Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Company Spotlight: StalkerVUE

Officer safety is a top priority for all police departments.  When thinking of safety many departments take protective gear and adequate training into account.  Another important area to keep in mind is surveillance.  Many departments have officers who ride alone, which can easily place the officer into various situations that could lead to the use of force or extreme measures.  However, when they are alone, there is no one to verify that their actions were warranted except the officer and the suspect (who most likely will contend that it was not warranted at all).

To combat this issue during traffic stops, many departments have in-car video systems that automatically record to support the officer's choices if a situation arises.  But, what about officer's who are responding to a situation not within the line-of-sight of their vehicle, such as being on foot pursuit or inside of a residence?  It is for these instances that officer's can wear StalkerVUE.  This one item will protect your responder and document your evidence with video, audio, and still images.

The StalkerVUE body-worn video camera/recorder provides documented evidence without the cost and limitations of in-car video systems. The use of video is known to increase responder safety, and reduce time in court, while increasing the likelihood of successful prosecutions. In addition, taxpayer dollars are saved by reducing frivolous lawsuits.

Tilting Camera Head

StalkerVUE daylight lens mode
The patent-pending tilting camera head affords users a choice of where the unit can effectively be worn. This feature allows the camera head angle to be adjusted up or down and positioned for a clear and unobstructed view, unlike systems that incorporate fixed lenses and fixed clamps or clips.

Daylight / Low Light Lens Modes
Tilting Camera headStalkerVUE daylight lens modeThe Stalker VUE adapts to the ambient light to achieve clear and well lit video recordings and still images in virtually any condition. A sliding IR lens filter controls the brightness to the camera and allows the user to change lens modes on the fly.  In Daylight Mode, the StalkerVUE will record clear and bright full motion video and high resolution still images.  In Low Light Mode, clear and bright video recordings and still images in subdued or poorly lit areas are achieved by a set of innovative IR emitters built into the front of the camera body.  By simply sliding the lens filter away from the lens and activating the IR emitters - the StalkerVUE practically sees in the dark!

Easy File Transfer
StalkerVUE USB cable connectivityThe StalkerVUE easily transfers files to a PC computer using its USB 2.1 industry standard connector and cable. There are no complicated applications to learn or to configure. Plug ‘n play connectivity with your existing PC to transfer files. Transferred files are AVI format and viewable on any PC’s media player. That means that the files can be copied directly to a flash drive, CD or DVD for easy transportation.

User Changeable Battery
StalkerVUE battery installUnlike the competition, the StalkerVUE’s battery is user changeable and provides 400 hours of standby time. Just slide the front panel off of the unit and the battery is directly accessible to insert or remove. Moreover, the battery is a common cell phone battery available nearly anywhere cell phone accessories are sold.

Convenient Charging Options
StalkerVUE AC adapterThe Stalker VUE can be conveniently charged simply through its USB cable when connected to any computer. Also available is an AC to USB power supply to charge your StalkerVUE using household electricity. Plus, a charger for a battery while out of the unit is also available.

The StalkerVUE is ideal for patrol officers, investigators, correctional officers, warrant servers, K-9 units, SWAT, code enforcement, motorcycle and bike patrols, private security agencies, fire safety personnel, and EMS professionals.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Did You Know Toughbooks Are Cheaper Than Commercial Laptops?

Although at first glance it might not seem like it, purchasing a Panasonic Toughbook is actually a cheaper option than purchasing a standard commercial laptop.  The initial purchase price of a Panasonic Toughbook will be higher, however, the total cost of ownership is significantly cheaper!  Keep in mind that initial costs can be decreased by purchasing a refurbished Toughbook instead of a new one.

When officers are equipped with mobile computers, employees can be productive anywhere, anytime. But most portable computers are not designed for work outside the office and are at a significantly greater risk of being damaged. Damage can occur in a number of ways: drops, spills, dirt, dust, extreme temperatures and vibration. If a computer fails, there can be significant repercussions. Even a brief period of downtime has a ripple effect that can impact productivity.

Most mobile computers are not built with the outside world in mind. In fact, industry research indicates that average annual failure rates are significantly higher for ordinary laptop deployments.  When downtime and repairs are figured into the lifetime costs of ordinary commercial laptops, the ultimate price of those laptops increases substantially.

Designed for unparalleled performance and durability, Panasonic Toughbook computers are the mobile professional's best defense against downtime and data loss. Toughbook rugged computers are built to withstand drops, liquid spills and falling objects-the three leading causes of laptop damage. With superior protection for components most prone to damage, Toughbook computers deliver maximum uptime and productivity at a lower total cost of ownership.

PCS Mobile reported an industry average failure rate of 21.0%. Panasonic's service records (as of September, 2009, for units in and out of warranty) show an average annual failure rate of only 2.99% for Toughbook mobile computers.
A comparison of the data presented in the below Venture Development Corporation (VDC) chart highlights the difference in reliability between rugged and commercial-grade PC's. By the third year, the number of commercial-grade units that need to be replaced is over 60% more than rugged units.
Compared to commercial grade computers, Panasonic Toughbook mobile computers average better than 15% lower on total cost of ownership, annually. Over the life of a typical mobile computer, that adds up to significant savings, plus a better overall user experience.

Information Retrieved from Panasonic

Friday, January 27, 2012

Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 Used To Fly Drones in Miami!

Although most police departments utilize their Panasonic Toughbooks as MDTs, or mobile data terminals, the Miami-Dade Police Department has found a different use for them.  In a first of it's kind crime fighting tool, the Miami-Dade Police department is utilizing an eye-in the sky from a drone not too different than those currently being used for surveillance by the US military.  Although it is similar in concept to the drones used by the military, it is not built like a miniature plane or designed to fly long distances.  The drone, or micro air vehicle, can hover in mid-air with a camera. It is controlled through navigation on the touchscreen of a Panasonic Toughbook CF-19.

 Although use of the drone has sparked some fears from local residents about being spied on by Big Brother, that is not the intention of the Miami-Dade Police Department.  The drone will not be in the air on a constant bases monitoring neighborhoods.  It will only be placed into the air during highly dangerous situations, such as responding to barricaded subjects or during a tactic crisis.  The concept being utilizing the drone is to give officer a clearer picture of the situation, allowing them to see risks that they cannot see from the ground.

The Miami-Dade Police Department has two drones that they received almost entirely from a federal grant.  They are waiting on final FAA approval to be able to start using the drones in appropriate situations.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Product Spotlight: Cuff Man

No, Cuff Man is not a new superhero.  Cuff Man is a training dummy created by Dummies Unlimited Inc.  Cuff Man was created to eliminate the accidental injuries that can occur during handcuff training, such as hyper-extending of a joint or placing cuffs to tightly.  

Cuff Man is a uniquely designed training dummy that is ideal for teaching proper arrest and control techniques.  Cuff Man is a human featured training dummy with flexible joint action in his wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees and hips. Locking elbows allow you to perform a variety of arm-bar techniques as well.  His hands and fingers are made from a flexible yet durable poly-urethane compound for a realistic feel while cuffing and can tolerate thousands of cuffing scenarios.  He possesses an extended chin for realistic grappling techniques while ground fighting.  The locking joints and life-like feeling hands allow trainees to learn how to properly maneuver a person while handcuffing them, so that handcuffing can be done safely without causing any physical harm.

With these features in mind - consider the concept! Velcro loop is sewn into his heavy duty Cordura suit, both front and back, and a slender back board is wrapped with Velcro hook. With the back board installed in a provided free standing mount, Cuff Man is able to stand on his own at any height desired. Once standing, arrest and control techniques can be performed on Cuff Man from both front or rear. Just like any resisting suspect, added force is required to pull Cuff Man to the ground without any hindrances or obstacles. 

Check out some of the training options Cuff Man can be used for:

Dummies Unlimited Inc. has been creating various training dummies for over 52 years!  They have many training options available for law enforcement, fire & rescue, and medical training.  Their uses range are versatile, including teaching submission tactics, teaching CPR or patient care, extrication training, and much more.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Smyrna Police Dept (DE) Receives Donated Toughbook

Chief Bordley receiving a CF-30 from Bob & Marisa Johnson of Bob Johnson's Computer Stuff

Today we made a donation to our town of Smyrna, Delaware.  We donated a Panasonic Toughbook CF-30 to Chief Wil Bordley and the Smyrna Police Department.

We are happy to know that this computer will be put to good use.  The Smyrna Police Department has recently renovated one of their undercover vehicles to make it usable as a full-time patrol vehicle.  The CF-30 that we donated is going to be placed in that vehicle as a mobile data terminal.  The Toughbook can then be used to run vehicle license plates and for various other police activities.  Having a Toughbook in the patrol vehicle allows officers to have access to more information, making them more efficient and making their job a little easier.

Would you like a Toughbook for your department?  Visit our Facebook page and enter to win one!  This quarter we are giving away a CF-19 to a deserving fire, police, or EMS department!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Company Spotlight: Engine Bay Floors

Engine Bay Floors has partnered with nationally known and established manufacturers of floor resurfacing materials. Each and every product they use has been designed and tested to meet the rigid demands of today's firehouse floor resurfacing projects. Their reputation has been built upon utilizing outstanding firehouse flooring materials consistently, so you can confidently park your apparatus on them for decades to come.

The true strength of Engine Bay Floors lies in the expertise of their floor resurfacing installation teams. Using the latest equipment and proven installation techniques, their craftsmen install a masterpiece with every firehouse flooring project by incorporating old-school dedicated work ethic seldom seen within the industry. Their ongoing improvement training programs and mutual aid safety guidelines guarantee compliance with all federal, state and local regulations to undertake and complete any concrete floor resurfacing job.

Engine Bay Floors offer four different types of flooring options.  They are the Floor Resurfacing 4000, Concrete Epoxy 8000, Floor Epoxy 1600, and the Floor Coating 3200.  Which flooring option is right for you is entirely dependent on the application of your garage, types of vehicles it houses, and the amount of traffic it will see.  The specialists at Engine Bay Floors can easily help you to determine which would work best for you!  Epoxy options are also available in a wide variety of colors, allowing you to customize your flooring to match the logo or emblem of your department.  Engine Bay Floors is even able to place your logo within your flooring!

Engine Bay Floors is a high quality resurfacing/epoxy company.  They want to be the best resurfacing/epoxy company in the business.  Because of this, they pride themselves on hard work, doing the job right, and having a happy and satisfied customer when the job is finished!

Watch a resurfacing in action!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Company Spotlight: Firehouse Software

You need a powerful records management system to manage critical information regarding all of the sensitive equipment in your fire department.

FIREHOUSE Software is the best fire records management software in the industry, backed by the best support. That explains why FIREHOUSE Software is the most widely used NFIRS 5.0 incident reporting software package, and more fire departments and EMS agencies depend on FIREHOUSE Software for their records management needs than any other software.  FIREHOUSE Software is designed to make records entry and records management as easy as possible for fire departments and EMS agencies of all sizes.

They also have various programs available to suit your individual needs:


The powerful FIREHOUSE Software package uses an integrated database and graphical user interface so data is entered one time, even when used in different areas of the system. FIREHOUSE Software is intuitive and easy to use without computer training. While NFIRS 5.0 certification and NEMSIS Gold Certification are a core component, our clients worldwide rely on our commitment to providing valuable, versatile, and fully integrated solutions. FIREHOUSE Software is dedicated to helping agencies manage business, day-to-day operations & planning, field operations & decision support, communications, and technical challenges. Experience FIREHOUSE Software, and you'll experience software, support, and services unmatched in the industry.

All FIREHOUSE Software modules are seamlessly integrated for one complete solution, and the flexible, modular design means it can be used at fire departments and EMS agencies, regardless of size. By selecting the modules and scalability level that best meet your needs and budget, FIREHOUSE Software can be licensed and deployed in one of three ways:
  • FH Standard – for stand-alone workstations and local area networks.
  • FH Enterprise – for wide area networks and departments requiring remote access to a central database. 
  • FH Web – for a central database and easy access from anywhere using a Web browser. 
Each system includes advanced features for departments to tailor FIREHOUSE Software to their needs. Additional features to expand FH capabilities for the department can be added on to fit a customer’s needs.


FHinspector for iPad™ is the latest innovation from FIREHOUSE Software, the industry’s leader in Fire and EMS software solutions. FHinspector unleashes the power of today’s most creative and dynamic technology, raising the bar on the industry’s fire prevention and planning activity. FIREHOUSE Software has combined iPad’s trademark interface and live GPS with your inspections, pre-incident plans, and permits, allowing your department to tackle more inspections, faster and easier than ever before.

In these unprecedented difficult economic times, innovative leaders like you are searching for alternatives in funding. FIREHOUSE Software has formed strategic partnerships and has developed a host of innovative new solutions focused on helping you maintain the financial stability of your organization. FHinspector for iPad is the newest of these revenue generating products. Not only does FHinspector for iPad maximize efficiency and productivity in your organization, but its integrated billing solutions will become a key revenue source for your department.

There are also various mobile, CAD, barcoding, and cost recovery software options available as well.  FIREHOUSE software also offers an amazing level of support via phone, web-casts, online downloads, and forums.  Through the many means of support available, you can easily become fluent in the software and find help when you need it.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Company Spotlight: Ribcraft

Although not all fire and rescue departments have waterways to worry about, there are several who have rivers and lakes within their department's districts.  When it comes to buying, many departments look towards RIB boats.  RIBs, sometimes known as rigid inflatable boats, rare powerboats fitted with inflatable collars or tubes. As well as excellent fendering, this makes RIBs almost unsinkable and suitable for use in all sorts of conditions. RIBs are some of the most versatile boats available and are used as rescue boats by the RNLI and as patrol boats by the military.

Ribcraft is one of the primary manufacturers of RIB boats in the United States.  Ribcraft has established its position as a designer and builder of technologically advanced RIBs that fulfill the most demanding professional, military and rescue roles. Ribcraft has gained an enviable reputation as a leading builder of professional grade RIBs. Professionals expect and demand the ultimate in performance and dependability. So does Ribcraft. In fact, they define it.

That's why Ribcraft boats are built stronger, safer, and specifically for the customer. Ribcraft believes first and foremost that a boat must keep passengers safe and free from harm. This involves designing the vessel for what its meant to do...PERFORM. Performance is more than simply arriving at a destination. It's about doing the job right, efficiently, and safely. With a focus on the functional, Ribcraft works with the customer to understand mission requirements in order to build a craft that meets the specific challenges presented by geographic conditions and operational functions.  Because Ribcraft builds their boats one at a time, they can personalize virtually any element of the design. Every RIB built meets the individual requirements of the customers.

Ribcraft sells many different models of RIBs, meaning that they can design the perfect solution for your department.  If your department has limited funding for new RIBs, they even offer the option of purchasing refurbished or previously owned RIBs through their website.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Company Spotlight: Southeastern Emergency Equipment

Southeastern Emergency Equipment is a privately owned business that was founded in 1979. In the beginning, the primary customers consisted of rescue squads and ambulance services in the southeast United States. Throughout the years, the committed sales team and knowledgeable support staff have helped Southeastern evolve into an international distributor of emergency medical equipment and supplies. Thanks to their dedicated team, Southeastern Emergency Equipment is now a full-line distributor of EMS equipment and supplies, WMD/MCI products and trailers and emergency vehicles with a support and sales team that focuses on premium service before and after the sale.

Southeastern Emergency Equipment understands that when it comes to having the knowledge and supplies to save lives, customers want to be comforted knowing that they are doing business with a company that has consistently demonstrated its commitment to the highest standards of quality and service. That’s why Southeastern employs sales representatives throughout the United States with an EMS/Fire background so customers can go directly to the source for product demonstrations, training and just plain good advice. To better serve customer’s needs, Southeastern currently has District Sales Managers covering North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Florida, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas.

Customer care is what puts Southeastern Emergency Equipment a step above the rest. For nearly 30 years, Southeastern has prided themselves on providing quality medical products while exceeding clients’ expectations with an exceptional level of service. From general medical supplies and resuscitation equipment, to specialty vehicles and AHA training, Southeastern is your source for the tools you need to give every patient the care that they require.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Company Spotlight: Quaker Safety

We recently had the opportunity to meet some of the guys from Quaker Safety at the 25th Annual Pittsburgh Fire Rescue and EMS Expo in Monroeville, PA.  They were some nice guys from a pretty amazing company!

Quaker Safety has been manufacturing many types of protective clothing since 1946. However, the real roots of the company were established in 1986 when the company began to focus primarily on manufacturing NFPA compliant garments for structural and proximity fire fighting. Substantial market research and development conducted throughout the years has provided Quaker Safety with insight into the requirements of the clothing from the fire department’s perspective which, in turn, has enabled Quaker Safety to design and manufacture high quality turnout gear.  All gear is ISO 9001-2008, NFPA 1971-2007 (structural), and NFPA 1971-2007 (proximity) certified.  They also come with a quick, reliable delivery schedule. Quaker Safety’s rapid delivery, for which the company has become well known, remains unsurpassed in the fire service industry.

Over the last 25 years, Quaker Safety has developed a network of leading distributors and exporters throughout North America. Quaker Safety believes that service through local distribution is the best way to achieve the highest level of customer satisfaction. Quaker Safety's local distributors are always available to measure, provide technical support and to ensure that each set of protective clothing is customized to meet each fire department's specific needs.

Quaker Safety stands behind its products. They warranty for a maximum of five years from the date of manufacture that the products listed on your Quaker Safety invoice will be free from defects in materials and workmanship when used by appropriately trained personnel following acceptable fire fighting or emergency medical operations procedures.  Quaker Safety also offers its gear customers a comprehensive range of on site cleaning and repair services, including those which are required annually by NFPA 1851. All work is performed to exacting standards by experienced personnel with the objective of maximizing the safety of the wearer and the useful life of the Quaker Safety protective clothing.

The full catalog of all of the gear they offer can be viewed on their website.  All orders are given the options of choosing the type of outer shell, thermal liner, moisture barriers, reinforcements, trim options, pant and jacket closures, pockets, suspenders, and more.  Fully knowledgeable customer service staff can easily assist you with determining what options will work best for the specific needs of your department.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Crime Solving - Why Yes, There's App For That

It seems that we keep saying this, but there really is an app for just about everything!  Bridgeport Police Department in Connecticut has recently launched a new app called iWatch Bridgeport.

The iWatch Bridgeport app released in October 2011, and is the first app of its kind on the East Coast.  This app is the future of policing, and the Bridgeport police say their new smartphone app is helping them to solve crimes and revolutionizing the way they do it.  Lt. David Daniels III was quoted as saying, "In a city that has 143,000 people and 18 square miles, and 400 cops working 24 hours a day, this is the ultimate cop."

How Does It Work?
The app is easy to use.  When a resident wants to submit a tip, they simple open the app and type in a description of the tip they want to send.  There is even an option to send pictures or video in with the tip.  Once the resident hits send, the app is sent directly to the police department.  All submitted tips are completely anonymous, which police feel increases the likelihood that tips will be submitted.

Does It Work?
The city of Bridgeport had a homicide on New Year's Day, and someone used the iWatch app to send critical information to the police department.  "Right after that murder occurred we got an iWatch tip from someone who had to be in the area," said Lt. Daniels. "The information was credible, it's panning out and I think it will actually help us solve that crime."

There are a few other departments in the US that are currently using similar technology.  A couple of them are Harris County, TX and Englewood, CO.

This app gives residents the power to report what they see and hear in their neighborhoods.  To get more information check out the video below.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Police Cruisers: The New High Tech Office

In the last decade, law enforcement patrol vehicles have become more like high-tech offices than the old-fashioned prowl cars of the past. Today's officer has more technology in his or her patrol unit than astronauts had in the space shuttle. And like any high-tech office, the new patrol car cabin is built around the presence of a powerful computer.

We've written numerous articles on mobile computers. They are the it-product of police technology. They can survive drops and spills, and even bullet rounds and vehicle fires. But the truth is that without the right software and the right peripherals the most expensive, powerful, rugged police computer system is just a rugged computer.

What software should you look at for your rugged computer systems?

  • M-Urgency: Links with your dispatch and emergency callers to deliver real-time video of the incident.
  • The CAD Zone:  Simplified 3D-rendering software specifically designed for non-technical personnel.  Software comes specifically designed for fire management, crash re-enactments, and crime scene re-enactments. 
  • Apollo Video Technology:  Stream and record video directly to the mobile units in the police vehicles.  
  • StarChase Pursuit:  Tag and follow high-speed pursuit vehicles safely and at a distance utilizing GPS technology.
  • NDI Recognition Systems:  Automated license plate recognition programs increase both the safety of officers and the number of license plates that can be checked during a shift.
  • EMS Consultants:  Specifically designed for easy of use, this EMS software completely eliminates the "paperwork" associated with patient transports.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Company Spotlight: DefibTech

A 13-year old Texas high-schooler’s life was spared last month with the help of a portable defibrillator. During a football game, the boy unexpectedly collapsed on the field. Luckily, the school nurse and other CPR trained individuals were at the scene with a supply of first aid equipment—including a portable defibrillator.

The portable defibrillator, otherwise known as an AED, an automated external defibrillator, kept the boy's heart pumping while the ambulance arrived. Had it not been for the AED, the boy might not be alive. Because cardiac related incidents and deaths are often unexpected, severe and life threatening, more establishments have added AED’s to their EMS gear.

The investment of an AED has proven to be vital component of any emergency medical supply kit.

Paramedics have said that AED’s are dangerous when used incorrectly, but have been foolproof in recent years. One such defibrillator is the DefibTech.  The pads within the defibrillator detect irregular heartbeats and deliver shocks, but if a regular heartbeat is detected, no shock is administered. With the presence of an AED in an emergency medical supply, victims of heart attacks, strokes, or cardiac arrest can be saved with proper usage. In order to save a heart, you need to have one first—a portable defibrillator can be the difference between life and death.

The DefibTech is also a ruggedized AED.  It has been drop tested, crush tested, and is water and dust resistant.  Yet, the DefibTech line of AEDs weigh in at or under three pounds, making them very easily portable. The DefibTech is also easy to maintain, as it alerts you when maintenance is required.  How-To videos are even listed on the company website to walk you through maintenance items such as changing the battery or pads.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Need To Identify A Suspect? There's An App For That!

Apparently these days there really is an app for everything.  And yes, there is an app to help you identify suspects that you either have in custody or are planning to take into custody...well, sort of.

MORIS (Mobile Offender Recognition and Identification System) originally released in the summer of 2010.  At that time it was being utilized on an iPhone-like device to a small handful of police departments, the first of which was Brockton Police Department in Massachusetts.  Since its original (and controversial) release, MORIS has become more popular and is slowly eliminating the 'old-fashioned' version of taking digital photos of a subject and then downloading them onto a computer used for facial recognition.  The MORIS device now attaches to the back of an iPhone, adding roughly 1.75 inches to the thickness of the smartphone.  The cost of each device is approximately $3,000.

How Does It Work: 
Iris Scanning:  To scan a person’s iris, police officers can hold the special iris-scanning camera on device, called MORIS, about 5 to 6 inches away from an individual’s irises. After snapping a high resolution photo, the MORIS system analyzes 235 unique features in each iris and uses an algorithm to match that person with their identity if they are in the database.
Facial Recognition:  For the facial recognition, an officer takes a photo of a person at a distance of about 2 feet to 5 feet. Based on technologies from Animetrics Inc., the system analyzes about 130 distinguishing points on the face, such as the distance between a person’s eye and nose. It then scans the database for likely matches.

Fingerprint Scanning:  The MORIS device also comes equipped with a finger print scanner that can scan a single finger print within seconds and then comb the database looking for suitable matches.

Although there has been some controversy in regards to MORIS, the facial recognition technology requires a frontal facial image taken from close proximity.  In other words, it requires consent. Iris scans are practically impossible without the subject’s cooperation, as are fingerprint scans. Besides, the alternative when a police officer can’t confirm a suspect’s identity is generally a trip downtown to sort it out. MORIS simplifies that process.

The systems do link to a national database that is maintained BI2 Technologies, the makers of MORIS.  However, many of the departments that are utilizing this system have also begun to develop smaller databases on department computer systems that directly affect their departments.  Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph McDonald, who has been building a database of inmates for several years, says he hopes to have fingerprint matching capabilities in the field over the next couple of months. He sees the system as a way of improving public safety while reducing costs.  He plans to use the one he has now in his gang unit to assist in the identification of known gang members. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Does Your Department Need Facebook and Twitter?

Does your department need a Facebook and a Twitter account?  The answer is no; however, you might want one!

Excluding profile pages for babies, children, and pets, there are approximately 200 million Facebook accounts registered to persons within the United States.  Statistically, 50% of these users log in to Facebook at least daily.  Really, who do you know that doesn't have a Facebook account?  Although Twitter is not quite as popular, polls have shown that 18% of American's actively utilize a twitter account (both posting and following).

You are probably wondering how a department page would be beneficial to your organization.  Active Facebook users are a captive audience.  They routinely check their news feed to see what is going on with their friends, companies they like, and their local community.  Traditional news media (such as newspaper and television news casts) is no longer the primary means of obtaining information.  Many people are now obtaining their news (at least the initial reports) through Facebook and Twitter.  By having a department page, you can quickly and easily share information with a large portion of your community.

We can use the Virginia State Police as an example.  Recently a photograph of a southwest Virginia fugitive was posted on the department's Facebook page. A surprised Sergeant Geller said, "The phones lit up at the dispatch center."  All of this occurred within a few minutes of the post.  Leads were pouring in from the 27,000-plus people who follow the agency on Facebook.

It's not just beneficial to police departments either!  Prince George's County Fire & Emergency services in Maryland has been tweeting since 2006!  Their twitter page is PGFDPIO, and it reads mostly like an emergency scanner. They use Twitter and a blog to give updates quickly about incidents that would generate concern from the community, such as large fires or crashes on major roadways.

A growing number of departments are turning to social media to spread information and solicit tips.  Although the number of departments with a social media account of some kind has nearly doubled in the past couple of years, there are still a great deal of departments that do not have one.  Both Facebook and Twitter are easy to set up.  And both require a minimal amount of maintenance, primarily just posting information for your community as needed (which is determined by you).

To create a Facebook Account:
  1. Determine who you would like to be your administrator (you can always change this or add additional administrators later).
  2. Have your administrator sign in to their personal Facebook page.
  3. Go to the Create A Page page of Facebook.
  4. Select "Company, Organization or Institution".
  5. Select "Government Organization" as your category type.
  6. Insert your Police Department name as your company name.  If you live in a commonly named town, I recommend adding the state (ex: Middletown Police Department (NY) or Middeltown (NY) Police Department).
  7. Agree to the Facebook pages terms and get started.
  8. Add a profile picture and input the basic information about your department (location, non-emergency contact numbers, etc).
To create a Twitter Account::
  1. Go to the home page of Twitter.
  2. Set up a new account with your real name and email address (be sure not to use an email that you might use for a personal Twitter account as you can only register it one time).
  3. Determine a name for your Twitter account.  There is a 15 character limit on user names, so you might need to get creative (such as previously mentioned Prince George's County Fire).
  4. Create your account.
That's it, you're all set up.  Then, just start posting about police, fire, and emergency information regarding your community.  To get some ideas, check out a few of our favorites:


Monday, January 9, 2012

App Gives Real-Time Video to Dispatchers

This fall, students at the University of Maryland in College Park, MD will be able to download a smart phone application through the university's protected intranet.  Available September 13, 2012, the app called M-Urgency will allow students and faculty to use their smartphones to stream real-time video footage and audio from ongoing medical and emergency situations directly to the University of Maryland Police Department. The dispatcher will be able to converse with the person while dispatching additional support.  The app uses the GPS technology within the smartphone to pinpoint for police the exact location of the situation.  University police dispatchers and ground units will be able to access this real-time information while the incident is going on and have access to direct communication from the caller as well.

Maj. Jay Gruber, head of the Technology Services Unit for Public Safety, says, "If we get four or five M-Urgency calls that show a fire glowing out the window of one of the sorority houses in College Park," then responders could see which side of the house is on fire and what type of fire it is. "It's huge - you can prep your mind and your crew before you get to the scene."

This app is a first of its kind and was developed as a joint project between the University of Maryland Department of Computer Science, the University of Maryland Police Department, and the University of Maryland Office of Information Technology.  The app is the product of over ten years worth of research and development of in wireless communications.  When it debuts in September 2012, it will only be available for Android 2.2 or higher phones.  However, the departments that created the app are currently on the development of an app that works on other platforms as well.  As well as moving it to other platforms, they are hoping to add features such as pin-pointing the GPS to within 10 feet of the person's location.

Although the app was designed for the University of Maryland, the University of Maryland Police Department is currently trying to get the surrounding community of College Park to get on board with the project as well.  Currently, they are uncertain as to whether the cost of the set-up (a one time fee of approximately $100,000) is worth the additional assistance it will give to the dispatchers in the area.

Professor Ashok Agrawala, of the computer science department, was a major contributor to the research and development of this app and technology.  Agrawala says, "The technology, the way it was developed, can be deployed by anyone anywhere."  Agrawala and the University of Maryland have been contacted by several college campuses throughout the United States looking to assist in the development of a similar app for their college campuses as they feel that it will greatly assist in the public safety of their students and faculty.

Is it possible that soon all police departments throughout the United States will be deploying a similar app in the future?

Friday, January 6, 2012

How Police Technology Has Changed...

There have been monumental changes in policing in the last century.  The majority of these changes are due to significant advances in technology.  Below is just a highlight of some of the most monumental technological advances in policing, most of which are still in use today...

1901 - Scotland Yard adopts a fingerprint classification system devised by Sir Edward Richard Henry.  Subsequent fingerprint classification systems are generally extension of Henry's system.

1923 - The Los Angeles Police Department establishes the first police department crime laboratory in the United States.

1928 - Detroit police begin using the one-way radio.

1934 - Boston police begin using the two-way radio.

1948 - Radar is introduced to traffic law enforcement.

1955 - The New Orleans Police Department installs an electronic data processing machine, possibly the first department in the country to do so.  The machine is not a computer, but a punch card sorter and collator.  It summarizes arrests and warrants.

1960 - The first computer-assisted dispatching system is installed in the St. Louis police department.

1967 - The President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice concludes that the "police, with crime laboratories and radio networks, made early use of technology, but most police departments could have been equipped 30 or 40 years ago as well as they are today."

1968 - AT&T announces it will establish a special number -- 911 -- for emergency calls to the police, fire and other emergency services. Within several years, 911 systems are in widespread use in large urban areas.

1960's - Beginning in the late 1960s, there are many attempts to develop riot control technologies and use-of-force alternatives to the police service revolver and baton. Tried and abandoned or not widely adopted are wooden, rubber and plastic bullets; dart guns adapted from the veterinarian's tranquilizer gun that inject a drug when fired; an electrified water jet; a baton that carries a 6,000-volt shock; chemicals that make streets extremely slippery; strobe lights that cause giddiness, fainting and nausea; and the stun gun that, when pressed to the body, delivers a 50,000-volt shock that disables its victim for several minutes. One of the few technologies to successfully emerge is the TASER which shoots two wire-controlled, tiny darts into its victim or the victim's clothes and delivers a 50,000-volt shock. By 1985, police in every state have used the TASER, but its popularity is restricted owing to its limited range and limitations in affecting the drug- and alcohol-intoxicated. Some agencies adopt bean bag rounds for crowd control purposes.

1970's - The large-scale computerization of U.S. police departments begins. Major computer-based applications in the 1970s include computer-assisted dispatch (CAD), management information systems, centralized call collection using three-digit phone numbers (911), and centralized integrated dispatching of police, fire, and medical services for large metropolitan areas.

1982 - Pepper spray, widely used by the police as a force alternative, is first developed. Pepper spray is Oleoresin Capsicum (OC), which is synthesized from capsaicin, a colorless, crystalline, bitter compound present in hot peppers.

1993 - More than 90 percent of U.S. police departments serving a population of 50,000 or more are using computers. Many are using them for such relatively sophisticated applications as criminal investigations, budgeting, dispatch, and manpower allocation.

2002 - European country design and implement a software that allows a camera to scan and interpret license plate numbers from vehicle plates. From here, automated license plate recognition software begins to spread throughout the world, significantly increasing officer safety and enforcement.

Technology is also continuing to flourish in regards to police technology.  More recently, departments have begun to use smart boards in their department.  These boards can show a map with the location of every patrol car (including their last few stops), as well as all dispatch locations.  One can only wonder what future advances will be to the safety and effectiveness of police.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Congrats To Our Winner!!!!

Bob Johnson's Computer Stuff wants to wish a big CONGRATULATIONS to Chief Shawn Tray of West Mahanoy Township Police Department in Shenandoah, PA!  Chief Tray's short essay won the West Mahanoy Township Police Department a FREE Panasonic Toughbook CF-30!

We received multiple submissions from various police departments throughout the country.  However, West Mahanoy Township stood out.  Unlike other departments that are currently making do with older equipment, West Mahanoy Township currently has no equipment.  They are a very small community, which leaves them with a minimal budget to fund their small police force.  We felt that providing them with a Panasonic Toughbook would significantly increase their productivity in the field which would in turn increase the safety of the local community for their residents.  Upon learning that their department was the winner of our contest Chief Tray was highly appreciative and said, "it will be a great help to the department."

His Essay:
 With the budget crunch our township is facing this item would be a great benefit to the department and the effort we make to keep the community safe.  As of now our department has not been able to utilize the advanced technology that’s available.  Our patrol vehicles are not equipped with computers or an in car camera system.  The lack of a laptop severely limits the number of registration and licenses we are able to check, and the number of criminal history's we are able to get via roadside.  With not having this capability we are missing out on information that would lead to more arrest.  It also takes time away from officers being out on the road, as we must come back to the station and use our 11-year-old computer to access J-Net, and complete incidents.  Our police department covers over 16 square miles and serves over 3,000 residents.  Unfortunately each year there just has not been money left over in the budget to invest into new items.  Our crime has continued to rise over the last two years, with criminal arrest increasing nearly 15%.  This includes arrest for marijuana grow operation, a methamphetamine lab in a motel room and execution of numerous search warrants, where illegal narcotics were seized.  Officers have seized over the past two years, nearly six pounds of marijuana, 150 packets of heroin, over three grams of cocaine.  Along with ecstasy pills, methamphetamine, and prescription drugs.  I know to some departments this may not seem like a lot, but from having zero seizures prior to two years ago, to being a proactive police department, is a step in the right direction.  I assure you this item would be used to the fullest and greatly appreciated by our department.  Thank you for your time and consideration.
Bob presenting the CF-30 to Chief Tray

Enter To Win:
If you missed this contest, you can enter our next contest which will be running through March 31, 2012.  Visit our Facebook page to enter to win a Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 for your department!  The contest is open to fire, police, and EMS departments!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Panasonic Toughbooks: Are They Worth The Money

Panasonic Toughbooks tend to be one the most sought after computers for use in the field, particularly for those in first responder fields.  However, many departments are put off by the sheer cost of a Toughbook, as they wonder "is it really worth the extra money?" or "can't a regular laptop do the job?".  To answer those questions:

  • Yes, a Panasonic Toughbook is worth the extra money.  For those departments that don't have the excess funds to purchase them, there are always refurbished Toughbooks and grant funding options available.
  • No, a regular laptop cannot do the job.  While it will be able to run the software and will work when it is initially installed in your vehicles, it will fail...a lot.  The most common issues with standard retail/business line laptops being utilized in a moving vehicle include hard drive failures (due to shock vibrations), hinge failure (again due to shock, vibration, and excess stress on the hinges), and screen failures (due to cables vibrating loose or to significant weather fluctuations).
So, just why is the Panasonic Toughbook worth the extra money?  Simply put, it will last longer as it has a lower failure rate and is engineered specifically for the harsh environments that you will be utilizing it in on a daily basis.

Water Resistant
One of the most common types of spillage on a computer tend to be from the user.  Generally the spillage comes in the form of water, soda, or coffee.  While most computers would suffer a severe electrical shortage in the system board, that is not an issue with the Panasonic Toughbook.  All of the units come standard with a metal plate underneath the keyboard, which keeps any liquid from reaching the system board.  The fully-rugged models of Toughbooks will withstand way more spillage than your average cup of coffee.  Water resistance testing on a Toughbook includes a full thirty minutes of blowing rain 70 mph wind gusts with an average rainfall of 5.8" per hour.  What could simulate a heavy rainfall more than a high-pressure car wash?

Drop Resistant:
Although most people don't set out to purposely drop their laptop, it does happen.  Usually a dropped laptop results in a broken LCD screen or complete hard drive failure.  Panasonic Toughbooks, however, are tested to ensure that they can survive falls up to six feet onto a concrete surface.  Considering the fact that most drops occur from a vehicle, falling from a table, or from while being carried, it is highly unlikely that you will drop it from higher than six feet.  Although it is tested and approved for drops, please don't abuse your Toughbook like this on purpose...

Vibration & Shock Resistant:
Most Toughbooks are used in the field.  A great deal of them are mounted inside of a vehicle.  The Toughbook is designed and tested to withstand the regular vibrations of a vehicle as well as sudden high-force impacts to the protective casing.  Just how shock and vibration resistant are they?  If they can handle this abuse, they can definitely handle being mounted in your vehicle...

Temperature Resistant:
We've previously mentioned how a well a Toughbook can stand up to rain.  What about other significant weather?  A Toughbook that is permanently mounted in a vehicle can see significant temperature variations throughout the year (and depending on the season, even the day).  Lets use a drastic example...Minneapolis, Minnesota's average yearly temperatures range from the low teens in the winter to the upper nineties in the summer.  A standard laptop would never be able to function in the drastic cold of a Minnesota winter.  However, a Panasonic Toughbook is tested to fully function in a temperature range from as low as -20°F to as high as 140°F.  As if that weren't enough, a non-operations Toughbook (such as being powered down or in storage) will still fully function after being exposed to temperatures as low as -60°F or as high as 160°F.

As if that weren't enough, Panasonic Toughbooks are also:

  • Particle Resistant - to items such as dirt, dust, and sand
  • Air-Pressure Resistant - the unit will fully function at 15,000 feet
  • Humidity Resistant - fully functional at up to a constant 95% humidity
  • EMI Resistant - tolerates electromagnetic interference
  • UL 1604 Compliant - safely able to use around flammable and explosive materials
There are multiple stories and testimonials available showing how Toughbooks were the only computers that held up to harsh environments for various fields of use.