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Rugged laptops that work as hard as first responders do

Here’s how one department increased officer safety through their computer equipment

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Police Officers in Vehicle Using Latitude Rugged Extreme 12

Having tools that can survive the extreme conditions law enforcement officers put them through is critical, and an officer’s laptop is no exception.


Police work is tough even when it isn’t dangerous, and a routine day can put an officer and their equipment through a lot of wear and tear. Having tools that can survive the extreme conditions law enforcement officers put them through is critical, and an officer’s laptop is no exception.

A law enforcement laptop is an essential tool, but non-rugged laptops are fragile and can break or lose functionality relatively easily if exposed to high or low temperatures, spills, bumps or rattling, or any number of other conditions an officer on the job might encounter.

That’s why more and more police departments are turning to Dell rugged devices that are designed to endure tough environments and keep officers connected and working no matter how rough it gets on the job. The design and features of these rugged devices not only help officers do their jobs but also keep them safe in the line of duty.


An officer doesn’t need to be involved in a high-speed chase or a confrontation with a violent suspect to put their equipment through extreme conditions. Law enforcement isn’t making use of these tools in a climate-controlled office environment either – an officer’s laptop might be sitting in their vehicle in August in Arizona or February in Montana, and they are likely to be exposed to dust, particulates and moisture of all kinds, from humidity to coffee spills.

A non-rugged device might be able to endure these conditions, but not for long, and law enforcement officers are out in the elements day after day and need something that can keep up. Adding weatherproofing or ruggedizing elements to a standard office laptop typically isn’t enough to keep the devices functioning for long enough.

Dell’s rugged devices are built with these considerations in mind, tested for temperatures ranging from 20 below zero to 145 F and up to IP-65 rated for a high degree of protection against dust, dirt and water ingress. These devices are designed to stay operational in most conditions, making sure officers can do their job no matter what comes their way.


Law enforcement is also very often a mobile job and requires tools that can be just as useful on the move as at the station. That means they need to be able to resist glare, survive bumps and stay functional across a variety of contexts. This is one of the reasons that the Winston-Salem Police Department in North Carolina switched to Dell rugged laptops.

“Officers switched to rugged because it was more equipped to handle what the officers face while they’re on the road, bumps, different lighting, everything like that,” said Annie Sims, public information officer at Winston-Salem PD. “Ultimately it creates more safety for the officers, whether they’re driving or parked, so they’re not losing attention span.”

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Law enforcement is very often a mobile job and requires tools that can be just as useful on the move as at the station.


Dell rugged laptops are drop-tested from up to six feet and come with highly responsive screens that have gloved-touch capability and up to 1,400 nits of brightness for direct-sunlight viewability.


Many believe that non-rugged devices cost less than rugged ones, and cash-strapped departments trying to balance budget demands may see this equipment as a low priority. Yet, given the intensity of the job these devices are being asked to do, it is actually more economical to invest in a rugged system over a non-rugged device. Departments may want to consider options to lease this type of equipment so as not to deplete capital resources but rather treat these systems as an operational expense.

Failure rates are substantially higher for non-rugged devices, and when these devices fail they may end up taking an entire vehicle or officer out of commission while they’re being repaired or replaced. When taking into account these soft costs, rugged systems often end up costing the department – and taxpayers – less in the long run.


An incident involving the Winston-Salem Police Department demonstrates just how tough these rugged devices can be. In March 2023, officers from the department assisted the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office with a traffic stop that had escalated into a standoff with an exchange of gunfire. During the shootout, the driver fired wildly at law enforcement, hitting their vehicles.

“When that driver was shooting aimlessly at officers driving along the highway, he shot into the patrol vehicle of the Winston-Salem PD officer. The bullet went through the front of the vehicle…and went through the Dell computer,” Sims said. “Three-fourths of the screen continued working after the fact…so technically the officer could still see the majority of what he needed to, and they didn’t have to take it out of service.”

Even after being shot, the rugged laptop kept working and kept the officer connected. “Dell rugged laptops are better equipped to handle what the officers actually face in the field and they help them do their job better,” said Sims.


Giving officers the tools they need to do their jobs is an essential part of keeping them and the public safe, and an officer’s laptop is a key point of connection and an essential part of good police work. Having a laptop that can stand up to the tough conditions of an officer’s daily routine is essential to keeping that officer safe on the job.

Dell rugged laptops are designed with features that bear this in mind, from environmental resistance and durable exteriors to sunlight-readable screens, stronger hinges, handles and more. These are devices that work as hard as officers do and can stand up to the toughest parts of the job.

Visit Dell Technologies for more information.

Rob Guthrie is a freelance writer and content creator from Portland, OR, where he lives with his wife and two cats. His work has appeared in publications as diverse as Texas Monthly, Digital Trends and Kotaku. In addition to his work as a copywriter and editor, he hosts a podcast and a YouTube channel and maintains a Substack.