In former Soviet state of Georgia, an iPad knockoff for police

An employee demonstrates a "Police Pad" at the Algorithm factory in Tbilisi, Georgia, on January 11, 2012. Five thousand police officers will receive portable field computers, equipped with features that will assist them with their work, assembled at this factory, according to local media.

Update: An official response to this blog post from the government of Georgia is here. And a response from a Boing Boing reader who is a Georgian native is here.

From the Tbilisi-based Georgian language news organization Rustavi 2:

Five thousand police officers will be handed over portable computers. New police pads were produced in Georgia by the Algorithm Company. Minister of Interior Vano Merabishvili observe the process of police pad production in the factory personally. `I have an honor to inform Georgian society and the officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, that in a few days five thousand police officers will be equipped with such field computers, which will allow the citizens and the police officers to provide services offered by the ministry to our citizens more comfortably,` Minister said adding Georgian police would soon become the most developed and modernized police in the world.

Says a friend who travels to the region often: "100% guaranteed those crooked, fat, lazy cops will be using these devices primarily for porn and russian gambling services."

Update: A counselor from the Georgian embassy to the United States has contacted Boing Boing to express disappointment that the quote above was included in this article. The remark is unfair, the official says, and it's something of a sore point for a country that has done so much to address the issue in recent years. They direct our attention to the Georgian government's efforts to reform police and fight corruption—with results, they say, that are a global example of success for an emerging democratic state. We've invited the government of Georgia to share those comments in longer form, and we'll gladly post them here as a guest opinion piece in entirety. It should also be noted that the source of the critical quote in this article loves Georgia, its people, and its culture, and travels there frequently to this day. Some who applaud the success of reforms still argue there's more work left to do.

(photo: REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili)


    1. They’re referring to it as the PolicePad. I think this is a reasonable case of trying to present a product to be thought of as similar to iPad in some way. Yes, I realize it’s an Android tablet.

  1. I’m trying to work out why this is an “iPad knockoff” when it’s just an Android tablet.

    I mean, I guess we could still be referring to all Windows computers as “Apple knockoffs,” but that seems a little like dredging up stupid arguments.

      1. So the use of ‘pad’ in the name makes it an iPad knockoff? 

        Someone call HP, their innovative (if flawed) tablet is now just an Apple ripoff.

      2. Cops have been using notepads for over a hundred years.  Apple doesn’t own the suffix “pad”.  Other than being rectangular and black, there is no resemblance whatsoever.

  2. I do believe that this is payed for by the US tax dollar. This and the real life recreation of Halflife 2.

  3. Wow, I’m unsubscribing from SlashGear and BoingBoing in the same day!  Must be the arduous task of covering CES that’s making the fanboy bloggers go nuts today.

  4. I’m disappointed there was no “In Soviet Russia…” joke, I was sure there was a ‘bot for that. :-)

  5. I think I should start a blog of photos of police using their iphones. Seriously, this is something Ive started seeing a LOT lately here in NYC. people worry about “police states” but I bet you could get away with a lot right under their noses – because they arent paying attention. I bet the people who monitor security cameras are checking their facebook all day too. 

  6. Well, it’s probably the ultimate form factor for watching child porn on the job.  We’ll know for sure if they start handing them out in Vatican City.

  7. According to Apple, non-iPad knock-offs should look like this, non-rectangular with dimpled back and green, I agree, that IS a apple knock-off!

  8. What is actually more interesting about this is that they are producing their own hardware in a factory in Tbilisi. This is not some Huawei or ZTE device, no Lenovo, etc. It might have China-made components, but at some level the integration is local. I am not sure that would even be possible in the U.S. anymore.

    1. really? Because I live a few miles away from a tec-manufacturing ‘park’, with one company that makes military systems.

  9. Xeni, I have to agree with others who don’t get why naming/brading it a “PolicePad” makes it an “iPad knock off”. AFAIK the suffix “Pad” is not a registered trademark like the “AppStore”.

  10. I went to Georgia in 2002 (before the revolution). Basically, the main city Tblisi was ringed by

    a) ridiculously cheap gas stations
    b) cops systematically shaking down anyone on the road

    Your tail light is out ::tinkle::. That’ll be 50 lari. etc etc.

    Our bus had the sign from a local (religious?) university, in the belief that cops would be less likely to stop us for a shakedown (as opposed to a bus full Americans, ie a payday).

    So, utterly corrupt cops with iPad knockoffs…

    Your tail light is out ::tinkle::, here’s a 50 lari ticket, and would you like to buy a new tail light while you’re here?

  11. Xeni, I live in Tbilisi Georgia and I have even done some consulting work for Vano, the Interior Minister, mentioned in your article. However more than a few of my Georgian friends are in the opposition so I have a fairly nuanced perspective of the political situation here.  Bottom line, you got a lot of things wrong in your article, especially the comments a “friend who travels” made about fat, corrupt and lazy cops.

    First of all right after the Rose Revolution in 2003 not only was the police force reformed top-to-bottom but the entire staff of the highway patrol was fired. Police here tend to be young, fit and efficient. Corruption might still exist at the top levels of government but it is a non-starter everywhere else. When my friends and I opened a bar here no one hit us up for money, not even the water or electric guys and certainly not the Police (not my experience in SF or NY btw).  Georgia is a special case in the region, and insinuating that its just another corrupt and slowly collapsing former Soviet Republic is so completely wrong it’s laughable. President Misha may not be a perfect democrat, but he is one hell of a reformer and this is a great place to start a business or get arrested for that matter.    

    This is a country on the move, not stuck in its past, as the manufacturing of its own line of Android Tablets would seem to indicate.
    Btw, Rustavi 2 is not a newspaper, its a TV station and most Georgians prefer Caribbean gambling sites to Russian (still bitter about the invasion ya know).

    1. I completely agree with Mark.  The police reform is one of the things that can be applauded here in Georgia.  It is reflected in the way that Georgian people think about the police, if you look at issues of public trust in institutions (38% trust and 26% fully trust the police in Georgia, up even from the 2009 data, see  Fat, lazy, and corrupt are the polar opposite of the way that most people would describe them.  In the past, while a Georgian citizen might have gone out of their way to avoid involving the police in a dispute or other issue for which they would be appropriate, you now see them being called in as independent arbiters to resolve these problems.  I have been living here for over seven years and have been impressed by this aspect of Georgia’s development.
      It would be great if you removed the opinion of your one friend.  I imagine a lot of people would be happy to provide a more up to date and nuanced perspective on issues related to Georgia for future posts that relate to the country.

      1. Or, if you are going to keep the dubious quote, cite your source. Otherwise, I think we all potentially have an anonymous  friend that could say anything we wanted. Journalism is as journalism does ;)

        1. Gamajobat megobrebo,

          Another Georgia resident here, been here near four years and feel as much at home here now as I do back in the UK. It’s a wonderful, fascinating country with fantastic, smart, warm and beautiful people. Xeni, I highly recommend you take Mark up on his offer to show you around here, there’s so much stuff here that would be of interest to your readers.

          Whilst I agree with my fellow Georgiaphiles disappointment at the off-hand and poorly-researched manner in which the police here were dismissed, I’d still say I’m non-too-fond of the Georgian boys in blue.

          Mark’s absolutely correct about the image of Georgian police being “crooked, fat and lazy” being pretty obsolete. Georgia has been remarkably, almost uniquely, effective at stamping out street level corruption, but by this I mean the endemic culture of bribe-seeking which plagued the country up until the Rose Revolution.

          The Georgian police force still has a lot of problems though, and whilst I recognise these are issues that you’ll find with police the world over I still think that the arbitrary beatings, fit-ups, deaths in custody, politically motivated arrests, raids on LGBT organisations and notorious high-profile murders are not to be ignored.

          Hell, the British and US police can be pretty terrible too and Georgia really has come a long way, but still has a long way to go. Equipping them with tablets does not strike me as an adequate, and more importantly cost-effective way of addressing the serious problems with accountability, transparency and rule of law that remain.

        2. For reasons that should be obvious, this person does not wish to be identified publicly, but they are very much known to me. It’s silly and bullying to suggest that this is not a reasonable thing for someone to want to do, if they’re making a critical comment about a foreign country they travel to regularly. Fear of retaliation and all that.

      2. We’ll do future posts on the broader story of police reform, and cool things there. Some people apparently feel like there’s more reform to be done, and that’s a valid point of view. Not the only one, clearly, but a valid point of view.

    2. Hey, thanks for personally siccing the government of Georgia on us. 

      Can’t take you up on your kind offer, as I’m undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.

      “if you still dare.”

      Not sure if you intended this to sound as creepy and threatening as it does. But it does.

      1. It was meant as a lighthearted coda. I am truly sorry if you found it threatening in any way. I have removed it.  

        If the Georgian embassy was in any way offensive I want to apologize for instigating the contact, all I did was suggest to them that they invite you to come to Georgia and see for yourself.  Selfishly I saw it as a chance to meet one of my new-media heroes.

        I was careless with my words, if I had recalled your medical situation I would have gone about the whole thing differently.  

        This really is a nice country, a safe place to live, and its people are hospitable, generous and joyful. Foreigners certainly do not need fear retaliation of any kind for any reason, indeed we are coddled and privileged sacred cows. I am very sad to have given you the wrong impression.

  12. Apparently the device in question isn’t the only knock-off in this picture… at least, if the logo on the guy’s jumpsuit is the company logo. Looks *exactly* like the logo for the German employment office. Ah, the irony.

  13. As some of the other comment above state, the situation with the police in 2002 is totally different than today, and almost everyone accepts this. Personally speaking I can say that I can’t remember seeing a fat policeman in Tbilisi since the old force was sacked and replaced by newer, younger policemen and women,  and Transparency International says the Georgian police are the fifth least corrupt in the world while IRI reports 84% of the population trusts them: about this being an Android Tablet, and HTC, Samsung etc. never receive such treatment, also taken. I think Boing Boing got carried away with itself…

  14. You may or may not have a point about ipad knockoffs, but fat, crooked, corrupt police???? Was your “friend” in Georgia like in 1995? Talk to any local or expat living in Georgia or consult any reputable international human rights organization, and they will tell you that Georgia’s reformed police is a single-biggest success story in all of the ex-Soviet world. By including such a blatantly false information, you are undermining credibility of everything that is posted here.    

      1. With a Google search one does need to be careful about editing the results. Item one is about Grozy, Russia, not Georgia. Item two is worthy criticism but does not posit widespread abuse or corruption.  Item three is mainly about a crackdown on protestors who were camping out in front of the Parliament building (a pre Occupy Occupy) which happens in Europe and America.  Item four is about a political protest as well.  Item 5 is from 2004 and is mostly about Media freedom.  

        It is interesting that you are debating this with people who actually work for NGO’s in Georgia by using google searches that end up quoting, in part, NGO’s in Georgia.  We live here, we know things are far from perfect politically, but the police in this country are not feared the way they are say in LA.

        No one is saying that Georgia is a ideal state or that its police force is beyond reproach, but the regular, everyday cops so far from being fat, lazy and corrupt that even hardcore opposition activists find the idea ludicrous.  Georgia is not a repressive dictatorship, instead it is an “emerging democracy” with a long struggle for justice ahead, taunting the progress already made is tantamount to condemning the process itself.

      2. With all due respect, do you even know where Georgia is? The first source that you cite is about Grozny, the capital of Chechnya (look up Chechnya in Wikipedia). 
        I am based in Georgia and I got a police ticket here more than once. So I beg to claim that I know slightly more about Georgian highway police than you do. I am not saying that Georgian policemen are as slim and harmless as ballet dancers, but I, just as many other folks here, am dissappointed to read an article that contains laughably false information.
        For more accurate and nuansed taked read this 

    1. Was your “friend” in Georgia like in 1995?

      If you’re asking when this person, who is a personal friend, traveled most recently? The answer is: in 2011. The comment is based on personal experiences, and the frustrations of Georgian natives in this person’s social circle there. Seems to have struck quite a nerve with you and others; there is, I’m sure, a wide range of opinion. The story of efforts to reform is an interesting and valid one, and one we’ll devote space to in a new post now.

  15. Crooked, fat, lazy cops? Are you sure your friend travels to Georgia? :D You’re welcome to come here and witness completely opposite.

    1. They’re both a ‘state’, only one is a sovereign state and the other one has chunky cops. Easy mistake to make.

  16. Thanks for your thoughts, all, and greetings to those in Georgia. The post has been updated to reflect a comment we received from the government of Georgia, and a note about the source of the critical comment.

    I’d love to visit Georgia, but I am currently undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer and cannot. Perhaps when this cancer nonsense is out of the way, and I am strong enough to travel, it will be one of the first trips I take.

    I should note that I was most pleased that the Georgian Embassy was not upset, as some of the rude commenters here were, about the comparison to the iPad.

    1. Xeni,
      I do apologize if I am one of those rude commentators. Feel better soon and do come visit us in our humble part of the world. If you encounter corrupt and chunky highway police, I will personally show up at your office so you can punch me unconscious over and over again.
      And please do tell us if these guys are using their new ipadish toys for work or to play angry birds. I will look forward to your posts from Georgia.        

  17. About fat and corrupt Georgian cops–having seen the transition over 20 years…yes they were nasty and greedy in the ’90s, no longer so–well-trained and often speak better English than Russian so if you can’t speak Georgian they will explain what you’ve done.  One even came over across the street to help me fix my Niva last summer , which he did with a piece of wire…but when I offered him a bar of chocolate from the groceries he jumped like I’d offered a snake…there is NO bribery on the streets in town for cops. All is paid through the banks.  I once went over a double white line, got caught by a smiling cop who got out, saluted politely and asked me in Georgian if I hadn’t …something. I said in English “I don’t speak Georgian”, smiling of course.  He kept smiling and told me in perfect English, “”You just crossed the double white line.”  I was humbled and said sorry.  It was early morning with no traffic, so he let it go…
    (And contrary to many places I haven’t seen a fat cop here in years! They must have a great gym…)

  18. The point is not that abuses have never happened or that the justice system is as evolved as Norway’s, it is that everyday cops in Georgia are polite, fit, energetic and honest to a fault. The stereotype of fat, corrupt, porno-reading cops hitting up drivers for bribes is so outlandish as to be a faerie tale told to scare children. 

    Governments by definition exert a monopoly on violence and sometimes they misuse their power and either tolerate or instigate injustice. The murder of Sandro Girgvliani is a case where four public officials engaged in murder were reluctantly put on trial, but then were all sentenced to prison terms, however abbreviated. The miracle is, if you know this part of the world, was that there was an open trial at all and that protests were tolerated. However creaky and defective it might be the justice system in Georgia is slowly coming to life and is moving towards its European ideal.  

    I suspect you could take ANY country in the world and you could find an example where the police or some security agency has engaged in out-and-out murder.  The same people who tortured and killed terror suspects in the CIA are still working for the agency, no one has ever been arrested, much less punished. The NY cop who raped a suspect with a baton was acquitted. Does this mean that the US government is corrupt top-to-bottom and that a grandmother in Poughkeepsie should not trust her local cops?  Hell no – we accept that aspects of a government can be fucked up but we still respect or at least tolerate the system.

    Criticism of a government is a worthy activity, but so praise of what has been accomplished. When a person or organization takes pride in something they buy into it as a matter of fundamental identity and come to expect to be held accountable. It’s an essential part of progress, scorn and contempt stall out the motor. 

    This government deserves credit where credit it due and criticism all the rest of the time – just like every other government in the world.  So far, reforming the police is this governments greatest success story: that’s not PR, it’s an long-term investment in pride.

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