The Ontario Provincial Police will install at least 320 notebook computers in its cruisers as part of a project to bring remote access data to officers.

The rollout will not begin until next spring, when officers serving the 400 series

of highways throughout the province take part in the pilot phase of the program. The priority will be given to areas like Toronto where the bulk of the population resides, as well as busy border points to the United States such as Niagara, which has high volumes of traffic.

Funding for the $4-million project was announced Tuesday by the Ontario Ministry of Public Safety and Security. The move was applauded by the Ontario Provincial Police Association, which saw immediate benefits to its membership. OPPA president Brian Adkin said the installation of notebooks could allow officers to spend less time filling out paperwork and more time on the road, while being less reliant on radio dispatchers to record information or conduct searches for data.

“”They’ll be able to stop if they want and check the report status to see if there’s information that they need,”” he said. “”They’ll be able to check a vehicle or person on (the Canadian Police Information Centre, an online database) as well. It makes it a lot safer, and it makes the officer able to do more things from out on the roadside.””

While the funding is in place, many details about the project have yet to be worked out. Neither the ministry nor the OPP have selected any of the software that will be installed on the notebooks for example. Nor have they figured out to what extent it would connect with other provincial or federal information systems. Earlier this year Canada’s Solicitor Generals’ office set aside $4.75 million for a Canadian Public Safety Information Network, which would connect police officers, parole boards, court officials and customs officers, among others.

Ontario Ministry of Public Safety and Security spokesman Bruce O’Neill said the OPP has no idea yet what it will need in terms of applications or specific technical details.

“”I would say they’re not even down the first five miles of how this is going to work,”” he said.

Though OPP officers have not had mobile workstations installed in cruisers before, that doesn’t mean laptops are an unfamiliar site around police headquarters.

“”People are using notebooks all the time to do different things, different types of investigations,”” Adkin said. “”Now they’re going to have them in the car where they’ll be able to access them from a remote location.””

The laptops are a front-end project, but the OPP has already been busy automating its back-end operations. Last year the police agency completed a Web-enabled order fulfillment solution to handle orders for equipment and supplies and to monitor the warehousing and provisioning of these items to its officers across the province.

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