PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - The arrival of computer tablets for vehicles at the Picatinny Arsenal Police Department held the prospect of many benefits, but several obstacles had to be overcome before they could actually be used effectively.
The police department at Picatinny Arsenal reports to the garrison command structure, which falls under the larger U.S. Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM). However, IMCOM's annual budget has decreased as Army funds have been allocated toward overall mission and combat readiness.
Thus, some of the functions and operations at an installation's garrison have been either reduced, or alternate funding had to be found. Yet, circumstances can also set the stage for ways to improvise, adapt and overcome.
The computerized tablets were to be placed in patrol vehicles to assist in logging incident reports, or search for information about drivers and their vehicles. The tablets, similar to commercial versions for home or personal use, are slightly more durable and heavier to withstand the nature of work that law enforcement officers perform on a regular basis.
However, a problem arose when it became apparent that there were no mounting brackets that properly fit the tablets. As a result, the tablets could not be used to their full potential. For safety reasons, the officers could not operate a vehicle while also trying to key in information onto the unmounted tablets, so they would place them on the passenger seat or not use them at all.
Also, since the patrol vehicles are owned by the General Services Administration, it wasn't possible to just drill and mount anything you want on the vehicles.
Then there was the matter of cost. The mounts that the officers found on the internet were expensive and, with strict mounting guidelines that prohibited altering a vehicle, a solution seemed out of reach.
"Sgt. (Robert) Taylor and Patrolman (Richard) Neillands took it upon themselves to look through a warehouse for some old parts," said Donald Meyer, criminal investigator and acting police chief.
The officers fabricated mounts from existing piping and materials that they found lying around, and performed the work on their off-duty hours.
They devised new harnesses and tablet stands that could be connected into existing holes in the passenger seating brackets.
"It took them about two months to find the right fit and get everything fully functional," Meyer said.
The police department now has five patrol vehicles equipped with the mounted tablets, allowing the officers to communicate with other vehicles and police headquarters.
"They saved the department over $1,000 in the brackets alone, not to mention that we are now getting use of the tablets we previously could not make use of," Meyer said.