Panasonic: Equipping Safer and More Productive Officers
Part 1 of a Special 5-Part Series on the Panasonic Toughbook® Arbitrator™
Tragic Death, Officer Safety Motivates MSHP to Invest in Technology
In 1999, a Missouri State Highway Patrolman was fatally shot after pulling over a man whom authorities knew to be armed and suicidal. The patrolman’s two-way radio failed to pick up an alert and dispatch could not run a license plate check at that time. Captain Kim Hull, technology projects director for the MSHP said the tragedy might have been prevented if the officer had been outfitted with one of the Panasonic Toughbook® wireless notebook computers now in service.
The MSHP turned to Toughbook® technology to improve both the safety and the productivity of officers. Officers now get crucial feedback mere seconds after a license plate number is entered. “Without a doubt, the most important motivation for this project was officer safety,” Hull said.
Furthermore, they found that officers armed with the Toughbook® conducted between 50% and 115% more background checks. One 20-year veteran said that it was the most useful on the job tool he had ever used.
As many cops have experienced, new technologies often promise officers substantial improvements in safety and productivity, but ultimately fall short of offering practical solutions that meet the rigorous day to day demands of law enforcement. Fortunately, Panasonic’s suite of Toughbook® products is the result of understanding the needs of and working directly with Law Enforcement. The Toughbook® Arbitrator™ Mobile Digital Video System, the newest addition to the Toughbook® line of products, is no exception.
With ten years of experience developing technology specifically for the law enforcement community, Panasonic knows that creating technology to meet the needs of law enforcement does not come easy. It requires a difficult melding of expertise to first comprehend what cops need on the streets, and to then understand how departments communicate and finally to develop a product that seamlessly merges the two together. With this in mind, Panasonic began searching for cops with street experience who could clearly articulate the demanding technological needs of law enforcement, both in terms of functionality and durability, and technology experts who could meet them. Amazingly, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department had a 34 year veteran, Bill Salveson, who was both.
Salveson’s law enforcement experience spans over three decades and includes service with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department as a Watch Commander, Patrol Sergeant, Gang Sergeant and Organized Crime Investigator as well as a SWAT team assignment with the Special Enforcement Bureau. His last ten years with the LASD also included overseeing the development, implementation, expansion and day-to-day management of the Sheriff’s Data Network. His technical credentials also include serving as the LA County CLETS (California Law Enforcement Telecommunications Systems) coordinator responsible for bringing federal and state justice databases to local agencies.
Panasonic invited Bill to spearhead the development of their Toughbook® Arbitrator™ Mobile Digital Video System and apply real life law enforcement experience to the technology development process. “One of the most important things in developing new technology is creating something that addresses not one, but several problems,” Salveson said. “The Toughbook® system not only increases the access that police officers have to databases when they are in the field, but it also addresses the importance of durability to technology that is available to the officers. We focused on this concept in creating the Toughbook® Arbitrator™.”
Leading Edge Technology Meets Tough Law Enforcement Challenges
“When designing the Arbitrator™ System, we knew it would have to be built from the ground up to meet Toughbook® standards,” Salveson says. The result is the first all-digital mobile video system that features a rugged zoom lens with 50% wider viewing angle than current cameras and remarkable low-light capability. “In simple terms, it’s a tough and durable camera that records a large viewing area with very little need for light,” Salveson says.
The Toughbook® Arbitrator™ provides up to 32-hours of recording on two high speed Panasonic P2 cards that last longer and are more durable than present products on the market. “The storage and accessibility of digital data has been a key issue in the decision making process for departments evaluating mobile systems” Salveson says. “We eliminated that problem with the introduction of Panasonic P2 flash memory to the Toughbook® Arbitrator™.”
Panasonic P2 cards, unlike analog tape and digital hard drives, have no moving parts. “They also make the system much more durable and far less likely to be damaged when officers need to drive their vehicles aggressively,” Salveson says.
As Salveson would tell you, the work is not over when the evidence is collected. The Toughbook® Arbitrator™ captures video and audio data that is searchable with many wide-ranging criteria. These include time, date, office, vehicle, incident, trigger, event, bookmarks or officer notes, among others. The data can also be organized and time-stamped using the same criteria so that any officer can put together a bullet-proof evidence presentation in very little time.
“When officers go to court using this equipment, they know they have information that is not only protected but that is also readily admissible in the courtroom,” Salveson says.
Modular System Improves Performance, Cost and Capability of Existing Systems
One of the greatest benefits of the Toughbook® system is that it is modular, meaning a department can invest in or upgrade specific components of the system, without having to purchase or upgrade the entire system. The software is easily integrated with existing systems so that prior technological investments are not wasted. The flexibility of the system provides several options for departments that see the need to invest in better technology, but have already purchased other systems.
At the end of the day, the Toughbook® system, including the Toughbook® Arbitrator™, addresses several critical law enforcement issues: the need for advanced technology, portability, durability, and quick access to critical information. The system – used in whatever form a department finds best suited for its needs – significantly increases a field officer’s access to information and the speed with which it can be attained. This increases officer safety and facilitates the efficient processing of cases.
With the help of Salveson’s expertise, Panasonic has developed a full suite of digital technologies for the patrol car which, according to Salveson, has “changed the landscape of in-car access” for police officers.
Salveson puts it best: “Crime knows no boundaries and [now] information doesn’t either.”
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