The information in this article might prevent a funeral in your agency.
Note: Due to the amount of information being presented, I am busting this article into two pieces. This is the second / final. The first part was published a week earlier (12/22/16).
QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD BE ASKING
Please understand that the mounts for mobile computers vs. laptop computers are completely different animals. Also realize, that securing the printer (if there is one in the car) is an entirely separate ITEM, as well.
Is the existing console, radio mount, shotgun rack, and etc. of a size and configuration that will allow the addition of a computer without compromising officer safety or encroaching of the officer’s personal space?
Is the mount sturdy enough once installed to be solid, hold the computer securely (even through a crash), and not devolve into a rattling nuisance for the cop?
Is there a suggested maintenance schedule for the mount? Does the company provide maintenance manuals for use by your local mechanics? How does the design ensure that the mount “stays tight” and doesn’t become a loose cannon in the car?
Are the edges of the mount smooth and corners rounded so that it doesn’t cut the cop or damage his uniform?
Does the mount allow the computer and keyboard to be adjusted to fit the various operating scenarios, e.g. one-man vs. two-man cars, cops of different sizes, traffic cars vs. section cars?
For laptop computers, the mount needs to allow adjustment of height, angle, tilt, and distance between the cop and the computer. For mobile computers with the dashboard mount, these same kinds of adjustments are needed but only for the keyboard.
The ideal screen height places the top of the computer screen even or just 1” above the surface of the dashboard. That location minimizes the eye travel required between the screen and the horizon / peripheral area. Low mounted screens that require the cop to stare at the floor are death-traps. Period.
Does the mount interfere with the operation or position of the seats?
For laptop computers which are removable from the car: how are the electrical and electronic connections made? They should be via a master docking connection. Webs of wires hanging from the backs and sides of computers just don’t get it. They are a maintenance nightmare. And, they are hard to handle.
Are the USB and/or communication ports available to the officer without having to become a gymnast to get at them?
Does the mount, once installed, compromise access to any other critical equipment?
For traffic cars that need printers to print electronic tickets, Zebra, Printek and Brother offer some outstanding choices for the car. They also have mounts that will secure the printer to the car – even in a crash. The printer needs to be mounted where the cop can easily tear off the printed ticket and just as easily change the paper roll when needed. No gymnastics or flashlights here, either.
There is one Florida sheriff’s office that has done an absolutely stellar job of installing those printers. The deps like them and they’re easy to work with. Contact me if you want further on this issue.
The factors most important to a cop regarding this tech gear:
- It must always work. And it must work the same way every time.
- It must not take my attention away from my business, i.e. the bad guy.
- It must not place demands of my creativity, ingenuity, or other skills when I desperately need those assets elsewhere – like in a vehicle pursuit.
- It must not be an annoyance or aggravation on an ongoing basis. A short term pain-in-the-ass is tolerable. A piece of gear that constantly jangles my nerves or patience just ain’t worth it.
- It must not injure me.
HOW DO I PREVENT THE TROOPS FROM HATING ME WHEN IT’S OVER?
If you are the Project Coordinator, the best way to get acceptance is to invite the rank-and-file to participate in the process. Here’s a couple of ways to do it.
Approach One. Send a written invitation to every potential mobile vendor. Tell them what you have and what you want. Let each one of them outfit a single car with their optimum recommendation for your agency. All gear should be provided by the vendor.
Ask your guys for volunteers to test the cars. Assure them that their input will be strongly used in the buying decision (you’ve got to be sincere on this).
Once the test cars are setup, allow each potential vendor 10-15 minutes to talk to the cops involved in the test. Listen to all of them in one meeting, if possible. Get it over with.
Let the cops use the cars for some pre-determined period of time, i.e. 30 days and then bring them together to evaluate each setup and come to a consensus on which one they want. Management can retain control over costs by simply excluding vendors that are either overpriced or unreliable.
If you involve purchasing at the front end, they will know that the trial was open to all qualified vendors. So, the when the cops make a recommendation, purchasing can act on it without going through a subsequent bidding process.
Approach Two. Find out what setup is being used by other agencies in your area. Create of list of who’s got what.
As the troops for volunteers who are willing to go on a ride along or two with those agencies and come back with specific information about what did or did not work.
Keep the group size manageable. Bring the participating cops together for a skull session asking that they come to a consensus on what they’d like to have in their cars.
Either approach gets involvement of the guys who will live with the decision. They know that their lives may well depend on doing a good job. You’ll have buy-in and support from the get-go.
The toughest problem with either of these approaches can be getting permission from the “I know everything” crowd down the hall that have the Bars & Stripes.
This article has been a learning experience for me. I’ve enjoyed doing the research and listening to stories from fellow officers around the country. We’ve got some awesome people in this Brotherhood and sometimes we need to remind ourselves at that fact.
I did experience some disappointment and a very pleasant surprise.
Earlier in the article, I told of how I contacted major mount vendors and asked their input about how to improve officer safety.
All but two vendors responded. Far and away the most articulate and understanding of the street cop’s need were the folks at Lund Industries, based in Wheeling, IL. They have done their homework about what it’s like to spend 8-12 hours in a patrol car. More important, they know how to keep a cop safe when life goes sideways.
Other vendors provided information that has proven valuable in the development of the article, as well.
The learning from my experience tells me that stories sound good, pictures are pretty, and the sales guy may seem very sincere. Decision makers need to strip away the glitz and see how a vendor’s gear will really perform over time.
There is no detail too small. Just ask the cop who must listen to his computer and mount jiggle and rattle whenever his car is moving. It’s tough to read and it takes extra effort just to use it.
Last year’s fatalities prove that our cops don’t have surplus attention. We cannot tolerate sub-standard gear anymore.
In a few days, I will stand at the Candlelight Vigil at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C. With tears in my eyes, I will listen to the Final Roll Call where the name of each of the officers who died last year will be read one last time.
I cannot help but wonder if even one of those is there because of a command officer who simply let the computer guy “throw in” a computer mount that “will work.”
So should you.
I welcome your comments and questions. I can be reached by email at jim@CopBlueBlog.com.
In the end, it comes down to saving just ONE life.
This has come from the CopBlue VAULT.