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Although most professions consider good communication essential, it can be a matter of life and death for police officers. That’s why a large portion of most departments’ technology budget is devoted to purchasing and maintaining a wide range of devices that facilitate communication and data sharing, from land mobile radios to pagers, in-vehicle computers and beyond.
But budgets exist because no department has unlimited funds to spend on communication technology. That’s why many agencies are starting to examine ways to reduce their overall costs by replacing legacy technology with something officers already know and use — smartphones.
Smartphones as Replacement, Not Supplement for Police Technology
Not all police forces use smartphones, but many of those who do consider it an additional cost to their array of land mobile radios, pagers, body-worn cameras, computers and other communication devices. In reality, powerful smart devices can replace most of these technologies, especially when used in conjunction with an in-vehicle docking station like Samsung DeX. Departments that have deployed smart devices in place of standard police technology are seeing numerous benefits.
Better Situational Awareness
Smart devices are simply more versatile and more powerful than the police technology of yesteryear, which often is not equipped for data sharing or low-latency communications.
Smartphones provide officers greater situational awareness. They can access critical information from the scene, such as schematics of a building, or run NCIC queries when on the go. In addition, they’re better able to connect with dispatch by quickly using voice, text, photo, location-sharing and all the other benefits that come with smart technology.
Compare this to the limitations of land mobile radio (LMR) — while it’s been a hugely useful technology, it simply doesn’t cut it in today’s fast-paced world.
More Productivity and Effectiveness
Police work is a shift job, and we all know paying an officer overtime can be expensive. Officers who are outfitted with smartphones can file reports and documentation while they’re in the field, freeing them up from having to return to the station in order to complete routine paperwork.
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The less time your officers spend behind a desk filing paperwork, the more time they have to engage with the community — one of the most important aspects of modern police work.
Lower CapEx and OpEx Costs
When smartphones become replacements for, rather than supplements to, your legacy communication technology, your long-term costs decrease substantially. This is true even if you’re issuing top-of-the-line smart devices with all the latest features and rugged cases.
LMRs and rugged laptops cost significantly more to acquire — typically $2,500 to $5,000 each. Add to that the operational costs — which for laptops includes software licenses, installation and maintenance — and it’s clear that legacy technology costs far more than outfitting officers with up-to-date smartphones.
In-vehicle laptop computers require a higher level of IT management and support compared to mobile phones, whose operating systems are automatically updated over the air. Using a cloud-based solution like Samsung Knox Manage provides further cost-saving opportunities without requiring new infrastructure. Knox Manage can be used to set security policies, as well as push and update apps, such as computer-aided dispatch (CAD), resource management (RMS) or eCitations solutions.
Leveraging Grants for Technology Updates
Despite all the long-term cost and performance benefits of replacing legacy police technology with mobile devices, it can still be a challenge for cash-strapped police departments to foot the upfront bill of a technology overhaul. That’s where grants can come into play.
Every police department that’s eligible for grants and grant proposals will be particularly competitive if they can demonstrate they’re undertaking:
- a meaningful project,
- with a clear set of requirements,
- leading to a measurable outcome,
- in a set amount of time.
Projects that replace legacy technology with smarter devices and technology are particularly compelling to funders, as smart technology can have immediate and far-reaching effects on a police force’s safety, productivity and efficacy.
Balancing budgetary concerns with the safety and performance of your officers is not such a challenge anymore, thanks to the power and accessibility of smart technology. What’s more challenging is taking a long-term vision and getting buy-in from other decision makers.
But with a strategic, grant-enabled rollout plan in place, it will be much easier to make your department’s technology transformation a reality. After all, updating your force to smart devices is a highly valuable and affordable way to protect and serve your officers while they’re protecting and serving their community.