Police detect many ways to use handhelds

Police detect many ways to use handhelds

Pocket-size PCs help motorcycle, squad car and animal control officers find data they need at their fingertips

BY MAGGIE ROSS | SPECIAL TO GCN

Handheld PCs are racing through the law enforcement community like squad cars to a shooting.

From patrol officers in Lincoln, Neb., to motorcycle officers in the Bellevue, Wash., Police Department (BPD), police agencies from all over are using handheld PCs to help eliminate data entry and paper forms.

Lincoln Police
Police in Lincoln, Neb., use wireless handheld computers to communicate with headquarters. Some officers still prefer to use voice radio, especially in bad weather.
'In the traffic unit, the motorcycle officers are using their handhelds the same way patrol police officers use their computers in their cars,' said Bill Quinn, traffic unit commander for the BPD traffic unit.

Quinn said that motorcycle officers use Palm VIIxs from Palm Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif. The units, which have 8M of RAM, use Palm OS Version 3.5 'for running license plates and names through state [motor vehicles databases], and to look up arrest warrants.'

Quinn said handhelds save time and free up radio communications bandwidth.

Instead of the officers picking up their radios, calling in and waiting for their information, they retrieve information themselves, Quinn said.

Some of the officers prefer to use their radios when weather is a factor, as it can be for motorcycle patrol officers.

Police patrol officers and animal control officers in Lincoln also use Palm VIIxs to look up information they once gathered via radio.

Lincoln animal control officers enter an animal's tag number into the handheld to find out who the animal belongs to, the address of the owner and any additional information known about the animal.

The success of handheld units for Lincoln's animal control officers led to distribution of the units to police officers.

They swipe driver's licenses

Police in Santa Clara, Calif., use SPT 1733 wireless handheld computers from Symbol Technologies Inc. of Holtsville, N.Y., running Palm OS 3.5. The units use Cellular Digital Packet Data modems to transfer data at up to 19.2 Kbps. They have 8M of RAM.

Santa Clara police use the Symbol units to scan California residents' driver's licenses.
Once an officer swipes a driver's license, the data entered by the officer and license information is matched against the driver and vehicle records.

Quinn said that he has bought attachable keypads to make data entry easier for the officers. Quinn said he hopes that more officers will begin using the handhelds, which he feels will help 'unclog the radio, making more time for emergency calls.'

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