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For the last year, the Astoria Police Department has been testing the application of iPads for patrol officers. It started with one iPad in a test environment and then deployed one unit in a patrol car. Now, the Astoria Police Department has begun the move from traditional computers in the mobile environment to the Apple iPad. It was time to begin a rotation of replacing the department’s mobile computers which were six years old. When the department started looking at options they realized that for the price of deploying two ruggedized laptops, the department was able to purchase an iPad and ruggedized case for every full time police officer.
The iPad, by using a remote desktop program, will replace the mobile data computer displaying call information and allowing access to all police records. “That makes it equal to what we had before, “said Deputy Chief Brad Johnston. “Where the iPad truly surpasses the PC in the mobile environment is the additional productivity options. Using applications like Dropbox, Evernote, Magic Plan, Photosynth, Documents to Go, and a host of others, the officer in the field has a personalized way to interact with information, crime scenes and the public. The cost of applications and hardware is so much lower than the PC environment it allows us to be much more versatile.”
“Once we put this technology in the officers hands they started showing us how it could be used,” said Chief Peter Curzon. “They already knew of apps that they had been using on their personal smartphones to do their jobs. This just gave them a new platform to utilize.”
In a nod to the realities of municipal budgets the department is using the older iPad 2. “While it may be lacking the latest and greatest in technology, it suits our needs,” said Deputy Chief Johnston. “The drop in price when the new iPad was announced allowed us to include an additional application for all of our users and include our SRO and detective in the FY 2011 budget.”
The department is also being frugal on the ongoing expenses. Instead of buying 3G devices they purchased hotspots for each of the vehicles. Allowing for a wireless access point to be established when each patrol car arrives on scene. This allowed the department to save money on each tablet and also to save in the reoccurring cost associated with wireless access. Deputy Chief Johnston said “the connectivity, given our terrain, is the largest limiting factor. There are a lot of spots where we loose connection. The iPad is not terribly nimble with its connectivity. However, its quick access and versatility make up for this shortcoming.” ”This is a technology that will only be limited by our imaginations,” said Chief Curzon.
Astoria has already committed to moving to reduce the amount of paper it produces for council meetings and improve efficiency by providing City Council members with iPad’s to conduct city business. The devices will also be issued to Astoria Fire Lieutenants, and is already being used by the Deputy Fire Chief.