Kodak Takes Aim at Law Enforcement

The film and imaging giant revamps its product line to attract police departments

P> When the mayor of Indianapolis asked Eastman Kodak's Herbert Blitzer to solve the city police department's information management problems, Blitzer thought he had died and gone to heaven.

The law enforcement arena offers so many opportunities for Kodak, said Blitzer, who was participating in the company's Executive On Loan program at the time. What Blitzer learned during his several months as a police adviser came in handy.

As a result, Eastman Kodak Co. has formed a special unit targeting a $170 million niche for film and imaging products in the law enforcement market. Blitzer is director of marketing for the group, which is part of Kodak's Commercial and Government Systems.

Many companies have a dedicated public safety unit, but no one has focused on the same niche as Kodak, said Michele Walsh-Grisham, vice president of G2 Research Inc., a Mountain View, Calif., market research and consulting firm that specializes in state and local business. Most companies, such as Unisys or Sun Microsystems, target dispatching systems. Walsh-Grisham estimates that in 1996, the entire criminal justice market will be worth $2.8 billion, a small increase from 1995's $2.6 billion.

Kodak has sold products to law enforcement officials for more than 100 years, but those sales traditionally were viewed as add-ons to the consumer market. The company made no special efforts to cater to police needs for fear that it would jeopardize consumer product acceptance.

But that has changed.

Blitzer spent two years visiting police nationwide, going to crime scenes, conducting focus groups and getting feedback. The result: a revamped product line.

The first product to come out of Blitzer's assignment was the QuickSolve data management software that can hold scanned images of evidence or paper reports, and digitized audio tapes.

This software helps police track and store information, transmit it to the district attorney's office and decrease the likelihood of tampering, said George Trammell, superior court judge for Los Angeles County, Calif.

The QuickSolve system stores images digitally so the information can be displayed for the jury on a television screen or large screen.

As the price of digital equipment drops, police will purchase more of these systems, Trammel predicted. Digital cameras retail for $700 to $20,000.

But police departments are still wary about costs, even for traditional photographic equipment. In response, Kodak cut prices and launched a rewards program. Each time a police department makes a purchase, it receives credit for selected merchandise, such as digital cameras or photography training. The company also has redesigned product packaging so it can be reused, for example.

All these changes have lowered the cost by approximately 15 percent, Blitzer said, but the exact savings are hard to calculate because customers can get volume discounts.

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