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Rugged Tablets: Always calling all cars in Troy, NY

A patrol-friendly police tablet helps the city’s metro traffic team move at the speed of information, improving traffic enforcement and call response


Sponsored by Zebra Technologies

By Andrea Fox, Police1 BrandFocus staff

Putting the Capital District’s unified call data and records information in their officers’ hands helps the traffic team in Troy, New York, work smarter as they respond to calls that stream from multiple agencies. The team’s rugged tablets support efforts to reduce incidence of auto crashes and improve police work and officer safety.

Sgt. Carello demonstrates how he uses his Zebra R12 Tablet to access critical data while in his cruiser.
Sgt. Carello demonstrates how he uses his Zebra R12 Tablet to access critical data while in his cruiser. (Image/Zebra Technologies)

Lighter and leaner than a laptop on a cruiser mount, a rugged tablet is designed for the speed and mobility police need, as well as the pounding that technology can take from their daily work. Zebra’s R12 XSLATE tablets have freed up more room in Troy’s patrol cars for two-person units and increased the efficiency of several department processes, including call response, ticketing and reports.

Beyond the key features, Sgt. Sam Carello believes the greatest benefit is that the tablets empower officers to feel more informed.

“I think that's the big thing, the efficiency of it, the mobility of it, and the information that goes out over it that makes your job that much easier. The information is just flowing,” he said.

IMPROVES CALL RESPONSE

The rugged R12 tablet provides computing capabilities comparable to laptops, which are more common among police agencies. Troy PD tried cruiser-mounted laptops, but officers felt they were too cumbersome and limiting on patrol, said Carello.

The department began upgrading officer computing capabilities in 2017 and now uses FirstNet SIM cards for connectivity. The Android tablets with public safety broadband have greatly improved department communications. Officers use their tablets to access a regional CAD and RMS being implemented by the cities of Troy and Albany and Rensselaer, Albany and Schenectady counties.

This capability enhances efforts to unify public safety communications. Troy PD’s tablets stream all the district’s calls – dispatched and pending – which has helped reduce radio traffic.

“In the past, you didn't know that there was a robbery, or a hit-and-run accident in the neighboring city until there was a radio broadcast,” he said.

This major change has improved call response, Carello said. With the R12 tablets, nearby or available officers see a pending call and can self-assign themselves to it.

“The initiative of the officers with tablets has been amazing,” he said.

In addition, integrated features like the 8MP camera and ability to run Windows apps empower officers to streamline agency work for non-evidentiary crimes and other tasks. And if they attempt to download an application that could affect tablet operations, or they simply forget to power down at the end of a shift, built-in auto-security features protect them against problematic software and battery damage.

If a rugged R12 gets thrown around during a high-speed chase or dropped - even into water, for up to 15 minutes - it will continue to function as intended without damage.

CUTS TRAFFIC TICKET TIMES

Troy PD has a busy traffic team, and the R12 tablets have improved enforcement and accident investigation performance.

State Route 7, which bisects the city, handles approximately 45,000 cars a day. With the tablets, officers can cut traffic ticket incidents to five minutes, freeing up dispatch on those tasks and getting themselves back on the street faster.

While they enhance information flow to police, the reverse is also true, Carello said. Officers can search information they need on traffic stops, getting background information on an address and learning about past calls from that location.

"While you're on a call, if it’s emergency radio traffic only, you don't have to pick up the radio to put in a disposition,” Carello said. “You can run the plates, you can run the person, check to see if they're wanted - all without using the radio."

Sgt. Carello shows how his department uses Zebra R12 Tablets for traffic checkpoints and accident reporting outside if the vehicle.
Sgt. Carello shows how his department uses Zebra R12 Tablets for traffic checkpoints and accident reporting outside if the vehicle. (Image/Zebra Technologies)

Troy officers use the R12 tablet to make queries on multiple state and federal law enforcement information systems and get instantaneous information. They also start various reports that can currently be uploaded using existing regional, state and department systems.

The hand-held size of this ruggedized tablet makes daily police work more efficient.

According to Carello numerous features, like high-definition Gorilla Glass display, improve tasks like traffic checkpoints. Troy PD’s tablets can be used day or night with the self-adjusting display, a nighttime setting or manual light adjustment control, as well as in extreme low-high temperatures (-4°F to 140°F).

FACILITATES ELECTRONIC TICKETING AND REPORTING

On the R12 tablets, Troy’s officers also write tickets and crash reports using New York’s TraCS ticketing system and peripherals, like a full keyboard, ticket printer and ID scanner.

Once the officer scans in a driver’s license and vehicle registration, the information is uploaded into the TraCS online form.

“When they are issuing a traffic ticket, they have the preprinted form. They can just change the names, dates, times, locations and poof, they can print it out in the car,” Carello said.

Completing crash reports is also simplified with the tablet, and they are sent electronically to a station server.

“Not only can they knock out a crash report, they can write an accident description, get a diagram drawn in, and issue the tickets in about 15 minutes,” Carello said.

Once finalized, the completed report is automatically uploaded to the TraCS system.

IMPROVES OFFICER SAFETY

In the Capital District, all the cities are somewhat connected crime-wise, so information streaming and access is critical to officer safety.

Troy PD can send group messages or direct message specific cars. But for Carello, improving officer safety is personal – his son is the third generation in their family to serve in the police department.

“I'm concerned for his safety more than I was concerned for my own, but the thing that makes me sleep better at night is knowing that this tablet is out there, and the information is flowing, helping to keep him safe. He's got everything at his fingertips,” said Carello. “Years ago, we didn't have it. And now, it's just so much better, safety-wise.”

Visit Zebra for more information.

Read Next: What cops want: How a rugged tablet can provide for truly mobile policing

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