But uptake has slowed.
iPhones and iPads have totally changed how this police department works
After budget cuts forced the layoffs of 19 police officers in 2009, the 79-member Redlands Police Department in southern California knew that help was needed so that the same police services could be provided in the community with fewer officers on the streets.
"We had to downsize," said Lt. Travis Martinez, of the department's Community Policing Bureau. "So we're always looking for force multipliers to make our officers more efficient."
At the time, the remaining officers still used pagers and old-style cellphones to communicate. So the department started to look at new technologies, including smartphones and tablet computers. To move things ahead, the department sought and won a grant to help pay for the technology.
"We realized that there are so many other things that you can be doing with smartphones," said Martinez. "We needed to do more with less. The department decided that smartphones could be one of those force multipliers we needed."
The grant money allowed the police department to buy about 110 Apple iPhones and 67 iPads, which were deployed in 2011 to the officers and command staff members. Some of the iPads were given to citizens in the community to help them assist police officers in local crime fighting efforts, said Martinez.
The gadgets have been making a huge difference in the department, he said. "Officers can take photos using their devices, and they have GPS capabilities. They can type in the GPS coordinates of a suspect after getting that information from a cellphone provider, which allows us to locate the suspect."
The main benefit of the iPhones is their portability. "One of the biggest assets with iPhones for our officers is that we can respond to a robbery at a local convenience store and when the first officer pulls up to the scene, he can capture the video from a security camera," said Martinez. "Then the officer can transmit and send it to all our other officers and it can be compared it to possible suspects. We can email it to other officers, and then all can look for the bad guys."
The same capabilities are useful in missing persons cases or to help distribute flyers about crimes.
"Any time you can share the information and the actual pictures, it's great," said Martinez. "You think about the time it took to investigate crime 20 years ago and now it is just amazing. We can get information back in just seconds."
The iPads also help by letting officers bring more information with them.
"We use them for community presentations, when community policing officers meet with people in the community, developing partnerships," said Martinez. "The officers can access the Internet and all the crime databases on a secure website using a VPN connection. We can search all these databases out in the field. We don't have to drive all the way back to the office to do all the research anymore. And we can get this information in front of victims anywhere" to help solve crimes more quickly.
"We can put a photo lineup together at headquarters and send it to officers via email for victims to look at," he said.
The devices have even made one other old standard police tool obsolete – the printed community map books officers have had to lug around for years to find addresses and streets.
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