How to buy vehicle consoles
By Tim Dees
Where vehicle interiors are concerned, "police package" cars are pretty much the same as the consumer models. Finding spots for two-way radios, siren and emergency light controls, racks for long guns, radar control panels and in-car video systems is always a challenge. This is how makers of aftermarket vehicle consoles stay in business. Here’s three points to consider when purchasing a vehicle console:
1. Compatibility with Vehicle
There are no stock sizes for public safety electronics, and every make and model will have different dimensions. Your console vendor should be able to tell you if there is sufficient room and adequate mountings for the control heads and switches you intend to install.
Don't forget to consider the depth of each unit. If the cables for each component attach in the back, there has to be enough room for the component, the cable, and some free area to allow the cable to bend. Some cables are available with right-angle connectors that make installation and maintenance easier on everyone, so inquire to see if that might work for you.
2. Mount for Mobile Computer
To keep the user from looking down too much and losing situational awareness, the top edge of the display should be roughly even with the bottom edge of the windshield when viewed from the user's perspective. If the user is expected to write reports in the car (which is not recommended), the keyboard should move to an ergonomically sound position that doesn't cause back or neck strain, and still be secure when the car is in motion.
Whenever possible, get a vehicle with the proposed installation and have your largest and smallest officers drive it. They will tell you what needs improvement. And don't forget the cupholders. Forget those, and your most costly piece of gear will come back to the station immersed in raspberry slush.
Tim Dees is a retired police officer and the former editor of two major law enforcement websites who writes and consults on technology applications in criminal justice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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