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Excerpts from an interview with Post Falls, Idaho, Police Patrol Commander Lt. Scot Haug:

When the Post Falls, ID, Police Department wanted to arm its patrol cars with virtual offices, it turned to The Network Group, Inc. to make it work.

We had an idea of what we wanted to do, where we wanted to go with it and the funds. What we needed was someone who could make it happen," says Lt. Scott Haug. "The Network Group was that 'someone.' They had the expertise and the knowledge to put it all together and make it work. They were the perfect fit."

What the law enforcement agency wanted was to give its officers the same functionality in their cars as they had in the police station offices. The funds for the project came from a $160,000 grant from the Department of Justice and $40,000 from the city of Post Falls.

The idea was to place laptops in the department's 20 patrol cars and put the technology in place that would provide officers:

The capabilities we wanted were very different from what's already out there. We were pioneering. This is not the kind of pre-packaged technology that you take out of a box, hang up and it starts working. What we needed was a mobile, wireless backbone and that was going to require getting a variety of different technologies to work together," explains Haug. "We're a small agency and we do a lot of our own technology work but this project was too big to handle ourselves. It required expertise in both the wireless and computer arena that we don't have but The Network Group does."

The Network Group, Inc., is based in Coeur d'Alene, ID with satellite locations in California. For nearly 10 years the company has provided high security LAN, WAN and MAN solutions and support to business and government agencies so the Post Falls Police Department project was one they knew they could successfully accomplish.

We have a history of building and developing highly secure multi-vendor, multi-discipline communications networks as well as a background in radio technology, especially 802.11 and hybrid systems," says Network Group director Mel Nottage.

To create the Post Falls MAN, which allows officers continuous and fast access to information even when they're moving at high speeds throughout Post Falls' rural, mountainous 30 square miles, The Network Group used a combination of pre-existing technology and either built or accessed existing towers for the system's radio equipment.

One of the project's challenges was establishing enough radio tower locations to mitigate the interference of mountains and trees in order provide the necessary overlapping communications access for continuous coverage. "At build out, we'll have 20 tower sites and no blackout areas," says Haug.

The advantages of the Post Falls MAN are many to both officers and the citizens they serve. "There are big benefits to having this communication system. The city has been growing by leaps in bounds in the past 10 or more years but the ratio of police officers to citizens hasn't grown at the same rate," says Haug. In 1990 we had 2.8 police offers per 1,000 citizens by 2002, we had 1.6 officers per 1,000. That's a 50% decrease. We needed a way to enable our officers to be more effective in less time, cost effectively and this system does that."

When the Post Falls Police Department first looked at providing officers with patrol car offices, they originally contemplated using the infrastructure and services provided through the telephone company. But, says Haug, costs were prohibitive and there were access speed, security as well as support and service issues.

It made more sense from a capability, security and economic standpoint to have our own network," says Haug. "The Network Group was able to provide that for us. They were the perfect fit for this project."

Not only was The Network Group able to create a MAN to meet all the police departments requirements, the company also has two other important capabilities - an ability to work with a government agency and the capability to provide continuing support and service.

It was important for us to find a company that not only had the expertise to do what we wanted but that could also adapt its business practices to work closely with a government agency, the city," says Haug. "It was also extremely important to work with a company that had the knowledge, ability and resources to provide continued support and service. The Network Group was vital to the success of this project. There was no other way to get it done."