Law Enforcement Technology

JUL 2015

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48 Law Enforcement Technology July 2015 N E W A D V A N C E M E N T S I N T E C H N O L O G Y TALKING POINTS to keep students, staff, and property safe from violence, theft and vandalism. Of note is the San Bernardino City Unified School District in Southern California with 74 campuses and a school district police staff of only 20 full-time officers. San Bernardino County is arguably one of the most violent and crime-ridden municipalities in Southern California. Schools were often the target of gangs, vandals and thieves. It was costing the district tens of thousands of dollars each month. The school district and police department took action in the form of an IP-based Intelligent Surveillance System, designed by technology integra- tor VectorUSA in Torrance, California. The system is an open architecture platform utilizing OnSSI Software, Sony High Definition cameras, Cisco infra- structure and HP Servers. School sites are viewed real-time in the SBCUSD Police Dispatch Center—also designed by VectorUSA. The result has been a significant reduction in school violence, vandalism and theft. Last week, two men were arrested while allegedly trying to steal the recently installed surveillance cameras at a district high school. What one suspect didn't realize as he peered into the surveillance camera was an alarm had been triggered at the school police dispatch center, and a school police dispatcher was peering back at him! SBCUSD police officers responding to the call were also able to see the live, high-definition video of the two suspects on the laptop computers in their squad cars. With this technology the suspects were quickly apprehended, evidence was collected, and the cameras were recovered. The lesson learned is that the same technology could also assist officers responding to an active shooter call or any other emergency. Video from sur- veillance cameras can not only be seen real-time at the dispatch center, but also by the responding officers on laptops in their patrol cars. This is life saving tech- nology not only for officers, but for those they protect. From a law enforcement perspective, intelligent surveillance should not and cannot be seen as a replacement for rank- and-file officers on the beat. Intelligent surveillance systems are installed to protect people, monitor suspicious pub- lic activity and protect property. The expected outcomes of installing an intel- ligent surveillance system are reduced risk of crimes and false accusations and claims. This requires a vigilance that must be augmented with technology that not only watches, but also reacts to abnormal situations and human behaviors. But all too often, surveillance systems are improperly installed, ill- maintained, or the operators have a "set it and forget it" mentality—hoping their system will capture an event. Needless to say, these can be costly mistakes. In this era of budget constraints police departments must look at the overall cost of implementing their own surveillance systems. The cost is not in cameras; the real cost is in data storage and managing the network. Individual officer body cameras are an excellent example of this. Supporters of the body cameras say they help prosecutors close cases faster, reduce use-of-force incidents and make allegations of misconduct against officers easier to probe. The greatest value of a body camera system is that of a silent witness: the video is able to speak for officers when officers cannot speak for themselves. Both sides in a videotaped encounter behave bet- ter, they say, leading to fewer complaints and legal settlements. However, depart- ments are wrestling with whether they can afford to equip all their officers with body cams, and how often the cam- eras should be turned off to reduce the amount of stored data. In some cities the body cameras worn by beat cops on their uniforms or glasses were purchased at deep discounts when departments inked data-management deals that were far more lucrative over the long run for the technology integrator. Factors to consider when planning surveillance technology include: • Cost Effectiveness: Will the technol- ogy be used frequently enough to jus- tify its purchase? • Training: How much training is required for officers to properly use the technology? • Service and Maintenance Requirements: What is the cost asso- ciated with operating maintenance and maintenance/service agreements • Operational Needs: Is the technology designed to make officers' jobs safer, easier or more effective? Today, the question being asked is, "Is it possible to keep a city's streets safe with fewer police officers and an increased use of surveillance technol- ogy?" There is no simple answer. When it comes to aiding police with their investigations, technology can be valu- able in helping law enforcement agencies identify potential witnesses and convict a criminal. But while surveillance is a valuable tool, it can never replace law enforcement personnel and solid inves- tigation techniques. A prime example is the Zapruder Film. While it is the clear- est film of the JFK assassination, to this day there is debate over what each frame depicts, what significance to the inves- tigation each frame holds, and even the validity of the film itself. Time will tell if we ever really determine what happened that fateful autumn day. ■ Mark Rocchio is an award- winning journalist who brings unique knowledge to every story he writes. A native of Southern California and a CSULB School of Journalism graduate, Mark was on the front lines of the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the Los Angeles Riots. He has covered more train accidents, commercial airline disasters, and police actions than he can remember. technology has launched us into an era of surveillance far more advanced than Zapruder's now- primitive Bell & Howell movie camera

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