Last week, a shipment of 29 laptops arrived at the office destined for installation in the cruisers of deputies. Before the purchase, only a half dozen or so county law enforcement agents were equipped with computers in their cars.
“Some people think it’s a luxury item, but a patrol car is a mobile office,” Major Shannon Queen said. “That’s the standard for law enforcement now.”
The new laptops will give sheriff’s deputies the ability to connect to the Internet while on the road, to view pictures of suspects, check warrants while at the scene of a crime or a traffic stop, and send reports and citations without having to make the trip back to the office. Queen says the bottom line should be more efficient and more effective patrolling.
Without the laptops, a lot of information was conveyed via phone or radio while other tasks were put on hold until agents were back in front of a computer.
“Now, I can evaluate that myself in the car and reduce time on the radio and phone,” Queen said. “You have real-time access.”
The laptops were bought with a $60,000 grant through the N.C. Governor’s Crime Commission, along with a $20,000 contribution from county government. The equipment is built for the field and resistant to spills and other shocks.
The laptops will be used along with Internet aircards the sheriff’s department purchases with a grant it receives annually from the state. The cards are the second half of the equation and allow deputies access to the Internet much like a cell phone.
Queen said the sheriff’s office got its first laptops in 2000 and at one point had more than a dozen patrol units with computers. Over time however, they have become damaged or no longer useable. Lack of funds has kept the sheriff’s office from replacing them.
“The expense has been prohibitive,” Queen said
And if mobile Internet and laptops weren’t 21st century enough, the sheriff’s office is slated to use a $10,000 federal grant this year to help buy specialized equipment — such as hidden cameras and microphones for example — to be used in undercover drug and alcohol stings.
But Queen wouldn’t say exactly what the office was going to buy.
“I’m not going to tell exactly what it is we’re buying,” Queen said. “But it’s used for officer safety.”