HOLLIDAYSBURG - Borough police have added a new weapon to their arsenal: iPads.
Hollidaysburg Borough Police Chief Jeff Ketner said six tablets have already been purchased for the officers to use, and the department has plans to buy two more so that each officer has access to one.
Ketner said the computers the department has had problems with the computers in the officers' cars for several years, and the iPads should end those technological woes.
The officers will also be equipped with Internet access to use the iPads.
"We're just trying to make it easier for everybody," he said.
Sgt. Rodney Estep, who spearheaded the idea to get the iPads, told the Hollidaysburg Borough Council in November that the tablets would help keep officers informed and allow for easier ways to contact one another.
"They provide a whole pile of research information," Estep said.
He said the iPads would also allow officers to access important documents and law books on-the-go, which would help make much of the officers' jobs quicker.
Equipping police officers with more modern technology is gaining traction in other departments across the country as well. Boston police purchased 100 of the tablets in January, according to the Boston Globe. Apple has a page on its "iPads in Business" section promoting the use of its product by police in Redlands, Calif. Police in Waverly, Va., uploaded a video to YouTube to promote its department's use of the tablets.
Available applications can give police access to a variety of information aside from each department's own documents, including CPR and first aid tips, mobile flashlights and police scanner feeds.
Ketner said the officers would be able to use the iPads to make filling out certain forms more efficient.
In the case of an arrest for driving under the influence, for example, he said, the written form is "five or six" sheets long. With the tablets, the form becomes rewriteable and digital, which makes filling it out faster.
However, he said the officers will not be doing all of their paperwork through the iPads. Full reports and the like will still be done manually.
"We're not going to be able to do any reports or anything," he said. "I don't want them sitting in there with their heads in their laps."
He said allowing this practice could be dangerous for the officers, as they would be less focused on their surroundings.
Another potential use, Ketner said, would be to allow officers to take crime scene photos with the iPads, which would prevent them from having to return to the station to get a camera. The officers don't carry digital cameras regularly, he said.
The tablets would allow photos to be sorted into folders, making them easier to keep track of and organize.
The iPads are not in the hands of the officers just yet, Ketner said, as a lot of information had to be loaded into the hard drives, and a policy for the tablets' usage had to be crafted.
Ketner said that though he's not technologically savvy - "I build a fire and use a blanket to send smoke signals," he said - the benefits of the iPads to the department were hard to deny.
"I think that's going to be a good thing," Ketner said.
Ketner said he didn't support the idea of buying iPads initially, as he didn't want to sacrifice something else in the department's budget for them.
He "didn't vote for it," he said, because he preferred to equip the officers with several in-car cameras, which could have "life-saving" benefits.
But, a grant came through from the Allegheny Club of Hollidaysburg to help the purchase, facilitated by Hollidaysburg mayor Joseph Dodson.
"There's money out there to be had if you go look for it," Dodson told the council.
Dodson presented a check for $3,157 to help with the purchase, though that was only enough for the initial six.
Ketner said that, though he had reservations at first, he approved of the purchase after the outside funding was secured. He said Estep was very involved in securing the money.
"Budgets are what they are," he said, "but they found somebody that was willing to donate."
According to Apple's website, the base price of an iPad 2 is $399, which only allows access to Wi-Fi connectivity. To have 3G access, which would allow it to connect to mobile phone towers, the price jumps to $529.
The Borough Council will discuss the additional iPads the police department is seeking to buy at its meeting on Thursday, though a vote is not definite.
Council did not vote on the purchase at its November meeting, either, as the plan to acquire the iPads was discussed during Dodson's report.
Thursday's meeting is 7 p.m. in council chambers.
Mirror Staff Writer Paige Minemyer is at 946-7535.