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How the right docking station keeps one sheriff’s department connected in the field

After a series of connectivity problems, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department sought a durable docking solution that could reliably connect its mobile fleet to their laptops and tablets


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By PoliceOne BrandFocus Staff

When a crime happens, cops don’t have the time to worry about whether their docking station is connected to their mobile laptops and tablets.

The Gamber-Johnson docking station for the Getac V110 rugged notebook solved connection problems for the SBCSD. (photo courtesy of Gamber-Johnson)
The Gamber-Johnson docking station for the Getac V110 rugged notebook solved connection problems for the SBCSD. (photo courtesy of Gamber-Johnson)

That’s why many law enforcement agencies invest in durable docking stations from Gamber-Johnson, which keep in-vehicle laptops and tablets in place during hot pursuits for agencies like the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

The Problem: Docking stations that weren’t user-friendly or reliable

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department serves San Bernardino County, Calif., which is geographically the largest county in the United States.

Sheriff’s officers need a strong signal 24/7 for their in-vehicle laptops and tablets to communicate and get vital data. But sometimes, the docking station would get in the way, said Robert Dashoff, SBCSD systems analyst.

Radio signals are transmitted to mobile devices inside each vehicle via an external antenna mounted on the cruiser’s roof, which is connected by a pass-through cable affixed to the mobile docking station, usually mounted in the center console.

But the cables and ports aren’t always clearly marked on different models, Dashoff said.

“If that is messed up, the computer doesn’t have an antenna at all,” he said. “It would be like going inside and cutting the wires to the radio.”

In the midst of installing new equipment, Dashoff’s two-man department spent hours answering questions about where the pass-through cable plugged into the laptops and tablets. Unmarked hardware caused confusion about something that should have been more intuitive for the user, he said.

Also, the docks would get damaged. When officers would put the machines in the docks or remove them, the pogo pins would get bent and lose their connection. Pogo pins – the spring-loaded prongs that deliver data and power to the computers – are necessary for a connection.

“It’s where the rubber meets the road when you put the computer in the dock,” Dashoff said. “Those have to make good contact. They have to stay clean, and they can’t be damaged or get worn.”

The Solution: Gamber-Johnson’s Getac V110 Docking Station - Triple RF (SMA) Dock

Dashoff said because of the problems with the lack of clear labels and defective or unprotected pins – as well as the additional time it took for their IT team to answer questions that should have been intuitive – the county decided to retire the problematic docks and invest in the Gamber-Johnson docking stations specific to the convertible laptop/tablet models they were using.

Gamber-Johnson is an industry leading company that offers top-of-the line laptop and tablet docking stations custom-built for specific devices, so they offer a perfect fit for any laptop or tablet. In addition, the docks offer integration with vehicle electronics and other systems.

The Getac V110 Docking Station - Triple RF (SMA) dock from Gamber-Johnson was the perfect match for the rugged convertible laptop/tablet favored by the department, as it provided clearly labeled antenna pass-throughs, eliminating their previous IT headaches, Dashoff said.

The 3.8-pound docking stations enable the department’s Getac V110s to be used in tablet or laptop position, while aluminum construction and a black powder coat finish make the docks especially durable for police work.

A front safety bracket helps align each computer for proper connectivity, and the design has been tested to meet MIL-STD 810G shock and vibration specifications. Additionally, each dock comes with a three-year limited warranty.

The Results: Reliable connectivity for cops on the go

The county needed a piece of hardware that was easy to use for officers and rugged enough to withstand daily wear and tear. The docking stations from Gamber-Johnson solved problems immediately, Dashoff said.

Now, officers have consistent connectivity to the information they need in the field because the antenna pass-throughs on the docks are clearly labeled and pogo pins are shielded. This means officers are always connected to the data they need to do their jobs, and shielded pins can withstand the rugged nature of the department’s daily calls.

“What Gamber-Johnson advertises is what you get and more,” Dashoff said.

The ROI: Reduced IT workhours and fewer frustrated cops

The reliability, specific design and clear labeling of the Gamber-Johnson products have alleviated the SBCSD’s frustrations with poor connectivity and the labor costs associated with helping officers in the field.

Dashoff said it took his team some time to diagnose the issue when laptops and tablets in the field were not connecting, including figuring out whether a naturally weak signal or a mechanical issue was causing the trouble. This meant an additional burden for an already taxed two-person team.

He estimated that the department lost at least two full work weeks – or about 80 to 100 hours – running around troubleshooting the previous, unmarked docks and trying to get the antennas property connected.

“We have saved many hours of having to go back into the field and rework installations, which equates to dollars saved,” he said.

In addition, the department has happier and less frustrated users. Installing the Gamber-Johnson docking stations immediately eliminated that stressful scramble by IT staff trying to diagnose a problem remotely, and users now encounter very few problems.

“They just work,” said Dashoff. “The engineering on these docks has been well thought-out, and the almost zero failure rates reflect that.”

An even better example of a great ROI: The department feels confident enough in the product that the next step will be to standardize the entire fleet to a single laptop/tablet model and its corresponding Gamber-Johnson docking stations.

“As the older machines start to finish their lifecycle, we always replace them with a V110 and a Gamber-Johnson dock,” Dashoff said. “We have a warehouse full of new computers, and we’ve bought a bunch of docks, too, from Gamber-Johnson, so we’re betting a lot on it.”

Officers depend on laptops and tablets to keep them connected to criminal and other data. That’s why it is important to invest in the right docking station to ensure reliable connections that give them the data they need, like those from Gamber-Johnson.

For more information about mobile laptop and tablet docking stations, contact Gamber-Johnson.

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