Small, simple computers for cops on the go

The premise of Public Safety Group Inc.'s "PocketCop" device is simple: Police officers cannot carry a laptop on horses, motorcycles, when walking around a neighborhood or while undercover.

What they need is something ultra-portable — and shock-resistant. "You're not going to have a detective outside a drug house with a laptop," said Don Nagle, PSG's vice president. "Anyone who goes by will know what is going on. But a cop can sit in the car with a PalmPilot and check out all the cars that come up to the house."

PocketCop — which runs on Palm VII but will soon also run on Palm V — enables officers to tap into state and federal databases and run queries on vehicles, people, stolen articles and guns. The system also allows messaging and e-mail access.

PSG (www.psginc.cc), founded in March by five former public safety professionals, specializes in computer-related public safety products and consulting services.

The start-up company is focusing on three states that have large police forces: Florida, Illinois and Texas. The wireless computers use either 3Com Corp.'s PalmNet or the Cellular Digital Packet Data service and must integrate with the police department's current network. PSG cannot yet work with police departments that do not have an existing network. Nagle said the PocketCop helps all officers who cannot use a cumbersome laptop. "We just want to give them the same type of inquiry capabilities as a typical patrol officer," he said. But he added that he is not trying to replace all laptops with handheld computers.

PSG charges $2,995 for the first handheld computer and the network connection and $1,995 for each subsequent device. The company has two small contracts, selling one device to Rolling Meadows, Ill., and three to Highland Park, Texas. Nagle said the contracts are "investments" and that he expects the departments to buy more as they learn of its usefulness.

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