Why an Ontario cop and his cruiser stole the solutions hall at RIM’s conferencern

SIDEBAR: The star car at BlackBerry World

ORLANDO — The star of the bustling solutions hall at the opening of BlackBerry World 2012 was a black police cruiser with the markings of the Chatham-Kent Police force.

It was driven here from southern Ontario by Const. Ken Koke to show how the force is installing Research In Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet in its cars instead of more expensive ruggedized laptops.  

A small police department, Chatham-Kent is one of the few forces in the country that doesn’t have a digital link in all of its cruisers. In fact, it issued BlackBerrys to 170 of its officers four years ago to bring them into the IT age.

When the PlayBook came out last year, the force saw a device that would solve two problems: A relatively inexpensive way to bring a 7-inch tablet into a police car for easier reading than a handset, and device the right size for the new generation of smaller police cars, whose size was about to shrink because the venerable full-size Ford Crown Victorias were ending production.

Cont. Koke has been driving his squad car as a demo since last October. In the early months, he admitted, it was “more show that dough” because it wasn’t integrated with the force’s records management system. That only came recently with the release of RIM’s Mobile Fusion device management software.

Toronto’s Mobile Innovations did the software integration between the PlayBook, the officers’ Blackberry, Chatham-Kent’s records management system and the RCMP’s criminal records database (CPIC), while D & R Electronics of Bolton, Ont., which custom fits police cars with all sorts of hardware, created the bracket that holds the PlayBook and a keyboard.

The force is satisfied enough that it has just received delivery of its second PlayBook-equipped car. As squad cars are retired – about eight a year – the new cars will be fitted with the tablets.

“This concept costs two grand,” said D & R’s Paul Grierson, as crowds swarmed the car. Equipping a squad car with a ruggedized laptop would cost twice as much,” he said, hoping to convince more police departments to go this route.
 
The cruiser was showcased at a closed-door session for government representatives at the conference.
 
(An earlier version of this story misspelled Const. Koke’s name. We apologize for the error)
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