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How to buy GPS systems

By Patrick “Pat” Novesky

The use of GPS (Global Positioning Systems) is a popular tool for law enforcement, and is used for search and rescue, documenting evidence at major crime scenes, and many other tasks. Buying these GPS units can be a bit confusing and you shouldn’t always depend on the salesman sell exactly what will fit your needs. Here are some specific items you’ll want to pay attention to when purchasing GPS equipment.

1. Price: Draw a line between technology you want and technology you need. Despite the salesperson’s pitch, a general recreational or mapping GPS unit will meet law enforcement needs just fine.

2. Durability: If you have a habit of breaking things, buy a rubber armored GPS or a protective case. Look at models that are designed for fishing and boating use that are waterproof, float and do the same thing as most of the other models out there.

3. Features: For adequate coverage, a minimum of 12 channels will allow the unit to work well in forest canopy. Most GPS have 500 waypoints; 500-1000 is adequate for most needs. A built-in electronic compass is an asset for anyone who spends time in the woods and needs to know direction at a glance. If you need to transfer data from your GPS to a computer map or vice versa then make sure your GPS has the ability to interphase using a special cable. A 12-volt adapter option is nice when you are in the squad, or in and out of the squad several times a shift.

4. Memory: Some GPS have internal memory amd others have removable data cards. If you are going to be doing lots of mapping, an expandable memory will likely work best. You can buy the data cards as you need them rather than spending money on a huge internal memory that you might only use 10% of.

5. Technical Data: There are quite a few terms and acronyms that mean nothing to most of us, but here is a crash course:

WAAS(Wide Angle Augmentation System): This feature costs more but greatly improves accuracy, recommended if you can afford it.

SiRF, u-BLOX, Media Tek (MTK): Essentially these are all high sensitivity programs used by GPS that allow the unit to hold a signal in adverse conditions such as weather, trees, and indoors. Most new models come standard with these systems but some older models do not.

This should provide you a starting point when you begin your shopping for a GPS unit. With the use of the internet you should be able to find countless websites that review, test, and compare just about any GPS you might be interested in, as well as make sure you purchase a GPS that meets your needs and budget.

Do you have any other suggestions for officers purchasing duty boots? Please leave a comment below or email with your feedback.

Patrick Novesky has a total of 18 years in law enforcement and began his career at age 20 as a sheriff’s patrol deputy in Northern Wisconsin, Pat has since worked as a police officer in Verona, Wisconsin and as an officer with the Dane County WI Narcotics & Gang Task Force. Pat has served as a police firearms and Verbal Judo instructor and has been involved with various training for all types of law enforcement. The past 10 years of Pat’s career have been spent working as a conservation officer for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources stationed in Forest County patrolling the Nicolet National Forest & surrounding area.

Pat has worked the majority of his career as a lone officer in a rural environment. As a result Pat understands the unique environment rural officers work in and would like to assist in providing training specific to the rural officer’s needs. Contact Patrick Novesky.

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