,” he says. “We’re doing crime analysis in the field.”
“Technology is now so prevalent in departments, everybody must have access to it,” says Poulin. “I can’t be on my motor and see patrol vehicles running Code 3 and wonder where they’re going.”
Tucson has also issued Panasonic Toughbook CF-53s to detectives. This allows them to bring their computers home with them at the end of the day. If they’re needed during off hours, detectives are able to access department systems prior to arriving on scene.
“When a detective is needed, maybe in the middle of the night, we want them to have the information they need before they show up.”
“Not only are they effective,” says Richards, “it’s a morale boost. The detectives love it.”
Richards offers some advice to departments considering similar purchases. “Every PD is the same and different. What do your customers—patrol, dispatch and so on—need. Do your due diligence. Too many people look for a solution off the shelf. For the money you’ll be spending, get what you need, but don’t over spend.”
“When times are tough, you have to save money over time,” says Richards, “and investing in good technology is one way to do that.”