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P1 Tech Help: Santa's top tech

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “It’s impossible to find a good gift for ______.”

Maybe “______” is your partner, your sergeant, your dispatcher. Maybe “______” is you!

During Christmas, people may ask what you may want for Santa to bring you, and you may be on the asking end of that equation. So for this month’s Technology Help column, I’ll briefly offer a few suggestions for those of you who may be stuck at what to ask for, or what to get for someone in your department.

Number one thing is a thumb drive. As I have written before, a thumb drive can be used to store a vast amount of information, reports, photos, and even software programs. A thumb drive could be purchased almost anywhere, including a supermarket. They come in different storage amounts from 128 megabytes of storage to an unheard amount of 64 gigabytes and can be carried in your pocket. Consider that the first computers only stored a few kilobytes of information and they occupied entire floors of space.

Betsy Brantner-Smith had a great PoliceOne tip a couple of months back: that we all ought to carry a pocket-able digital camera. To dovetail onto that, I’ll tell you that a digital camera is another great gift for LEOs. There are many different types of cameras with differing amount of megapixels. Wikipedia defines a pixel as the smallest piece of information in an image. A megapixel is one million pixels in an image. When it comes to pixels, numbers count. A camera with a 3.2 megapixel range renders photos that can be blurry or not as clear as those taken by a camera having 8.1 or more megapixel range. This simply means pictures are clearer in an 8 megapixel camera. This much clearer resolution could help while taking a photo of a crime scene or victim.

Finally, you could consider getting a GPS device and/or software. Some of my fellow officers use a GPS device in their cars. While we may know where all of the streets are in our given patrol area, you must admit there are moments that anyone (everyone) can suffer of an attack of cranial flatulence – momentarily forgetting where a street is. So instead of asking dispatch for directions (heaven forbid), the officer who is equipped with a GPS device can take a very short moment and type in the address and viola, you have your directions.

I recently purchased Microsoft Streets 2008 with a GPS device. MS Streets is software that comes on a DVD that I loaded into my patrol car’s computer. Once downloaded, I installed the USB GPS device and I now have a computer that allows me to view my every mile traveled with speed. This software even allows you to track your moments with a “trail.”

A fellow officer and I both agreed the software should be equipment every officer has in their patrol car. Of course each agency is different and your agency may already have GPS capabilities in the patrol cars but for us who do not have those capabilities yet, it is reassuring you don’t need to rely on dispatch to help get you where you need to be.

I researched several online stores to make my purchases. I think that Tiger Direct is an excellent online store – I go there for my computer peripherals (stuff such as a thumb drive or a digital camera) – and I’ve found the best price for software can often be obtained at Amazon. Software can be very expensive but can be found there to be securely purchased at a discount price. I suggest you do your own research for the best pricing.

Be safe, and have a great Christmas.

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