Going Mobile: The Office Is the Officer

February 12, 2014 Lenna Bradburn

In my early days as a front-line police officer, the in-field administrative tools were a notebook and pen along with a two-way radio. Trips to the police station to complete reports, either hand-written or on a typewriter (yikes!), were frequent – the “office” was the office.  “Dispatch, I’ll be 10-7 at the station for reports,” was a message often heard over the radio.

By the mid-1980’s, the answer to keeping officers on the road had arrived – mobile data terminals (MDTs). The MDT allowed police officers to receive calls for service, complete some reports electronically and access databases in a police car – the “office” was becoming the car. But there were limitations. Officers still needed a notebook and pen to collect information in the field and not all reports could be completed on the MDTs. If an officer was assigned to some other mode of transportation – foot, bicycle, motorcycle – nothing had changed; well, except those typewriters at the station may have been replaced with computers.

Today, the “office” is the officer. Officers are issued tablets or smartphones that allow for two-way communication, provide direct data entry through keyboards or voice-to-text, the collection of photographic evidence and access to databases in a few quick keystrokes. The notebook and pen are relegated to the police museum. But wait – this is what the TV cops have, not the real police!

Unfortunately, the technology used in police TV shows often outshines that available to the real police. Changing priorities and technology, as well as budget constraints, make providing staff with the right administrative tools a never-ending challenge. However,  today, hand-held mobile smart devices can increase productivity, streamline processes and reduce costs for investigators of all stripes.

Three administrative resources that are vital to policing are voice communication, access to databases, and the collection, documentation and management of evidence. Software applications for hand-held devices are in the marketplace that do all of these and getting them all onto one secure device will be the game-changer.

  1.  Two-way voice communication is being tackled by Motorola’s Lex 700 using the Android operating system and its more recently announced Unified PTT (push-to-talk) app that allows Android smartphone users to connect to P25 users and talkgroups.
  1. For NicheRMS users, Mobile Innovations has made significant headway in providing secure access to databases using Blackberry devices through their MPANiche product.
  1. Historically, the focus on documentation has been how it is stored. SceneDoc has developed its secure mobile platform for the collection, documentation and management of evidence using tablets and smartphones as the conduit. Say “good-bye” to pens and notebooks! SceneDoc is a platform that has been developed to operate on iOS, Blackberry, Android and soon Windows.

There will be challenges getting to this new mobile policing world – the business case, the procedures, the culture, the users, but, it will come, and at that point, it can be said that the “office is the officer.”


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