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IPads Helping Tenn. Police Fight Crimes on the Go

One Tennessee county put iPads instead of rugged laptops in police cars; another county gave them to detectives.

Law enforcement departments in two Tennessee counties now have a new crime-fighting tool: iPads.

The Jefferson County Police Department recently purchased 19 Apple iPads, one for each officer, with a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The tablets are the first computers the department has had in its cars, said Jefferson County Detective Sgt. Darrell Turley.

Turley was sold on the idea to get iPads rather than rugged laptops, he said, when he learned the officers would be able to use the iPad’s touchscreen to draw sketches and record testimony on crime scenes, send police reports within seconds and investigate background information without calling dispatch.

“Officers have the ability to do reports out in the field now that there’s not as much of a necessity to come back to the office,” he said, which saves the department time and money.

And it turns out the iPad is tough enough, Turley said. For proof, the IT professional who introduced the idea to Turley “took [the iPad] and threw it down the hall, and he didn’t have a problem with it,” said Turley. Turley figured it would be adequately durable for his officers.

Apps for sketching a crime scene and recording a victim’s statement have made the officers more efficient than when they were using paper notepads, he said. The devices also reduce paper use and costs since sketches and notes can be shared with co-workers with a quick e-mail rather than multiple photocopies.

Detectives Also Work on Tablets

Forty-five miles away, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes and Family Crisis units began using the tablet computers three months ago, and detectives have enjoyed the mobility the iPads give them.

“The iPad is all about convenience,” said Detective Aaron Yarnell in an interview with Yarnell suggested the idea to the office after he bought a personal tablet and found it useful on the job.

The sheriff office’s IT unit approved the purchase of 16 iPads, costing $600 each, and replaced the old $850 laptop computers in the detectives’ cars. The iPads were paid for by federal funding through the Justice Assistance Grant, administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The laptops were given to the patrol division.

The iPads will provide monthly savings, according the article. Laptop computers required a $40 monthly air card to provide Internet access, while the iPads offer the same connectivity for $25 a month.

Yarnell told that he uses the device to get more accurate details from witnesses. For example, if someone describes a car used in a robbery, Yarnell can pull up photos of cars to accurately match the description.

The iPad also has a GPS that allows detectives to pinpoint locations and gives them access to the in-house crime map that shows reported crimes and the location of sex offenders.

Yarnell is currently developing other applications, including a blood splatter program to help officers better understand blood drop patterns.


Miriam Jones is a former chief copy editor of Government Technology, Governing, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines.