Editor's Note: Many of technologies in this news summary are being used by domestic law enforcement for counterterrorism.
NLECTC Law Enforcement & Corrections Technology News Summary
Thursday, June 28, 2007
"Fingerprint Analyst Helps Solve Crime Mysteries"
Miami Herald (06/25/07); Tablac, Angela
Fingerprint analysis in the Miami-Dade police department runs continuously on a 24/7 schedule, staffed by 32 analysts who process a minimum of 80 fingerprints a day. Analysis entails comparison of collected prints to databases to identify dead bodies, criminals, and prisoners. Each set of fingerprints goes through multiple levels of verification; matches in a database are manually verified by at least two analysts who look for several similar characteristics between the collected print and the database entry. In addition, analysts are often called to provide testimony in criminal trials where fingerprint evidence is relevant. Fingerprint analysis is often an attractive career to those who have some background in criminal justice but who opt not to become police officers; initial training takes eight weeks, and analysts take supplementary training sessions annually. In addition, they can obtain additional fingerprint classification certification from the FBI. http://www.miamiherald.com/154/story/148703.html
"Computers in Cruisers Give More Data Faster"
Star-Ledger (NJ) (06/22/07) P. 25; Walsh, Diane C.
Middlesex County, N.J., officials have revealed that from patrol car mobile computers, officers between New Brunswick, Woodbridge, Highland Park, and Plainsboro will be able to communicate with each other. In 2005, a program was launched that bridged databases between the prosecutors, sheriffs, and county jails to promote advanced communications among agencies. "It's an example of taking advantage of new technology to fight crime," said Freeholder Christopher Rafano, overseer of the county law enforcement agencies. Through AT&T, the system was implemented at $358,726; each additional town under the system costs $40,000. Law enforcement officials say the system has allowed for instantaneous information and that the program's expansion among counties will serve as a powerful tool for combating crime.
"DNA Advances Led to Rape Suspect"
Journal-World (Lawrence, Kan.) (06/22/07); Reid, Janet
Strides in technology led to the review of cold cases from the 1990s that allowed investigators to trail and charge a serial rapist more than 10 years after the crime was committed. In 1995, the DNA sample needed for analysis in rape cases had to be at least the size of a quarter; now, only a sample the size of a pinhead is needed. When a rape victim from a 1995 incident called police, investigators retested DNA evidence from her case along with a 1993 and 1994 incident. Using the FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), police found a match between the DNA of a man who had been entered into the system on petty theft charges and the DNA from all three cases. Lawrence police Sgt. Dan Ward said, "These cases are horrendous, and the three young women have dealt with a lot ... [N]ow they're going to see justice."
"Cameras May Go Up Soon"
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (06/24/07) P. B6; Sandler, Larry
Despite opposition from Milwaukee's Common Council, Mayor Tom Barrett has moved to implement a $1 million-plus program that would install cameras in high-crime areas in the city. The cameras would be monitored via fiber-optic connections and five mobile cameras would be shared among police departments. Barrett had the support of locals and the council's Public Safety Committee until over $500,000 was sought from the council's Finance & Personnel Committee. Council representatives claimed the funds should have been included in the mayor's budget, while Barrett said that aldermen should have no trouble footing the costs for the technology if they advocated the cameras' installation. Council President Willie Hines Jr. said Barrett should have anticipated costs accordingly, yet he and the mayor have reached an agreement whereby the contingency fund will not be tapped into and the project will be funded by public works and police accounts with an additional $404,000 from government assistance. http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=623825
"Waynesville P.D. Goes High Tech"
The Mountaineer (NC) (06/20/07); Pleming, Beth
The Waynesville, N.C., Police Department has experienced several technological upgrades recently, including access to the new program RAMBLER. When an accident takes place, warrants are dispensed, or a person is arrested, the report is electronically filed and made accessible to each law enforcement group connected to that software. Another improvement is new in-vehicle computers that permit police personnel to fill out incident and arrest reports in their cars, which means additional time spent on the road performing law enforcement and less time in the office entering information into a computer. Meanwhile, new laptops enable officers to perform a check for other data such as criminal backgrounds, car and license information, and outstanding active warrant notification. Golden Eagle radar devices allow offers to determine the speed of cars that are moving in any direction, including vehicles driving in front of patrol cars and coming from behind. The stealth stat is a radar system that is erected on the side of a road linked to a statistic recording machine that gets the speed and identity of passing cars. Waynesville Police are also using video analysis systems, specifically dTective by Ocean Systems, to study video surveillance recordings in order to identify and arrest thieves.
"Flexible and Fearless, Seeking Rescue Work"
New York Times (06/25/07) P. A12; Blumenthal, Ralph
Texas A&M University's Texas Engineering Extension Service operates a 52-acre "Disaster City" where fire fighters and other emergency responders from across the globe can participate in training exercises. The site was recently the scene of a robotics exercise sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate and the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology. Several varieties of rescue robots participated in the exercise, which included obstacle courses based on mock set-ups of the Oklahoma City bombing, 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and Mexico City earthquake. The robots included a 30-foot, snake-like optic robot that slinks through crevasses and holes while providing images of its discoveries. That robot, produced by university researchers in Japan, is attached to the operator's body, unlike most robots, which are operated via consoles or laptops. One Texas A&M official predicted that robots will soon become a regular part of rescue work.
"Law Enforcement Gets an Upgrade"
Spokesman Review (06/20/07) P. B1; Lawrence-Turner, Jody
Police in Spokane, Wash., have received several new technologically-advanced devices recently, including durable laptop computers, which replace mobile data computers formerly found in police patrol vehicles. The laptops, which cost around $5,500 apiece, are updated every day with information concerning suspects. Dashboard cameras are placed on the inside of a police car and record the actions of an officer, and cost around $7,800 each, while Global Positioning Systems, which cost between $450 and $475 for each patrol car, enable police dispatchers to know where patrol units are all the time by examining a computer screen. Meanwhile, electronic ticketing (e-tickets) permit traffic officers to employ a scanner to acquire data from the bar code on the rear side of a driver's license and enable an officer at the scene of an accident to create diagrams of the event utilizing a software program. The e-ticketing printers cost $425 each while the bar-code scanners cost $390 each. Officials note that over three-fourths of the financing for the equipment is provided by grants. On July 18, Spokane police stated they will pursue over $4 million in federal grants for both the city and county that is set aside for technological upgrades and purchases.
"Jersey City 'Court TV'"
Jersey Journal (06/20/07); Pearson, Bernette
The Jersey City Municipal Court introduced on June 19 videoconferencing, which will allow inmates throughout New Jersey to argue their cases from prison while the judge, prosecutor, and public defender remain at the court. Chief Judge Wanda Molina notes that videoconferencing assists in reducing security threats, health risks, and travel expenses. Officers typically assigned to moving inmates can now be assigned to other prisoners in New Jersey facilities that can have their cases heard faster, she adds. The technology is already used at New Jersey Superior Court in Jersey City and at another five municipal courts in Hudson County. Molina states that municipal courts handle around 20 misdemeanor cases each day, including assault and drug cases. The cameras function through T-1 lines, similar to a video phone call but on a bigger scale. An inmate will sit in a wired room in the prison and view the court proceedings on a TV screen with a police officer close by. The individual charged presents a plea and then a trial date is scheduled or other arrangements are set.
"'Stepping Out' Suspended After Death of Howard Officer"
Baltimore Sun (06/26/07)
The death of a Howard County police officer during a traffic enforcement operation on Route 32, near I-95, caused the Howard County police department and the nearby Anne Arundel County police department to suspend their "stepping out" policies. A team of two officers is used on occasion to stop speeders on highways and other roads; one officer mans the radar equipment, while the other steps into traffic to flag down speeders. Howard County officers will no longer step into traffic on roads with speed limits above 35 mph, and Anne Arundel County officers will not step out into traffic to catch speeders at all. Both departments plan to extensively review the policy and determine how it can be improved to prevent needless officers' deaths and still enforce traffic laws effectively.
"Cities Using Cameras Admit Tapes as Court Evidence"
Oklahoman (06/21/07) P. 14A; Bisbee, Julie
About 40 police cars in Ardmore, Okla., will be equipped with dashboard-mounted cameras. The police department there hopes the cameras will help officers record suspect behavior, and help protect officers from any false allegations of misconduct. Many cities that have already instituted this technology are allowing the video and audio from patrol cars to be admitted as trial evidence. This policy prevents defendants from denying or reinterpreting their actions in front of a judge or jury. http://newsok.com/article/3068821
"Police Lift Hold on Buying Tasers"
Lexington Herald-Leader (KY) (06/19/07) P. B1; Ku, Michelle
City council members in Lexington, Ky., have recently approved the purchase of 50 Tasers for the 50 new police officers the city will be taking on in the next year. The Lexington police department had previously instituted a ban on the use of Tasers because of reports that the weapons were responsible for upwards of 200 deaths in the United States. The department has lifted the ban after reviewing several studies which concluded stun guns alone were not responsible for fatalities. When used properly, Tasers offer police a safer option to subdue suspects. All Lexington officers receive extensive training on the use of these weapons in order to avoid abuse. http://www.kentucky.com/211/story/101705.html
"Unmanned Aircraft Assist for U.S. Hunt in Explosives"
Wall Street Journal (06/17/07); Pasztor, Andy
American military forces and their Iraqi allies are employing more sophisticated technologies, including tiny unmanned aircraft constructed by Honeywell International Inc. to attempt to locate deadly explosive gadgets concealed on the battlefront. Honeywell has implemented infrared cameras and additional sensors on small, remotely-operated helicopter-type devices, known as Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs), that can sit right above suspect sites and transmit images back to soldiers employing a portable handheld terminal. Thought to be the initial unmanned aerial vehicle of its kind specifically used in Iraq to uncover hidden explosives, the MAV weighs around 14 pounds, lifts off vertically, and can function at altitudes from just a fewer inches off the ground to over 10,000 feet. Barely one foot in diameter, the MAVs can fly at over 50 miles an hour. They are part of the firm's effort to create new surveillance technologies to increase its military, space, and homeland security operations. The introduction is part of a wider trend to create more innovative equipment to locate and take apart Improvised Explosive Devices, responsible for the bulk of American deaths in the combat in Iraq. The action occurs as British forces are moving toward utilizing high-tech radars created by a Raytheon division to look for these devices from much greater altitudes. http://online.wsj.com/article_print/SB118212024940938400.html
"Interoperability Academy Takes the Static Out of Emergency Communications"
County News (06/04/07) Vol. 39, No. 11, P. 3; Lopes, Rocky
At the May NACo/National League of Cities Interoperability Policy Academy conference, local government officials discussed how they could improve the interoperability of communications through governance, standard operating procedures, technology, training, and exercises. As part of the suggested improvements to governance, officials highlighted the need for greater cooperation among regional officials as well as an avenue through which first responders could offer feedback about the system. Experts also suggested the establishment of standard operating procedures to ensure all personnel, despite where they are located, can successfully use communications equipment and designated channels. However, National Institutes of Standards and Technology Program Manager Dereck Orr noted, "Soon, data may be more important than voice, so having equipment that can share data across platforms is critical," a notion that fed into the call for technology upgrades. One major obstacle for these counties and local government officials is where to garner the funding for upgrades, especially if they are not part of the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI). Grant writers and experts were on hand to help officials apply for money to cover the costs of interoperability upgrades and training, but most indicated that multi-agency plans or multi-jurisdictional plans were the likeliest candidates for grant allocation. Other officials cited the plans underway in their regions, including Minnesota, which has hospitals, police, and fire departments coordinating their emergency response plans to ensure success and continuous training for workers.
"Evacuation Software Finds Best Way to Route Millions of Vehicles"
University of Arizona (06/11/07); Stiles, Ed
University of Arizona assistant professor of civil engineering Yi-Chang Chiu has been developing Multi-Resolution Assignment and Loading of Traffic Activities (MALTA), software designed to simulate large-scale evacuations during a disaster to help transportation officials determine the best traffic management strategy. "Solving large-scale evacuation problems is overwhelming," Chiu says. "No one can just sit down with a map and draw lines and figure out the best answer to problems like these." Chiu says MALTA reacts to a situation in real time, adjusting as the scenario changes. The software relies on detailed traffic census data collected by state and city transportation departments, as well as real-time traffic surveillance data. The software predicts actions drivers may take, such as when they leave and what road they take, and adjusts for factors that may alter drivers' plans, such as radio reports, congestion, and freeway message boards. The program is also able to predict airborne hazards, such as toxic gas from a refinery fire. By using air-plume dispersion models and wind direction, speed, and temperature, the program can calculate health risks and potential casualties. The program also provides post-disaster assistance by helping officials make choices such as which highway to repair and open first. Chiu says MALTA will be ready soon for state transportation and emergency medical agencies. The next generation of MALTA uses parallel processing and is designed to run faster, handle larger networks, and respond minute-by-minute to real-time emergencies.
"City Spends Millions on Cop Car Crashes"
Northwest Indiana News (06/06/07); Luntz, Taryn
The Tulsa Police Department reports a disproportionate number of police accidents that occur during law enforcement pursuits. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports although police pursuits take the life of one person a day, police departments are not required to track these incidences. "A department that's not tracking pursuits is asking for trouble," and officials note incidences involving firearms are not neglected like police pursuit accidents. In 2006, Chicago spent $7 million on settling lawsuits involving police pursuits, and usually, lawsuits become classified as "motor vehicle accidents" when pedestrians are hit or accidents occur at intersections. Experts note that police departments taking the time to investigate average pursuit speeds, numbers of injuries, and numbers of deaths related to police pursuits are better equipped to institute policies to reduce those numbers through officer training programs focusing on driving skills.; the Chicago Police Department's vehicle pursuit policy does not refer to any driver training programs for officers.