FBI Slayings Show Risk Surveillance Cameras Pose to Law Enforcement

FBI agents console each other as they arrive at the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office in Dania, Fla., after two FBI agents were killed and three wounded while trying to serve a search warrant in Broward County on Tuesday Feb. 2, 2021. (Susan Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)​

 

The child pornography suspect who gunned down two South Florida FBI agents this week somehow knew exactly when they were approaching his apartment.

Authorities are investigating whether he may have used his doorbell’s security camera to time his ambush, firing a high-powered rifle through the door as their team neared to search his home and computer.

That’s a danger police nationwide are facing: As outdoor surveillance cameras now protect about half of U.S. homes from criminals, the criminals are using them to get a jump on officers about to raid theirs. Some doorbell cameras even have motion sensors that alert owners when anyone comes within 100 feet (30 meters).

The cameras, combined with the military-style weaponry many criminals possess, leave law enforcement offers particularly vulnerable. In such situations, the house’s doors and walls offer no protection, noted Ed Davis, Boston’s police commissioner from 2006 to 2013.

“You take a military assault rifle and you add to that a surveillance system that allows (the suspect) to identify where officers are as they approach the house — you are a sitting duck,” Davis said.

The FBI says David Huber, a 55-year-old computer technician with no criminal record, gunned down agents Laura Schwartzenberger and Daniel Alfin and wounded three others. He then killed himself. The agency hasn’t said whether Huber’s camera had a motion detector, but that could explain why he was awaiting the agents Tuesday before dawn — an hour officers often pick for raids because the suspect is likely asleep.

“A child exploitation suspect, he is going to be on his toes all day long — he doesn’t want to get caught because he is going away for a long time,” said New York City Detective Robert Garland.

In the 1980s and ’90s, a home with outdoor surveillance cameras was often a sign the resident was a drug dealer or otherwise a criminal, according to Davis and retired SWAT officer David Thomas, now a criminal justice professor at Florida Gulf Coast University. A good system could cost thousands.

“They were the only ones who could afford it,” said Thomas, who worked for the Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Gainesville, Florida, police departments.

Davis said such cameras were so often an indication of criminality, some judges considered their presence when approving officers’ warrant requests.

The cameras were also large and hard to hide — officers could spot them during pre-raid surveillance and approached accordingly.

But today, a technically savvy person can install security cameras for a few hundred dollars and a good doorbell camera can be purchased for less than $200. Many cameras are small and easy to hide.

Thomas said police tactics often trail new technology and will need to be adjusted to deal with doorbell cameras and other home surveillance systems. He said departments may start having more warrants served by heavily armed tactical units and use diversions, such as breaking a side window before going to the door, to distract the suspect.

Departments might also ask judges to issue more “no-knock” warrants, which allow officers to break down the door immediately and without warning. That would fly in the face of growing calls in some cities to do away with such warrants after they have resulted in the deaths of innocent people.

It was while exercising a no-knock warrant that Louisville, Kentucky, police killed Breonna Taylor in her apartment 11 months ago, sparking nationwide protests.

“The issue is very complex, but the reality is there has to be something” for officers to protect themselves, Thomas said.

Davis said there are some countermeasures officers can take against surveillance cameras but they carry the risk of tipping off suspects, particularly when they believe a raid is imminent. Some police departments have devices that can jam the Bluetooth or other radio-wave systems some cameras use to send images to their monitor. And they can cut the home’s power, although many camera systems have battery backups.

Serving warrants has always been one of law enforcement’s most dangerous jobs, even before sophisticated home security cameras were commonplace. On the Grand Rapids SWAT team, Thomas was the door kicker — the officer who is directly in the line of fire if the suspect is waiting in ambush. He said the door is a particularly dangerous spot.

“You never know what is waiting on the other side,” he said.

Davis said the FBI will do a comprehensive report on the shooting. When other agencies receive it, they will pore over it so they can protect their own officers from gunmen with security cameras.

“It has to be reviewed — there are lessons to be learned from this terrible tragedy,” Davis said.

By Terry Spencer | Associated Press | Police1.com

FMCSA Clearinghouse Records More Than 56,000 Truck Driver Violations in 2020

More than 56,000 drug and alcohol violations were recorded last year in a database intended to track truck drivers’ compliance history and prevent them from job-hopping in the event of a failed drug test.

The number of driver violations reported rose by roughly 10,000 over the final two months of 2020, the first full year of operation for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.

According to a new summary report, just 1,203 of the total driver violations were alcohol-related. Of those, most were for drivers who tested with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater.

Click Clearinghouse Report by Transport Topics on Scribd to see the data.

Of the 45,000 driver violators who lost their jobs due to the violations, 34,000 have not yet completed the return-to-work program — a statistic that has some in the industry concerned that those drivers may be leaving their jobs for good.

The violations overwhelmingly included drivers who tested positive for drug use, but also included those who declined to take a drug test or were suspected of cheating on a test.

“The good news is that the system is working in capturing violations by drivers and allowing employers and enforcement personnel to verify a driver’s status prior to permitting him/her [to drive],” said Duane DeBruyne, an FMCSA spokesman. “Any violation reported is a bad thing; blocking prohibited drivers from endangering themselves and the lives of the motoring public is a good thing.”

DeBruyne said the Clearinghouse is making it more difficult for prohibited drivers to circumvent the required return-to-duty process, thereby preventing them from continuing to operate large commercial motor vehicles and potentially, “endanger themselves and the lives of everyone traveling our nation’s roadways.”

Carriers, state driver licensing agencies and law enforcement officials use the Clearinghouse to check a driver’s violations.

“I believe the 56,000 drivers with violations reiterates the importance of this Clearinghouse, and shines a spotlight on a rather large loophole in the drug and alcohol testing process that has existed for many years,” said Dan Horvath, vice president of safety policy for American Trucking Associations.

Dave Osiecki, president of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, said the return-to-work number is low. “It’s concerning, and it bears watching and tracking,” Osiecki said. “The percentage of drivers with violations who are getting evaluated, and completing the treatment process, has risen slowly over the past several months. This is a good sign, but it’s also clear that many drivers are not entering treatment, which suggests they’ve left the industry.”

Osiecki said that when FMCSA published the final Clearinghouse rule in 2016, the agency used historical industry data to provide an annual violation estimate. “FMCSA’s estimate was 53,500 drug and alcohol violations annually. Their estimate was remarkably close,” he said.

“According to our interpretation of Motor Carrier Management Information System data, there are 5,174,170 truck drivers under the authority of FMCSA,” said Norita Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “Fifty-six thousand drivers represents 1.1% of the available driver pool.” Other trucking groups have differing estimates of the size of the driver pool.

The leading number of drug test failures — 29,500 — was for marijuana, according to the report, which summarized violations recorded since Jan. 6, 2020, when the Clearinghouse officially went into effect.

There were more than 7,940 failed tests for cocaine use, and 4,953 for amphetamines. Also included in the total were about 1,120 tests described as reasonable suspicion of attempts to cheat on a drug test, the report said.

In 2020, about 1.6 million drivers and 197,000 employers registered in the Clearinghouse. Slightly more than 67,000 of the employers registered have identified themselves as owner-operators, according to FMCSA.

During 2020, there were 136,806 full queries on the Clearinghouse, 1.4 million pre-employment queries and 2.7 million limited queries, according to the report.

Besides making pre-employment checks, employers are required by regulation to make checks on the database annually to ensure none of their employees have any drug violations.

“It’s important to note that having a drug or alcohol testing violation is not an automatic end to a driver’s career,” said ATA’s Horvath. “While there is a significant number of drivers who have not yet completed the return-to-duty testing process, that number continues to grow. With continued education about the drug and alcohol testing program, and consequences for noncompliance, we hope to see violations decrease and the number of drivers who have completed the return-to-duty process increase.”

By Eric Miller | Transport Topics https://www.ttnews.com/

Photo courtneyk/Getty Images

Why We Cannot Leave Our Safety to Luck

In late 1992 I was a young E-3 deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia, as part of the U.S. led Unified Task Force (UNITAF), in support of Operation Restore Hope. One day, I was searching for an access point to the roof of what remained of our embassy. I was in a hurry, frustrated, fatigued and focused on what was important to me at the moment.

After searching and not finding an access point for the roof of the embassy, I abruptly walked into the first office I saw, approached a group of men wearing brown T-shirts and asked: “Can you please tell me how to get to the roof.” It was the wrong decision.

The red flags were all there for me to process: the presence of distinguished-looking men who clearly held high rank, hanging maps and planning materials consistent with a command post, and the big one, a white paper affixed to the wall stating, “UNITAF/CC.”

In hindsight, it was likely my self-induced time pressure, frustration and myopic focus of attention that led to the words spoken to me by one of those men in brown t-shirts. That man, USMC Lt. General Robert B. Johnston, said, “Airman, let me educate you on situational awareness.”

What followed was a memorable one-way conversation that I remember with clarity almost 30 years later. I was informed that situational awareness is a person’s perception and understanding of the environment. I was also informed that a failure to maintain situational awareness leads to adverse outcomes. Lesson learned, sir.

A Georgia police officer responded to a burglary call. The officer’s body-worn camera records him locating the suspect as he walks on a set of railroad tracks. The officer is engaged in multi-tasking by simultaneously focusing his attention on the suspect, giving commands and talking to dispatch. In the same 20 seconds, the officer’s bodycam records the alarming sound of a rapidly approaching locomotive. The bodycam video appears to show the officer stepping just to the left side of the tracks before he is violently struck by the train.

The officer doesn’t remember much of the event, but after watching his BWC video stated, “I’m lucky to be alive.

How could he not realize what was about to occur? I turn back to what Lt. General Johnston taught me all those years ago. Maintaining situational awareness is key to better decision-making, which in turn leads to better outcomes. Like my incident, the Georgia officer likely had some excitement or frustration as a stressor. Also, his limited attentional focus was more on the suspect and talking to dispatch than the approaching train.

In hindsight, we could reasonably say that prioritizing his attention on the train, even for a moment, might have changed the outcome. For instance, he might have seen the oversized plow attached to the front of the train, as well as the train’s approach speed. The resulting increase in situational awareness might have affected his decision to step just off the tracks instead of quickly stepping several feet away.

The Georgia officer survived, thankfully, and I wish him a speedy recovery. What happened to him could happen to anyone of us under similar circumstances. It doesn’t matter if you wear an EMS, fire, corrections or police uniform – we are all human beings with a limited capacity to process information. That limited capacity is stretched to the maximum when we operate in fast-paced, ambiguous environments. For our safety and the safety of the public, we should recognize these limitations and work hard toward maintaining situational awareness.  

PRINCIPLES OF SITUATIONAL AWARENESS

Situational awareness has a significant history of study and application to a multitude of fields. There are many influences on situational awareness that range from individual capabilities, organizational influences, training, experience and teamwork. However, there is a real need to focus on how first responders maintain situational awareness from the perspective of individual field personnel, teams and organizations. Here are important considerations for each.

1. Situational awareness for the individual

Realize your limitations. Recognize when the incident or situation is moving too rapidly for you to perceive the changes. When faced with situations that are or becoming unmanageable: back out, ask for resources and re-engage when appropriate.

Do not become overly fixated upon one aspect of the environment. Attempt to keep up a degree of global awareness. If unavoidable, ensure you have adequate resources to watch for changes you may not perceive.
Use caution when engaging. Be mentally primed to look for changes in the environment. Seek out new information, assess that information, look for potential contradictory evidence and then act according to protocol.

2. Situational awareness for the team

Communicate, coordinate and confirm. The recommendations for individuals remain active for teamwork but require significant coordination and communication between team members. Confirmation of group understanding is vital when moving forward in more ambiguous and time-compressed environments.

Leadership is critical in a group environment. A single point of command and control helps to ensure vital oversight to ensure the team is functioning within the vision and mission of the organization.

3. Situational awareness for the organization

Clear direction. Establish a vision and mission that guides individual, team and organizational priorities. This will aid teams and individuals during in-the-field decision-making.

Real-world training. Provide adequate training for real-world situations that operationalize situational awareness at both the individual and team levels.
Culture guides decisions and actions. Create a culture that guides field decision making and ensure accountability. The culture includes proper risk assessment and prioritization of objectives.

By David Blake | Police1

About the author

David Blake, Ph.D., is a retired California peace officer and a court-certified expert on human factors psychology and the use of force. He has significant experience teaching use of force and human factors psychology to law enforcement officers in several states. David has undergraduate and graduate degrees in criminal justice and psychology. He has authored over 30 professional and peer-reviewed journal articles on the application of human factors psychology to first responders and their operational environments. David continues to conduct research on police deadly force and human factors psychology. He is the lead consultant at Blake Consulting and Training.

Sheriffs Asked to Help Implement Show-Me-Zero Highway Safety Plan

Message from Jon Nelson, Assistant to the State Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer


Dear Chiefs/Sheriffs/Law Enforcement Partners:

​​As we near the end of what has surely been a challenging year, I would like to extend our gratitude for your ongoing efforts to help keep Missouri’s roadways safe. The impacts of a global pandemic on highway safety have been, in many ways, unprecedented. Unfortunately, as we approach the holiday season, we have now lost more than 930 lives in Missouri this year as the result of a traffic crash.

While we continue efforts to educate Missourians on simple actions they can take to remain safe on the roadways, we also understand this messaging must be reinforced through public policy, enforcement efforts, engineering improvements, and emergency medical services. At a time when we know resources are stretched, please know your agency’s efforts in traffic enforcement do not go unnoticed and are greatly appreciated. To that end, I encourage your continued commitment to maintain a visible presence on the roadways even as your agency may be considering operational changes during the pandemic. This continued presence will help deter the most egregious behaviors that often result in severe crashes, including excessive speeds, distracted driving, and impairment.

We encourage you to find ways to maximize the grant funding that has been made available to your agency for traffic enforcement and to concentrate efforts on roadways where these risky driving behaviors are consistently demonstrated. In doing so, we support any adjustments your agency may need to make in order to prioritize officer safety, as well as that of the general public. The link below contains some helpful recommendations from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) on ways to do this.

https://www.theiacp.org/resources/document/traffic-enforcement-during-the-covid-19-pandemic

Thank you again for your ongoing dedication to public service and safe roadways. Your agency plays a key role in moving Missouri toward zero roadway deaths, and we appreciate your help in implementing the state’s strategic highway safety plan, Show-Me Zero.

 
Jon Nelson, P.E.

Assistant to the State Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer, Missouri Department of Transportation

Central Office – Highway Safety & Traffic Division

830 MoDOT Drive, Jefferson City, MO 65109

573.751.5417

www.modot.org

Free Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety Workshop Scheduled

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), along with IADLEST (International Assoc. of Directors of Law Enforcement), and the Missouri Safety Center will host a DDACTS (Data-Driven Approaches to Crime & Traffic Safety) Agency Strategic Planning Session workshop at their facility located at 1200 South Holden Street in Warrensburg, MO January 7 and 8, 2021. 

Due to COVID, masks and social distancing will be required and space for this workshop is limited.

NHTSA is funding this workshop, so there are NO tuition or registration expenses for this training.

As you may know, the DDACTS Implementation Workshops have been successfully delivered in over 120 different locations. Over 800 agencies are utilizing the guiding principles to reduce traffic crashes and crime while building trust and legitimacy in cities and towns throughout the U.S. The curriculum has been revised and reflects citizens’ and agencies’ concerns using high visibility engagement activities determined from transparent data analysis.

AGENDA

Thursday, January 7

0800 – 1000 DDACTS 101 & Participant Introductions

1000 – 1015 Break

1015 – 1100 DDACTS Analytical Concepts

1100 – 1130 DDACTS Agency Example

1130 – 1200 Summary & Review

1200 – 1300 Lunch Break

1300 – 1330 Afternoon opening & Guiding Principle #7 – Outcomes

1330 – 1355 Agency Work Teams

1355 – 1410 Report out

1410 – 1420 Break

1420 – 1440 Guiding Principle #1- Partners & Stakeholders

1440 – 1505 Agency Work teams

1505 – 1520 Report Out

1520 – 1550 Guiding Principles #2 & #3 – Data Collection & Analysis

1550 – 1610 Agency Work Teams

1610 – 1625 Report Out

1625 – 1700 Guiding Principle #4 – Strategic Operations

Friday, January 8

0800 – 0810 Welcome and Overview

0810 – 0840 Agency Work Teams for GP #4

0840 – 0900 Report Out

0900 – 0925 Guiding Principle #5 – Information Sharing & Outreach

0925 – 0945 Agency Work Teams

0945 – 1005 Report Outs

1005 – 1030 Guiding Principle #6 – Evaluation & Adjustment

1030 – 1050 Agency Work Teams

1050 – 1110 Report Outs

1110 – 1120 Guiding Principle #7 – Outcomes – Summary

1120 – 1135 Agency Work Teams

1135 – 1150 Report Outs

1150 – 1200 Final Testing, Meeting Wrap up & Evaluations

Ideally, you should send several individuals to the workshop from different facets of your agency representing: Commanders, Supervisors (Lt. or Sgt.), analysts, records, dispatch, etc. Working as a team, these individuals will learn the model and develop a plan to be used when they return to their departments.

Whether this is your first time to attend the workshop or using it as a refresher course, the IADLEST/NHTSA trainers are experts in the field who can offer ideas, methods, and operational skills that make for a better understanding of data analysis and traffic safety.

There is limited space, so contact Project Manager Peggy M. Schaefer as soon as possible if you plan to attend.  If you have any questions or concerns, contact her via email at: peggyschaefer@iadlest.org  pegmsch@aol.com

Or by phone at 910-261-5933.

Visit the DDACTS website at:  https://www.iadlest.org/training/ddacts 

Now more than ever, agencies need to justify their traffic stops and community engagement. Let DDACCTS help you reduce your crashes and crime!

Emergency Flashers Could Get a Major Upgrade Soon

​​One of the oldest — and possibly least effective — auto safety features may be getting a 21st-century upgrade.

A new system to improve the visibility of vehicles stranded by the side of the road could help reduce thousands of collisions and hundreds of deaths a year. The system could be available nearly immediately, if supplier Emergency Safety Solutions (ESS) gets regulatory approval.​​

“Vehicles on the side of the road pose a significant danger,” said Jake Fisher, director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports magazine. Fisher hasn’t evaluated Houston-based ESS’s system, but he liked the idea of updating emergency flashers quickly and inexpensively.

“We should absolutely look to see if emergency flashers are optimized,” he said. “There’s a big push for complicated auto safety systems. There are simple things we can do to save lives and make driving safer.”

More than 64,000 people have been involved this year in the United States in crashes with disabled vehicle, according to an ominous real time ticker on ESS’s website.

70,000-plus crashes, 500-plus deaths

Every year from 2016 through 2018, nearly 72,000 people in the U.S. were involved in a crash that included a disabled vehicle, according to research ESS commissioned.

More than 14,000 people were injured and an average of 566 killed each year, according to the study. This year is tracking below those figures, possibly because pandemic shutdowns and precautions affected travel patterns.

“Our objective is to completely change how people receive information about roadside hazards,” ESS co-founder and COO Stephen Powers said. The company hopes to start that with a patented system that uses software to speed up emergency flashers from the current pace, which was set in in 1951, when the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wrote the regulation that still governs the lights.

The 70-year-old regulation was written when the speed at which incandescent bulbs could be switched on and off was the limiting factor and there’d been no research into what kind of lights work best to warn drivers, Powers said.

A deceptively simple solution

Current emergency flashers blink at the same rate as turn signals, about 1.5 flashes per second. About 5 hertz — five flashes a second — is best, according to research ESS used to develop its system, which it calls the Hazard Enhanced Lighting Package (HELP). Even then, faster is better but only up to a point. Rates faster than five flashes per second become less effective for alerting people without distracting them.

ESS uses software to change how the vehicle’s existing lights work. HELP works on any vehicle with LED lights and electronic controls that are common on new vehicles. It could be beamed into existing vehicles in a smartphone-style over the air software update, or built into vehicles’ body control computer, Powers said. The over the air update could happen as soon as the feature gets NHTSA’s approval.

That could come quickly if HELP is classified as a modification to an existing safety system rather than an all-new feature. That’s possible because vehicles with the ESS system retain their old-style slower flashers for use when the vehicle is moving — going slowly up a long hill, for instance.

“We don’t want to become a nuisance or something people ignore because they see it all the time on moving vehicles,” Powers said.

The 5 hertz flashes can only be activated when the vehicle is motionless. Pressing the existing flasher control once activates old-style flashing. A second push in a motionless vehicle accelerates to five cycles per second.

The fast lights are automatically activated if the vehicle’s air bags deploy.

NHTSA is evaluating the system. There’s no announced schedule for a decision, but Powers said it’s a “front burner” item at the regulator. The company also is talking to European regulators.

Why are police flashers distracting?

ESS also is working on digital alerts that could alert navigation systems like Waze when a vehicle is disabled on the side of the road.

“We’re working with tech companies to make that communication widespread, even without (direct) vehicle-to-vehicle communication,” Powers said.

ESS will license its intellectual property to manufacturers who want the feature. The company has 46 patents, covering its concept and technology in every major automaking and auto buying country.

The quicker flashes do not mimic the sometimes disorientating pattern of lights on police cars, Powers said. The police lights flash the lights on a rooftop lightbar and conventional lights at different times, a pattern that’s reserved for emergency vehicles.

HELP is less distracting because of its flash rate, single color and the “outlining effect,” which Powers said allows people to identify the shape and location of a vehicle more easily when all the lights flash at the same time.

No automaker has committed to using the system, but ESS is talking with several and expects quick implementation when it gets regulatory approval.

Mark Phelan​ | ​Detroit Free Press

How Smart Buildings Can Assist Public Safety Response

The outside incident commander directly managed and received the information feeds from all sensors as opposed to the direct response teams. (Center for Innovative Technology)


It is Fall 2021, and everyone is relieved life is returning to a post-COVID pandemic norm. A local university is welcoming its incoming class with a free concert in the basketball arena. Several thousand students take a break at intermission to go up to the concourse, grab some popcorn and socialize. Suddenly shots ring out, and two people fall to the ground. Everyone in the vicinity scatters; some head outside, others hide, still more go back down to the arena floor where the band is readying for its second set. A wave of panic sweeps the arena as more shots are heard.

The two university police officers on duty in the command center at the arena realize something is wrong. One calls for backup while the other runs in the direction of the gunshots. Within minutes several more campus patrol officers arrive on scene and are sent to join the first officer moving around the concourse. Within the next five minutes, backup from the local city police force arrives. The second team of officers pivots in the other direction around the concourse to intercept the moving target. Fortunately, the campus police locate and neutralize the shooter before the two groups converge.

But the incident is far from over. Answers to many other questions are needed:

  • Is there more than one shooter?
  • How many people are injured and need attention?
  • Might there be explosives or incendiary devices hidden in the building?
  • Who is in charge?


In the next few minutes, a local special response team arrives and begins to sweep the building. The team sets up a command center in the parking lot, and EMS support swoops in. University police set up a warm zone on the south side of the arena and support the medics working to locate and treat victims as areas clear. Some city officers and campus police engage in crowd management, seeking to calm the situation, find eyewitnesses and look for a possible second shooter. A public affairs officer coordinates with the university and begins to interact with the gathering press corps. It takes 37 minutes to find the last of the dozen victims, hiding behind a trash receptacle, but it is too late by then. The on-scene commander gives way 90 minutes later to a state response team that engages to help clear the building.

SMART BUILDING EXERCISE

This nightmare scenario was the basis for a major training exercise at the EagleBank Arena at George Mason University (GMU) in November 2019, which was led by GMU’s Special Response Team and included approximately 80 law enforcement and fire and rescue personnel from a variety of state, local and university organizations. Many had never had the opportunity to train in such a large facility or interact with such a large number of students, each playing various roles including the shooter, members of the crowd and victims.

But this exercise was even more unique and consequential than just the scale and scope. The Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology (DHS S&T) Directorate supported the exercise. GMU faculty and administrators, as well as industry teams led by the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) and Smart City Works guided the drill to explore and research smart building technologies’ effectiveness to help save lives and improve response.

Many leading-edge sensors, including video and audio, shot detectors, particulate sensors, WiFi detectors, occupancy detectors and others, are wired into the arena. The sensors are packaged in an EXIT sign’s footprint and brought into a display on a “single pane of glass,” including both typical building management systems and the public safety sensors.

The technology allows for 2D and 3D visualizations in the command center and tablets in the incident command center. These sensors need to provide value to the building owner on a day-to-day basis, including cost efficiency, among other things. They have a proven ability to help reduce energy consumption, manage the facility, and reduce insurance costs. If an incident occurs, these same sensors are the ones available to help manage the incident.

LESSONS LEARNED

In the debriefs, command-level and tactical responders and technologists commented that this was the first time they had ever joined together to think about how to improve the technology. The lessons were numerous.

The highest value sensors were the real-time occupancy detectors that were viewable on an interior facility map. Understanding where response team members are within the structure in real-time is critical for incident management, particularly where responders from different organizations interact. These sensors effectively help guide the response to where people are and locate all of the 12 scenario victims significantly faster than the search teams. These same sensors can also help building owners reduce energy consumption, helping to cover the costs of installation.

The outside incident commander directly managed and received the information feeds from all sensors as opposed to the direct response teams. This tactic reduced the overall response time and allowed response teams to focus on the direct mission and utilize their standard training and procedures.

Video and audio were most useful on map-based displays rather than the typical panel of 12- or 16-video feeds, which provided only limited situational awareness for people unfamiliar with the building.

The video was most useful forensically, with some analytics able to verify that there was only a single shooter in this scenario. Specialized shot spotters were not much more helpful than simple audio. The response teams were too focused on heading for the stimuli presented in action to manage this kind of external information. The response team leader suggested red/yellow/green visual cues on EXIT signs might indicate where recent activity has triggered sensors within the last minute.

The evolution of these technologies in this and other in-building testbeds continues as part of the ongoing DHS S&T SCITI Labs program with CIT. For scenarios such as a chemical release or secondary incendiary devices, particulate detectors come into play. For example, during installation in the arena, these secondary sensors could detect fresh paint residue in the building. They even could identify popcorn machine activity. Newer versions will have the sensitivity to detect a range of chemical signatures including fire ignition and biological molecules such as COVID-19.

The SAFETY Act may help incentivize building owners to install these systems by reducing their liability and changing building codes to allow IoT-enabled EXIT signs. Normal equipment replacement cycles will help increase adoption over time so these sensor capabilities become more common.

Drone-based versions of the occupancy sensors could fit easily inside an arena to help significantly speed search and rescue. Portable versions of the full sensor and electronics suite are also in the works for protective service types of missions or special event gatherings.

Technology is changing rapidly. The public safety technologies tested in this exercise are proven to reduce risk, increase public safety response effectiveness, and save lives. These capabilities can be most effective when the responder community is actively involved in the design, trial and use of new technology from its inception. We encourage you to look for ways to engage!

For more information contact CIT at SCITI.Info@cit.org and visit www.cit.org/vasmart.

​By David Ihrie | Police1.com​
 
About the author
 
David Ihrie is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) in Virginia, a non-profit that creates technology-based economic development strategies to accelerate innovation, imagination and the next generation of technology and technology companies. He has over 40 years of industry experience as a direct innovator in the fields of satellite and terrestrial communication, computing and information science. He has been a principal in seven startup companies in industries including nuclear power, digital broadcast and analytic software for the intelligence community.

He has used the CTO position as a platform to help build four breakthrough enterprise-scale innovation organizations. The National Technology Alliance brought non-traditional technology companies to help solve hard problems for the intelligence community. MACH37 is the first vertically focused business accelerator for cybersecurity. He leads a program with DHS Science & Technology Directorate to bring leading-edge innovation to the first responder community and has partnered with Smart City Works to create the world’s first infrastructure-focused business actuator. Currently, he leads Smart Communities initiatives for Virginia and is helping bring this new generation of capability to all Virginians.

Technology Procurement: Why Community Buy-In is Key

Citizens don’t like the government using technology that potentially impacts their privacy without knowing how they benefit. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

 

In late 2003, the State of Utah joined a handful of other states in a pilot project aimed at helping law enforcement agencies fight crime. The project involved analyzing confidential databases in multiple states to obtain and share information on Americans who may be planning acts of terrorism or mass violence. It was a well-intentioned approach to using technology to make law enforcement efforts more efficient and productive. And it failed miserably with Utah citizens. The state pulled out of the project in early 2004.

The project failed because of how Utah went about getting involved in the initiative. There was no public knowledge or discussion of the program – the Utah governor just signed up the state’s residents for the program without ever informing them. After learning about the secret program through watchdog groups and media reports, many of the state’s residents, including lawmakers, were upset that the government could randomly comb through their personal information without their knowledge or permission. And it probably didn’t help that the program was referred to as MATRIX, an acronym describing the Multi-state Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange. But, at that time, Matrix was also the title of a famous movie franchise about technology running wild and eventually conquering and enslaving humanity. (An IJIS summary of lessons learned from the failure of MATRIX is available below.)

Fast-forward to today. Technology has advanced, and its use to prevent and respond to acts of mass violence has expanded. For example, agencies use data analytics, predictive software and information-sharing platforms to help uncover potential offenders. Public safety surveillance cameras, gunshot detection systems, automated license plate readers (ALPR) and cell phone tracking help law enforcement prevent and investigate acts of mass violence. And unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) provide an expanded view of potential or real mass violence crime scenes.

But at least one thing has remained constant in regard to law enforcement’s use of technology: Citizens don’t like the government using technology that potentially impacts their privacy without knowing how they benefit. And law enforcement efforts to implement technology without public buy-in, meaning a public understanding of the need for and benefits of the technology and the support of its use, will likely be hindered by public resistance and may ultimately fail.

The following are some actions law enforcement agencies can take to help the public understand the technology the agency uses or is considering using, ease concerns about privacy and other rights, and increase public support for the agency’s efforts to protect them from mass violence.

TIE TECHNOLOGY TO A STRATEGY

Agencies should begin a search for technology by considering what problem they are trying to solve or what efficiency they are trying to gain by implementing the technology.

A 2016 study on the impact of technology on policing strategy showed that, in general, law enforcement agencies do not acquire technology in line with a policing strategy. Instead, they appear to adopt technology based on factors like executive staff decisions and available funding. Often the scenario is that an agency member sees a demonstration of the technology somewhere and thinks, “Wow! That is awesome! We could use that at our agency. I didn’t even know we needed something like it.” Then they build a case for “needing” the technology to justify its purchase. Essentially, the purchase becomes a solution looking for a problem to solve.

This type of thinking is backward and may lead agencies to acquire technology that is ill-suited for their actual needs. And the justification for these types of purchases may not hold up under scrutiny because “problems” or “opportunities” presented to justify them tend to be exaggerated.

A better approach to acquiring technology is analyzing your agency’s strategy and needs and then evaluating technologies that align with the plans and needs. Agencies should first ask themselves, “What problem are we trying to solve?” or “How can we improve performance in a particular area?”

The answers to these questions help the agency develop goals that they can use to evaluate available technologies and find those that will help them accomplish established objectives for both current and future operations. Agencies will have an easier time gaining support for technologies identified as well-researched solutions or efficiency multipliers than those purchased for a problem or goal to be determined later.

INVOLVE THE RIGHT PEOPLE EARLY ON

Once agencies have identified problems or strategies where technology may contribute to successes, it is essential to involve the right people, in the beginning, to research available technologies and find the best fit for the organization and its budget. While administrative decision-makers, such as executive staff, will likely be involved in program development from the start, consider including others who can significantly contribute to the program’s success.

For example, suppose your agency is considering a UAV program. In that case, someone from within the agency who has a passion for and experience with such technology can provide valuable perspective and support in searching for technology and developing the program. This person can also be an internal “champion” for the technology, providing information about and endorsement of the technology to agency members who may have questions or concerns about the technology.

Similarly, involving existing agency-community liaisons, such as city council or county commission members, legislative representatives, or community leaders, early on in the technology selection and program development process is beneficial. Doing so can create external champions who can help raise community support for the technology, address public concerns about the program, and advocate for program funding. These external champions must understand the cause behind the technology to better communicate the program’s benefits to community members and governmental entities.

Finally, agencies should involve their legal counsel at the beginning of the decision-making process to ensure that the considered technology can be used legally in their jurisdiction and identify any policy implications that need to be addressed before considering or using the technology. It would certainly be frustrating and disappointing for an agency to travel a significant distance down the road of technology acquisition and discover they can’t even use the technology because of legal restrictions.

DEVELOP SOLID POLICY FOR TECHNOLOGY USE

Agencies need to create sound policy that requires operators to use technology in a way that balances public safety benefits with protecting the privacy and other rights of the public. Involving decision-makers, internal and external champions, government members, community leaders, and agency counsel in policy development will help create policies that protect both the agency and the public. It will also improve the chances that the technology will be accepted by the public and successful in its intended purpose, while at the same time decreasing the likelihood of the public misinterpreting the program and perhaps ascribing an ill-intent to it. Existing policies should also be reviewed for any impact or guidance related to the proposed program.

Sound policies should include information on the following:

  • Intended purpose and scope of technology use.
  • Program administration and personnel requirements.
  • Approved and restricted uses of the technology.
  • Data collection, use, retention and release requirements.
  • Program accountability measures, including data security procedures, access control methods and regular program inspections or audits.
  • Required training for technology users or operators.

PRE-LAUNCH PUBLIC EDUCATION

After an agency has followed the above recommendations for developing a technology use program, and the use of the technology has been approved through appropriate channels, they should begin a campaign to educate the community about the program.

There is a marketing adage that goes, “Good companies have customers. Great companies have an audience.” Agencies should remember who their audience is when attempting to obtain public buy-in for the program. They are not trying to educate law enforcement personnel at this point. Instead, they are marketing the program to the public and key stakeholders.

Program administrators and champions should work with agency public information personnel to:

  • Introduce the technology.
  • Share information on the intended purpose and benefits of its use.
  • Communicate what policies and safeguards are in place to protect the public’s privacy and other rights.
  • Explain the cost and funding sources for the program.
  • Provide points of contact for additional information about the program.

Social media posts and agency webpage content can be powerful tools for educating the public about the program in an engaging and entertaining way. Agencies can post stories from other organizations that have used the technology successfully. These stories can be particularly compelling if the technology has been successful in a range of cases. For example, a UAV can help catch a fleeing offender and, a few hours later, find a lost child.

Agencies can also post and share information (as seen in the ABC report on Sacramento’s use of mini-drones) on how they anticipate the technology will help the community, such as by preventing mass violence incidents or reducing the time it takes to apprehend known offenders. And agencies can share videos of the technology, such as those provided by the technology manufacturer, that show the technology being used in various scenarios. Posts should also include information on agency contacts for community members who have questions or concerns about the program or who may want to provide support for the program.

Live displays and demonstrations of the technology can also be impactful ways to educate the public. Agencies should take the new technology on tour. Show it to kids. Present it to civic groups. Give lots of demonstrations. Some of the available crime-fighting technology, such as UAVs or ALPRs, can seem pretty amazing to members of the public. And the amazement they feel when seeing live demonstrations of the technology can translate into increased support for the use of the technology. Agencies just need to be sure not to use confidential data or information during technology demonstrations to ensure that no one’s privacy is compromised.

Agencies should also remember that public education and demonstrations may allow potential offenders to learn about prevention and response protocols and adjust their planning to avoid or defeat the demonstrated technologies. As such, agencies should be careful not to disclose information during their public education efforts that may compromise future technology deployments.

ONGOING PUBLIC EDUCATION

Sometimes a technology program starts strong, but public support and program funding deteriorate or disappear over time. This deterioration can be the natural result of the diminishing effectiveness of the technology. But sometimes, the adage “out of sight, out of mind” rings true, and support for the program dwindles because its benefits aren’t regularly communicated to the public and key stakeholders.

If a technology program continues to provide benefits for the agency and public over time, agencies should continuously share information about program successes with decision-makers and the public. Keeping stakeholders up to date with information on recent program accomplishments can help garner ongoing support for the program, especially when agencies can share impressive images or video footage generated by the technology. Agencies should also be sure to regularly verify or update information related to program points of contact so related inquiries reach the correct parties.

CONCLUSION

Agencies seeking public buy-in to acquire and use mass violence prevention and investigation technologies should remember that maintaining public trust is the primary goal. Some law enforcement technology programs have failed because they were implemented in secret or misused or abused by the police. When agencies follow a sound, transparent, and legal process for acquiring and using law enforcement technologies, and implement appropriate oversight and accountability measures, they are more likely to earn the public’s trust and support for the use of current crime-fighting technologies, and for those that arise in the future.

By Rex Scism and Kerry Gallegos | PoliceOne

About the authors

Captain Rex M. Scism (Ret) is a 32-year law enforcement veteran and former director of research and development for the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Within that capacity, he was responsible for policy management, organizational accreditation initiatives, and statistical analysis. Mr. Scism also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Criminal Justice for both Columbia College and the University of Central Missouri. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy – Session 249, and currently serves as a content developer for Lexipol.

Kerry Gallegos serves as a content developer at Lexipol. He is a retired chief investigator of the Utah Attorney General’s Office and has over 20 years of law enforcement experience. He is a Certified Public Manager and has a master’s degree in accounting, a bachelor’s degree in business management, and is a graduate of the International Association of Chiefs of Police Leadership in Police Organizations (West Point Leadership) program.

Too Fast For Conditions: A Conversation on Speeding

​J​oin the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) on Thursday, November 12 from ​2 to 3 p.m. Central Standard Time​ for a roundtable discussion on speeding trends during the pandemic, state and local efforts to address this issue, and the opportunities and challenges presented by automated speed enforcement. 

This webinar is sponsored by Redflex. 
 
Moderator: – Russ Martin, Senior Director of Policy and Government Relations, GHSA 
 
Sponsor Remarks: – Mark Talbot, CEO, 
 
Redflex Panel Discussion: 
– Jonlee Anderele, Ph.D, Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Region 5 
– Daniel Farley, Chief, Traffic Operations Deployment and Maintenance Section, Pennsylvania DOT 
– Jonathan Nelson, Assistant to the State Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer, Department of Highway Safety and Traffic, Missouri DOT