Ford Mustang Mach-E Passes Mich. State Police Test — 1st All-Electric Vehicle to do So

Ford’s 2021 Mustang Mach-E has become the first all-electric pursuit-rated vehicle for law enforcement. The automaker said this “grueling” test proves the car is “tough enough for even the most challenging jobs.”


By Phoebe Wall Howard Detroit Free Press in

An all-electric police pilot vehicle based on the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E SUV just became the first all-electric vehicle to pass Michigan State Police testing that included acceleration, top speed, braking and high-speed pursuit and emergency response handling, the company announced Friday.

Tests by the Michigan State Police and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department establish standards that law enforcement agencies all over the country use to evaluate vehicles.

“The fact that the Mustang Mach-E successfully stood up to the grueling Michigan State Police evaluation demonstrates that Ford can build electric vehicles that are capable, tough and reliable enough for even the most challenging jobs,” Ted Cannis, CEO of Ford Pro, the automaker’s commercial division, said in a statement.

Ford Pro submitted the all-electric police pilot vehicle for testing in the Michigan State Police 2022 model year evaluation this month. The company issued a media alert at the time that it was seeking review and approval.

Ford CEO Jim Farley tweeted Friday, “The #MustangMachE just became the first all-electric vehicle to pass the rigorous vehicle evaluation tests by the Michigan State Police. Another real-world application for EVs to help law enforcement agencies reduce their fuel usage and CO2 emissions, plus it’s freaking FAST.”

While all-electric vehicles built by various automakers have demonstrated that a vehicle with an electric powertrain can deliver strong performance, Ford wanted to submit its latest Mustang for the rigorous police testing program so that the vehicle may be officially certified and available for purchase by law enforcement agencies.

Test results are to be published on the Michigan State Police website later this fall.

“Ford will use the pilot program testing as a benchmark while it continues to explore purpose-built electric police vehicles in the future,” Ford said in a release Sept. 17. “Law enforcement demand for all-electric vehicles is growing worldwide.”

It’s all part of a global commitment to get to zero emissions.


Police vehicles are a key market for Ford.

The Dearborn automaker has long established itself in the law enforcement community as a trusted supplier of police cars and SUVs, which generate significant revenue for the automaker.

Ford provides about two-thirds of police vehicles in the U.S.

The Police Interceptor, a modified Ford Explorer, is perhaps the most high-profile current vehicle. It has been clocked at 150 mph during official testing.

The 2021 Ford F-150 Police Responder, a pursuit-rated pickup based on the F-150 design, reaches 120 mph with more control when cornering, the company announced in March.

Technology in the pickup is designed to aid police officers, allowing them to “carry more speed when cornering — a rare benefit in a pickup truck,” the company said last spring.


This latest announcement comes from Ford Pro, a separate global vehicle services and distribution business within Ford that’s leading the company’s push to deliver products and services for commercial and government customers.

“We’re creating a one-stop shop to help those customers increase uptime and productivity while reducing complexity and the total cost of ownership,” Farley said in a statement in May.

The Ford Pro vehicle lineup includes the all-electric 2022 E-Transit van and the all-electric 2022 F-150 Lightning Pro pickup. Ford did not provide a timeframe for when it might plan to build Mustang Mach-E style vehicles for police use.

Free Drone Pilot Training for First Responders Nationwide

Police officers and firefighters will learn how to fly drones like the Spartacus Max in Aquiline Drones’ Flight to the Future online program. The Connecticut-based company is offering tuition-free enrollment to first responders from now until the end of the year. Photo Courtesy of Aquiline Drones.

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From raging wildfires out West to devastating building collapses in the East, police and firefighters constantly rise to the challenge of keeping Americans safe. Now, Aquiline Drones (AD), a commercial drone manufacturing and cloud technology company in Connecticut, is returning the favor. Specifically, AD is offering free drone pilot training in the company’s Flight to the Future (F2F) program to all police officers and firefighters nationwide from now until the end of the year. Several police and firefighting squads in the state have already enrolled in the proprietary program, which costs $1,299 for other participants.

“We originally created Flight to the Future as a way to provide new high-tech skills in a burgeoning industry to unemployed workers during the pandemic to fulfill everyday services such as asset inspection, videography, smart farming and land surveying and mapping,” said Barry Alexander, Founder and CEO of Aquiline Drones. “But using drones to help better society and save human lives was the impetus in creating our company and we’re excited to do our part in arming those in the line of duty with crucial training to keep them safe and secure.”

The interactive online course teaches police and fire professionals how to safely and effectively utilize drone technology in their daily missions. The educational content is available on-demand at any time, so participants can take the course at their own convenience. Besides earning their FAA Part 107 commercial drone pilot certification, F2F program participants will also learn about cloud computing, AI, the Internet of Things (IoT) and other technologies transforming the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) industry.

Interested parties may apply for free enroll by sending an email with full contact information to: For a detailed summary of the curriculum, please visit:

Alexander notes that drones have long been thought of as eyes in the sky to assess emergency situations, including search and rescue, crime scene analysis, mapping, active shooter investigations, event monitoring, and accident reconstruction from their portrayal on TV and film.  More detailed, real-world applications for police and firefighter officers include:

  • Emergency Response – When seconds count, drones can be sent ahead of the first responders to assess the situation on the ground, give responders a critical heads-up and also be used to deliver lifesaving supplies and equipment to victims that are not readily reachable by a human in time.
  • Law enforcement – When emergency calls are received that involve criminal activities, drones can be deployed ahead of police arrival to provide first-person viewing (FPV) and real time situational awareness, thus capturing crimes in action, providing first responders with live footage of the scene and even recording footage/images of criminals that may have left the scene prior to the arrival of the authorities. This has the powerful potential of reducing law enforcement costs from pursuing criminals through prolonged investigations, improving conviction rates, reducing wrongful arrests and convictions, and ultimately saving taxpayer dollars on processing arrestees and court cases. In this context, drones can be outfitted with audible devices i.e., sirens and flashing blue and red lights indicating the arrival of law enforcement on the scene, thereby serving as deterrents to crimes or escalations, while improving response rates for cities. Subsequently, police authorities will be safer on the job and more effective at solving or fighting crimes that truly necessitate their involvement.

“We envision a world in which humans and drones live and operate in harmony, using their real-time control, autonomy and analytics to enhance safety, increase efficiency and prevent unnecessary deaths,” adds Alexander. “It is our corporate responsibility to ensure that all first responders partake in this essential training to become the best drone operators in the world.”

About Aquiline Drones

Aquiline Drones is the leading American drone company founded by highly experienced aviators, systems engineers, and IT gurus. With a customer-centric model, US-based manufacturing, and world-class MRO services, the company offers innovative ways of using drones in commercial activities. Supported by a dedicated UAV cloud, autonomous drone operations with real-time control, and dynamic on-field decision-making capabilities, Aquiline Drones’ full-spectrum of technological solutions provide increased applicability across countless industries and environments by delivering real-time data insights. Aerospace-compliant processes for software, hardware manufacturing, and systems integration, along with best-in-class mission capabilities, are being planned and designed. The company continues to forge relationships with federal, state, and private organizations, developing and collaboratively launching new drone applications. Visit for more information and follow all exciting company news and updates on AD’s social platforms.

The Forensic Microbiome: The Invisible Traces We Leave Behind

“Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even unconsciously, will serve as a silent witness against him.” Edmond Locard (1877-1966), forensic science pioneer


Perhaps the most famous founding doctrine of forensic science was first stated early in the 20th century by French doctor Edmond Locard, a Sherlock Holmes afficionado who realized that physical evidence would be left at virtually every crime scene and would “bear mute witness” against a perpetrator. The evidence was certainly there, Locard said in developing his Exchange Principle. “Only human failure to find it, study and understand it, can diminish its value.”

For decades investigators have exploited Locard’s Exchange Principle, finding the forensic value of everything from footprints and tool marks to fingerprints and blood spatter. The forensic tools used in the hunt for evidence have improved over the decades as advanced microscopy, spectroscopy, genetic analysis, and rapid forensic database searches have become common.

But one significant advance in modern forensic science came in 2001, with the anthrax attacks in Florida, New York, and Washington, DC that began one week after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Letters containing deadly bacterial spores that caused anthrax were sent to several news media offices and two US senators. Five people died and 17 were infected, triggering one of the largest FBI investigations in history.

That investigation marked the birth of microbial forensics, according to Bruce Budowle, a geneticist with the University of North Texas Health Science Center who was with the FBI at the time. “There was an attack, there was forensic evidence, it was microbial evidence, and we were woefully unprepared for it,” Budowle said. “The technology at the time was limited, so we created the field of microbial forensics. It was dedicated to the analysis of microbial evidence related to a bioterrorist act or a bio-crime. It was very focused on using microbes or their by-products as a weapon.”

The FBI sought assistance from The Institute of Genome Research to sequence the spores for about $250,000 per sample, he said, and the particular strain of the bacteria was, years later, traced to a scientist working in a government lab in Maryland. The scientist committed suicide in 2008 after he became a suspect. A National Academy of Sciences report in 2011 confirmed that the anthrax was the Ames strain, but didn’t conclusively tie it to the scientist’s lab. The FBI said the microbial profile of the spores used in the attacks, plus other evidence, led them to conclude the suspect scientist had indeed been the perpetrator.

With the public focus on the anthrax attacks themselves, few people noticed that the horrific events were creating an entire new field of forensics, one that today has evolved to a point where microbes are on the verge of becoming a major tool not just in bioterrorism, but in forensic investigations on a broad scale.

The advent of massively parallel sequencing and other high throughput technologies promulgated by efforts from the Human Genome Project “opened up microbial forensics to a whole host of other applications,” Budowle said. Those applications go beyond human DNA evidence, expanding the trace evidence humans can leave behind at crime scenes to bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microbial evidence. The growth of microbial forensics led Budowle to run three NIJ-supported webinars in 2016 on the basics and expansion of the field, as well as conduct NIJ-funded research, completed in 2019, on skin microbes that could be used for human identification.[1]

As with many research areas in science, the microbial forensics techniques developed and implemented over the past 20 years are applied beyond criminal investigations and are the same technologies now being used to identify and limit the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease. Researchers are finding the techniques that are gaining a foothold in criminal forensics are also useful in detecting the SARS-COV-2 virus.

Rob Knight, Director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at the University of California, San Diego, conducted early NIJ-supported microbiome research by evaluating the potential of using microbial cells on human skin as trace evidence for criminal investigations. That and similar research has continued, he said, but over the past months he has turned some of the lessons learned in microbial forensics to finding SARS-CoV-2 among the UCSD students.

In addition to a program that directly tests about a thousand people a day for COVID-19 on the UCSD campus, Knight said in December 2020, he has been monitoring the wastewater coming out of dormitories. “We see the viral signal in wastewater about a week before we see clinical signs,” he said. In a small wastewater pilot project, he was able to identify one person with COVID-19 in a dorm of about 500 students. “We were able to figure out where the signal was coming from before anyone had symptoms,” he said. A screening of the dorm found the infected student.

The swabbing techniques he developed while working on an NIJ-supported project on using the microbiome from human skin as trace evidence[2] have proved useful in swabbing classroom floors to find SARS-CoV-2 evidence. “It’s about distinction,” Knight said of searching for the SARS-CoV-2 virus among the other microbes in a classroom. After students leave a classroom, Knight’s researchers speculated that SARS-CoV-2 aerosol floating in the room would eventually settle onto the floor.

They determined that if they swabbed the floor at the center of the room, “you could use this to tell if someone infected with the virus had been in the classroom,” he said. That environmental signal of SARS-CoV-2 is then combined with testing of the students who had been in the room to determine which individual has the virus, he said. The process of finding the virus and then linking it back to a specific person “connects right through to the sorts of interests that led us into the NIJ [microbiome] projects,” he said.

The basis of Knight’s NIJ projects, along with the microbiome research of several other NIJ-supported scientists over the past 20 years, is the fact that each human carries a distinct microbial signature, a signature that is shed into the environment and left on objects that are touched. The microbiome was portrayed, unintentionally, by Charles Schultz in 1954 when he created the Pig Pen character in the Peanuts comic strip. Pig Pen is a boy who is perpetually surrounded by a cloud of dirt and dust, carrying it with him wherever he goes. Replace the dirt and dust with bacteria, fungi, and viruses, and Schultz seems a visionary. The number of microbes that make up those clouds are enormous but, as they are invisible to the eye, are hard for most people to comprehend.

University of Chicago surgeon and microbial ecologist Jack Gilbert, who has worked with Knight on NIJ-supported microbiome research, noted in a recent University of Chicago Magazine article that “by the time children learn to walk, they are enveloped, inside and out by a massive, invisible kaleidoscope of microorganisms, 100 trillion or so.”[3] The microbes live in mouths, nasal passages, on the skin, and, predominantly, in the digestive system. Most of them, fortunately, are friendly and do such things as help with digestion, build the immune system, and fight off pathogens.

The Human Microbiome Project, a National Institute of Health-supported consortium of universities and research laboratories that worked from 2007 to 2016, found that the microbial communities living “in association” with a human body include eukaryotes, archaea, bacteria, and viruses. The bacteria alone are typically ten times more prevalent on a body than human cells. Those “non-human” microbes have about a thousand times more genes than are present in the entire human genome, and about one to three percent of a person’s body mass is made up of the microbes. For a 200-pound adult, about two or three pounds comes from microorganisms that aren’t actually the person. For most people that means foreign microbes in and on their body weigh about as much as their brain.

“Some scientists have questioned, ‘Are we human or are we a microbiome?’” said Yong Jin Lee, a microbiologist at Albany State University, Albany, Ga. In his NIJ-supported research, “Surveying the Total Microbiome as Trace Evidence for Forensic Identification,” Lee investigated human traces left on items typically found in an office environment, such as cell and desk phones, keyboards, mice, mugs, pens, and staplers. “We looked at the variability between individuals, that we have different microorganisms from person-to-person,” he said. “We thought we could use that individual variability to identify a person. That was the hypothesis we had when we proposed our research to NIJ.”

The objects at seven individuals’ offices were swabbed using five different swabs made of cotton, rayon, polyester, and other material. After analyzing the microbiomes recovered, which included bacteria, fungi, and viruses, the researchers found that the human traces on touched objects “can be linked to the individuals who touched them and, in turn, serve as trace evidence for forensic identification.”

“We swabbed the objects trying to get some microbial signature, not focusing on the human DNA because whenever you touch an object you don’t necessarily leave human cells,” Lee said. “But we do leave our microorganisms on an object, so we swab to get the microbial DNA.” From that, he said, the researchers identified a microbial signature, or profile, that was unique to the individual who touched the object.

In Budowle’s NIJ-supported research on using the human microbiome for individual identification, he noted that the amount of human DNA deposited by touching an object is often very low, below the detection level of typical DNA analysis technologies. His researchers collected assorted bacterial species, as well as fungi and other microbes, from 51 individuals. The researchers developed skin microbiome genetic profiles, focused primarily on microbes on the hand, for human forensic identification. While the human DNA was often low on the samples, the microbial DNA was significantly higher.

“These studies attributed skin microbiome samples collected from the hand to their respective host with up to 100 percent accuracy,” Budowle wrote in a summary of his 2015 NIJ-supported skin colonies report.[4] “The hand is one of the most forensically-relevant sites, regarding touch DNA samples and as such this finding is significant for the potential use of skin microbiome profiling . . . to assist in criminal investigations, such as robberies, homicides, and sexual assaults.”

A realization that came quickly with investigations into touch DNA, whether human or microbe, is that it is difficult to look much beyond the last person who has touched an object. Knight, in one of his NIJ-supported research projects, had multiple people handle objects and then try to sort out how many had touched it, in what order, and identify them. That research serves as a warning to investigators not to touch anything at a crime scene. “Suppose you find something at a crime scene, and someone inadvertently picks it up,” he said. “Can you figure out who touched it before them? I’m not saying it’s impossible but it’s a lot more challenging because whoever is the last person to handle an object tends to be the one leaving trace evidence on it.”

Knight discovered the problem in one of his early microbiome investigations when he examined microbes found on money. “We figured there would be a lot of interesting microbiology on money, and maybe it would depend on the country that the bills were from and the materials, paper or plastic, that the bills were made of.” What they found were a lot of microbes from the researcher who last handled the money, he said, not the people who had used the bills earlier or the country of origin. That work led to his touch investigations for NIJ and the same “last person” rule applied.

As part of the research, Budowle’s investigators also looked at a DNA phenomenon known as shedding. Some people naturally shed a lot of human DNA, while others shed very little. Most people are assumed to be somewhere in between. Budowle’s work found that there appears to be some slight correlation between the level of human DNA shedding and microbial DNA shedding, something that might be helpful to future investigations.

Beyond matching a microbiome trace to an individual as part of criminal investigations, how revealing can the millions of particles left on a surface be? “There is evidence that suggests the environment obviously will dictate to some degree the microbes you have,” Budowle said. And the stressors a person has experienced can also impact results. “Antibiotics can have an effect on a microbiome, as can disease.” Some microbes can be tougher, more stable and persistent than their counterpart human cells in the environment, he said. “So, you’re likely to be able to get that signature for longer, especially in a more degraded sample.”

For forensic microbes to become an important part of crime lab investigations, both Budowle and Knight said, gathering and analyzing samples will have to become inexpensive and routine. “If it’s $500,000 bucks a sample they’re not going to do it,” Knight said. “If it’s $5 a sample, then it could be routine.”

The largest obstacle now, he said, is the complexity of the data analysis. “One of the problems they are trying to solve is how do you put [microbiome evidence] into an easy-to-use interface,” he said. “You have these incredibly complex underlying data sets. So, what we need to do for microbes is the same sort of thing we do for sending photos or videos by phone. How do we take that noisy, highly technical data and do data processing on it so that people get a clear picture they can interpret?”

Budowle noted that crime labs are known for being resistant to change and that is often an appropriate reaction. “They have limited resources, they don’t have time to do research, and it takes a lot of effort and resources to have a technology validated and put into operations.”

However, “there is a portion of the forensic community that looks to the future,” he said. Advances are typically driven by need and support of the federal government, he said. The work on microbial forensics developed and advanced rapidly in response to the anthrax attacks, he said. In the process, expertise and standards of practice were developed, and that carried into further work on the microbiome, although originally as a tool to prepare for terrorist attacks.

“You really have to think of it on a five to 20-year kind of schedule because we have technologies that are coming out now that have been in the works for more than a decade,” Budowle said. “Rapid DNA (automated DNA processing) is an example of work that was started 15 years or more ago, and NIJ and DOD and Homeland Security funded some of these things. And we’re just seeing the benefits of that work.”

The advances in DNA sequencing technology have made much of microbial forensics possible,” he said, and more than a decade after it was first developed, “we are just starting to see the inroads that might go into crime labs today.”

Budowle doesn’t believe microbial DNA will supplant human DNA in the foreseeable future, “but with advances in sequencing and in bioinformatics, there may be more signature information out there that makes it appealing.” Microbiome research might progress faster, he noted, if focused centers of excellence were established across the country. The work is expensive, he said, and trying to do the work in individual labs slows progress.

As for all of the swabs for detecting microbes, many developed in NIJ-supported research, Knight said thousands of them were recently flown to the International Space Station (ISS) where they are being used to create a microbial map of the entire interior of the space station. “The idea is to look at the total microbiology of the ISS and see how much of that we can track to particular sources.” Of particular interest are microbes already found on the ISS that haven’t been seen on Earth. Knight said he believes they are not alien, but instead evolved from earlier microbes on the space station. “We can’t guarantee that they don’t exist on Earth,” he said, “but we can say that we haven’t seen them in even the very large data sets like the entire Earth microbiome project.”

Budowle recently looked at DNA profiles he generated back in the early 1980s. “We thought they were spectacular,” he said of those early profiles. “We’d perfected the process and they looked good. I look at them today and say, ’Oh, these are ugly.’”

The microbiome research is progressing and much of the analysis today is quite impressive, he said. “That might turn into a functional operation by the routine [crime] laboratory in the next handful of years.”

But based on his long experience, Budowle’s sure that 20 years from now, when microbiome researchers look back, “we’re going to say we were in the stone ages in 2020. It’s just the way things are.”


[note 1] Bruce Budowle, “Human Microbiome Species and Genes for Human Identification,” Final report to the National Institute of Justice, grant number 2015-NE-BX-K006, May 2019, NCJ 252942.

[note 2] Rob Knight et al., “Evaluating the Skin Microbiome as Trace Evidence,” Final report to the National Institute of Justice, grant number 2014-R2-CX-K411, June 2018, NCJ 251647.

[note 3] University of Chicago Magazine, Winter/21, Vol. 113, #2.

[note 4] Budowle, “Human Microbiome Species and Genes for Human Identification.”

Two New Laws Restrict Police Use of DNA Search Method

​​HudsonAlpha, a genome sequencing lab in Alabama that has worked on more than 1,000 forensic genealogy cases. Photo credit…Wes Frazer for The New York Times


Story by Virginia Hughes​ for the New York Times​

New laws in Maryland and Montana are the first in the nation to restrict law enforcement’s use of genetic genealogy, the DNA matching technique that in 2018 identified the Golden State Killer, in an effort to ensure the genetic privacy of the accused and their relatives.

Beginning on Oct. 1, investigators working on Maryland cases will need a judge’s signoff before using the method, in which a “profile” of thousands of DNA markers from a crime scene is uploaded to genealogy websites to find relatives of the culprit. The new law, sponsored by Democratic lawmakers, also dictates that the technique be used only for serious crimes, such as murder and sexual assault. And it states that investigators may only use websites with strict policies around user consent.

Montana’s new law, sponsored by a Republican, is narrower, requiring that government investigators obtain a search warrant before using a consumer DNA database, unless the consumer has waived the right to privacy.

The laws “demonstrate that people across the political spectrum find law enforcement use of consumer genetic data chilling, concerning and privacy-invasive,” said Natalie Ram, a law professor at the University of Maryland who championed the Maryland law. “I hope to see more states embrace robust regulation of this law enforcement technique in the future.”

Privacy advocates like Ms. Ram have been worried about genetic genealogy since 2018, when it was used to great fanfare to reveal the identity of the Golden State Killer, who murdered 13 people and raped dozens of women in the 1970s and ’80s. After matching the killer’s DNA to entries in two large genealogy databases, GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA, investigators in California identified some of the culprit’s cousins, and then spent months building his family tree to deduce his name — Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. — and arrest him.

Ms. Ram subsequently published an article in a law journal calling on Maryland lawmakers to act against the practice. Granting police access to a suspect’s genome, she argued, including markers of sensitive health information, was akin to an unreasonable search, which i​​s banned by the Fourth Amendment. In 2019, she testified to a state House committee after a delegate, Charles Sydnor, who is now a state senator, introduced legislation that would have banned the method outright.
The ban did not pass. But it prompted discussions with legal experts, public defenders, prosecutors and police officers that led to a compromise bill, which passed unanimously this term in the state House and Senate.

“This bill strikes a balance between this very important technology to identify people that do the very worst things to our Marylanders, yet it balances that against the privacy concerns and the trust that we need from the public,” John Fitzgerald, the chief of the Chevy Chase Village Police Department, testified to the Maryland House Judiciary Committee in February.

But some experts said that the law could put a damper on the technology’s use in Maryland. For one thing, the law states that by 2024, genealogists working on such cases must be professionally certified — a credential that does not yet exist.

Another sticky provision: Investigators may use only genealogy companies that have explicitly informed the public and their customers that law enforcement uses their databases, and that have asked for their customers’ consent to participate. Currently, customers of GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA are given a choice about whether to participate in these searches. But the companies provide little information about what those searches entail, and the opt-in settings are turned on by default.

“We know well that most people do not read these kinds of forms closely,” Ms. Ram said. “This is likely to generate unwitting inclusion rather than actual consent.”

Unlike 23andMe and Ancestry, which have kept their immense genetic databases unavailable to law enforcement without a court order, GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA are eager to cooperate. If other states do not follow Maryland’s lead, it seems unlikely that either company would make changes that would shrink the pool of DNA profiles available for these searches. Both companies said in statements that they had no plans to update their policies.

“If the rest of the nation doesn’t have that requirement, why would they bow to Maryland’s needs?” said Paul Holes, a critic of the bill and a retired cold-case investigator who was on the team that found Mr. DeAngelo. “Now they’re serving the greater good at the expense of one state.”

In the three years since Mr. Holes’s team found Mr. DeAngelo, likely several hundred cases, many of them decades old, have been solved nationwide with genetic genealogy. The method has been used to solve crimes, exonerate the innocent and find the names of unidentified remains. The Defense Department may use the technique to identify World War II soldiers.

In some cases, customers may never know that the DNA markers they have uploaded into a database are being used by the police to identify culprits — or that using the database may bring trouble to their relatives. In 2018, police in Orlando, Fla., asked a woman for a DNA test, telling her that they believed she was related to a dead person they were trying to identify. She complied, only to find out that they were investigating her son, who was subsequently arrested and charged with murder.

In other cases, detectives might surreptitiously collect the DNA of a suspect’s relative by testing an object that the relative discarded in the trash.

Maryland’s new law states that when police officers test the DNA of “third parties” — people other than the suspect — they must get consent in writing first, unless a judge approves deceptive collection.

Investigators cannot use any of the genetic information collected, whether from the suspect or third parties, to learn about a person’s psychological traits or disease predispositions. At the end of the investigation, all of the genetic and genealogical records that were created for it must be deleted from databases.

And perhaps most consequential, Maryland investigators interested in genetic genealogy must first try their luck with a government-run DNA database, called Codis, whose profiles use far fewer genetic markers.

Mr. Holes said that this part of the law could have tragic consequences. For old cases, he pointed out, DNA evidence is often highly degraded and fragile, and every DNA test consumes some of that precious sample. “In essence, the statute could potentially cause me to kill my case,” he said. And given the speed that DNA technology evolves, he added, it is unwise for a law to mandate use of any particular kind of test.

But other experts called this provision crucial, because the potential privacy breach is far more severe for genetic genealogy, which gives law enforcement access to hundreds of thousands of genetic markers, than it is for Codis, which uses only about two dozen markers.

These searches are “the equivalent of the government going through all of your medical records and all of your family records just to identify you,” said Leah Larkin, a genetic genealogist who runs a consulting business in the San Francisco Bay Area that is largely focused on helping adoptees and others find their biological relatives. “I don’t think people fully appreciate how much is in your genetic data.”

Justice Department Partnership Finds More Than 300 Unidentified Persons Through Fingerprint Analysis

The Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs recently announced an important milestone reached through a partnership between OJP’s National Institute of Justice and the FBI.

The collaborative effort to match unidentified persons’ fingerprints to biometric and criminal history information made its 300th identification in March 2021.

“This latest milestone affirms the essential role that forensic science plays in solving crimes and ensuring public safety,” said NIJ Acting Director Jennifer Scherer. “Our partnership with the FBI continues to yield impressive results in the face of daunting investigative challenges, establishing identities out of the thinnest of evidence and delivering long-awaited answers to families of the missing, often after years of anguish and uncertainty.”

In February 2017, NIJ’s National Missing and Unidentified Persons (NamUs) program and the FBI Laboratory began searching unidentified persons’ fingerprints through the FBI’s NextGeneration Identification System (NGI). The NGI system is the world’s largest and most efficient electronic repository of biometric and criminal history information and enables analysis of poor-quality entries in the FBI’s fingerprint database, allowing more focused searches and increasing the likelihood of identification, even with prints that have been searched many times in the past.

NamUs is currently the only national database of cases involving unidentified persons, with currently over 13,638 cases.

FBI Acting Assistant Director Eric Pokorak of the Laboratory Division said, “The FBI Laboratory is proud of our partnership with NIJ, the critical forensic support we provide toNAMUS, and through that collaboration offering a degree of solace to the loved ones of the missing.”

Since then, 2,647 fingerprint cards have been examined, resulting in the current total of312 identifications, many of which are cold case homicide investigations. Of that number, 34were homicide victims, and another 83 are undetermined cases which may be homicides.

In one recent case, an unidentified person’s prints were of such poor quality that they could not previously be submitted for fingerprint searches. Using NGI, the decedent was identified as a migrant worker, and the process of finding Next of Kin was started. Had the card not been uploaded into NamUs, the person would have gone unidentified indefinitely.

More information about NamUs and the FBI Latent Print Support Unit can be found at and, respectively.

Information about the National Institute of Justice is available at

Four Missouri Counties Receiving 911 Funding Support

Photo: Douglas County Sheriff Chris Degase, Assessor Alicia Degase and Ava City Mayor Burrely Loftin attend a phone conference with the Missouri 911 Service Board.

Four southern Missouri counties are set to receive a $770,000 grant to improve area service that would allow Text-to-911 and boost coverage. The four are Ozark, Howell, Douglas and Wright counties.

Douglas County Sheriff Chris Degase says in a social media post, earlier this month, he and his county’s Assessor Alicia Degase and Ava City Mayor Burrely Loftin attended a phone conference with the Missouri 911 Service Board and those involved in the grant.

To provide some background, the sheriff says he and Assessor Degase began working with the Missouri 911 Service Board, along with Wri-Comm Director Jeff Holman and Howell County 911 in an effort to secure a grant.

He says Assessor Degase began working on the 911 project over five years ago and assigning physical locations to property. These physical locations can be found on tax bills.

Both the sheriff and the assessor have met with the new commission who will be assisting as the project moves forward to provide the citizens of Douglas County and the City of Ava with 911 services.

Mike Phillips, ENP, president of the Missouri 911 Directors Association, says, “These are the services that save lives. It’s been 20 years since we’ve seen any of these … counties move up in their service levels.”

Prior to the funding announcement, Douglas and Ozark counties did not have their own 911 answering equipment. Calls during emergencies currently head to seven-digit phone lines, where those taking calls do not receive any information on the caller, requiring the citizen to provide their names and locations.

​”​This is going to allow for Douglas County, which has no 911, and Ozark, who has 911, but their equipment is outdated,” Wright County Communications Director Jeff Holman says.

Funding will also help Wright and Howell counties pinpoint the location of the caller through equipment. They will also be able to accept text messaging in all four of the counties.

The grant was pa​​rt of nearly $2 million in funding awarded by the Missouri 911 Service Board.

Overall, this moves local services to what is described as Phase II. Comparably, 99.2% of the nationwide population already benefits from at least Phase II level service.

“This is going to allow for Douglas County, which has no 911, and Ozark County, to upgrade their equipment, to allow them to have text and 911,” Holman notes.


Sketching From the Skies: Documenting Crime Scenes with Drones, Other 3D Scanning Provides Accuracy at its Best

Utilizing drones to document a crime scene is a great way to document your scene quickly, accurately, and interactively.

Crime scene documentation is one of the most important aspects of a case. Since no crime scene can be completely revisited, it is crucial to ensure the documentation of each scene is accurate, and as detailed as possible.

The Evolution of Crime Scene Sketching

In the past, crime scene documentation included photos, (maybe videos taken with a camcorder), and manual diagram sketching. Though these tools were helpful in the past, presently there are much more advanced tools that can be used to document each detail of your scene.

If you have ever had the opportunity to reopen a cold case, often you will immediately notice the difference in quality, (and quantity), of the photos in the case file as well as any video that was captured with a camcorder. Even if in your career you used those types of tools, looking at those case files compared to the current ones is a huge difference.

Sketches were originally done with graph paper. From there they progressed into basic software programs that would generate sketches based on dimensions and measurements entered by the investigator to make them closer to scale. More recent software programs enhance a scene by bringing it to life in 3D. This method is still used today of course for smaller scenes.

When it comes to larger scenes or outdoor in particular it can be difficult to capture every detail. Drones have made the unthinkable possible when it comes to crime scene documentation on a large scale.


Drones have given a whole new outlook on diagramming and documenting outdoor crime scenes. One problem that crime scene investigators and detectives often run into is the inability to capture the whole scene. So often a scene will be in an obscure location making it difficult for investigators to photograph the scene. Having a drone allows investigators to document every inch quickly and accurately.

The mdMapper1000DG aaS from Microdrones brings the task of mapping a scene out to a whole new level. It offers a fast and safe way to get the job done accurately in a 2 or 3D form and is rain and heat resistant.

The mdLiDAR1000 aaS produces 3D point clouds which are excellent for a variety of fields including mapping and documenting crime scenes. This particular drone is extremely accurate with an accuracy of 0.2 feet when it is flown at 130 feet at the speed of a little over 6 miles per hour. Instead of having a drone and then a LIDAR system.

The mdLiDAR1000 already has software built into it that way data collected can easily be integrated.

Drone Accessories and Necessities

In order to properly use drones, you must have a radar too. Echodyne specializes in radar equipment for drones. Their focus is on radars for UAS and other like products. Radar works as a sensor with drones to navigate environments. Echodyne’s high-performance electronically scanned MESA unit is a new line of high-performance ESA radar for drones. This helps with both security and accuracy.

EchoGuard is the ideal radar for counter-UAS site protection. With a large vertical field of view and fast update rates thanks to true 3D electronic beam steering, EchoGuard accurately detects, tracks, and classifies small UAS where it matters most – within 1 km of your protected site. It provides precise and reliable target location for putting eyes on target, cueing optical sensors, and directing mitigation responses.

With proven performance in live operations and in countless defense, federal, and private tests across diverse environments (urban, suburban, rural, maritime, and even airborne), EchoGuard has earned its place as the preferred C-UAS radar for dozens of counter-UAS system suppliers. Echodyne offers the counter-drone radar of choice for defense and homeland applications.

Zenith Aeroteh (ZAT) products are designed and built in the United States that designs and builds tethered drones—also called tethered aerial systems (TAS)—for public safety, defense, and industrial applications. They use high quality components such as such as radars, EO/IR cameras, wide-area aerial lighting systems, and mobile ad hoc networking (MANET) radios to name a few.

ZAT’s tethered aerial systems can operate for hours or even days making investigation or any other use efficient and long lasting while providing persistent ISR, and force protection. “The TAS products are designed to work in remote locations with a ground power unit that has a backup battery if an emergency should take place”, Don Leckrone, Director of Zenith AEROTECH. “Select models can fly while tethered at an altitude of 400 to 800 feet, providing point-of-need capabilities helping in all types of use.” ZAT’s tethered aerial systems have incorporated the Echodyne Flight radar, for ground-based ISR activity and counter-UAS applications as well.

“What makes ZAT special is that its engineers have a profound and far-ranging understanding of TAS development and operations, including heavy-lift system design and ground power/tether management,” says Leckrone. “In addition, the company takes a highly customizable approach to its product line, tailoring TAS platforms and payloads to specific missions.”

3D Mapping

3D scanning for crime scene mapping is an excellent tool to use whether it includes a drone or not. Faro has excellent options for crime scene mapping too. The technology used both on the ground and in the air is amazingly accurate. With some software systems you and combine the footage you acquire from a scanner  you may already have.

Scanners such as Faro’s Focus Laser Scanner offer investigators the chance to make their crime scene a 3D reality. The Focus Laser Scanner has an 8-mega pixel, HDR camera and is light in weight making it easy and convenient to use on scenes. The ScanPlan which is 2D from FARO would also work well for documenting crime scenes. Though great for floor designs it is another great way to capture the layout of a crime scene location. Simply record the scene, and upload it into software quickly so you can document your scene in a way that will help you revisit the scene even months later.


Anytime a person flies a drone for any purpose other than hobby use, they must do so as a FAA Certified Part 107 Remote Pilot. When it comes to using drones for crime scene 3D mapping and documentation, additional training is required that is specific to crime scenes. This is so that important elements of the crime scene are not missed, lost or overlooked. The purpose of utilizing a drone at a crime scene is to capture the scene as a whole, so that all of the evidence can be seen in one complete 3D model. The other reason to use drones for crime scene 3D mapping is so that a scene can be captured from an aerial view with images showing the scene from every angle. This is especially advantageous when a scene is spread out over a large area or in an area that is hard to reach by foot.

As a way of supporting the law enforcement community, GRADD provides free professional FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certification test prep training for all law enforcement departments. In addition to a professional self-paced online learning system, every Saturday GRADD holds a training class on Google Meet that teaches different aspects of operating drones, reviews best practices, and provides participants the opportunity to obtain essential knowledge and training in preparation for an FAA Remote Pilot Certificate. The class is ideal for those who want to become certified drone pilots as well as for those who want to be better prepared for operating drones at crime scenes and crash scenes.

Reza Karamooz, CEO of GRADD, says the class is free for public safety professionals, as well as for military veterans, high school educators and students. Though the company’s focus is use of drones for law enforcement in crime scene and accident reconstruction, their training course and technical workshops are helpful to many professionals in a variety of industries.

Trainings such as these are excellent for those who will be using drones for crime scenes 3D mapping and documentation. You must be FAA Certified as a Part 107 Remote Pilot for any type of drone use (besides hobby use), but understanding how to properly document crime scenes and what to look for, is an entirely different mindset. GRADD offers an all-encompassing training for documenting crime scenes and crash scenes.

The GRADD team shares their expertise in creating 3D models using drone images/videos, DSLR photos/videos, and laser scans. GRADD utilizes the RealityCapture Photogrammetry software to process images, videos and laser scans into high detail, highly accurate 3D models. This is a seamless process that can utilizes both new drone equipment and laser scanning equipment already at an agency. Then using GRADD’s LAS3D software, investigators can inspect and measure in 3D in the crime scene 3D point cloud. While the GRADD VR (Virtual Reality) software is a great tool to virtually walk-around and inspect crime scenes. GRADD VR gives investigators the ability to be virtually immersed into a crime scene for close-up inspections, and for collaboration with other stakeholders.

Once the 3D model is uploaded into a the LAS3D or GRADD VR software, investigators can virtually revisit the scene, even zooming in on evidence markers. This brings the crime scene to life for the investigator and can potentially be helpful in the courtroom too. By allowing the jury to “step into” the crime scene, it provides a perspective that sometimes crime scene photos cannot give. It can also provide insight to investigators years later should a case grow cold.

Drones in Use

Departments around the country are implementing drones in various ways at their departments and budgeting for start up, use, and maintenance too. The Brookhaven (GA) Police Department recently started using drones last November. The department’s Unmanned Aerial System Unit now has four drones and intends to have twelve operators providing more insight to investigations and 911 calls in general. By using drones they will cut costs and response and result time will be quicker.


The advantages of using drones far outweighs the disadvantages. Aside from crime scene documentation they are a great tool for search and rescue situations. For scene use they provide access to places you would normally not be able to reach. Using them to document is quick and easy using a drone does not cost anything except the time investigators spend on scene. Having an eye on the sky is certainly a new and increasing option for investigators.  

By Hilary Rodela |

About the author

Hilary Rodela is a licensed private investigator through the state of New Mexico, a former crime scene investigator, and evidence technician. She worked for the Ruidoso (NM) Police Department as well as the Lubbock (TX) Police Department. She has written for several public safety publications and has extensive law enforcement and forensic training and is pursuing forensic expertise in various disciplines. Hilary is also an investigator with the Cold Case Foundation and is part of the International Law Enforcement Auditor’s Association.

After a Tumultuous 2020, How Tech Can Help LE With the Challenges Ahead

The impact of 2020 was felt across the globe, by every individual, in every industry, across ​​every country. However, no profession was impacted by the events of last year in quite the same way as American law enforcement.

Between the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest and responding to “standard” emergencies on a daily basis, law enforcement has been forced to take on more responsibility while addressing evolving public needs and ways of communicating and responding within communities across the country.

While a challenging year, 2020 brought with it the opportunity to rethink approaches to many pressing issues. Like other professions, public safety and law enforcement can learn from the events of 2020 and re-evaluate operations, communications and interactions with each other and the public going forward to create a more connected and safer community for everyone.

Here are a few changes that will take place in 2021 that will help law enforcement respond to ongoing challenges.


One of the biggest conversations of 2020 revolved around law enforcement response to mental health crises in the community. Important questions have been raised to ensure that first responders who arrive on scene have the context and training needed to deliver the appropriate response.

Having critical background information – such as if the subject is an autistic person or has a mental health condition that may impact their reaction to responders – can lead to a response that results in successful outcomes for all involved.

Innovative communities in Suffolk County, Chicago and Seattle are leveraging technology to allow residents to create safety profiles that allow the public to opt in and share personal information – such as medical history – in case of an emergency. Through innovation and rethinking public safety response, these communities and law enforcement have more real-time context and information about the situation they are walking into and how they should best approach a person in crisis.

No matter who ultimately ends up responding to these types of incidents – be it police, mental health professionals, EMTs or a combination – this critical information can help any first responder provide a well-informed, appropriate response that keeps everyone involved as safe as possible.


Police are typically first on the scene in an emergency, but in many cases other departments or agencies need to get involved quickly – whether that’s emergency management, fire or, as we have seen with COVID-19, public health. These different entities need to be on the same page when it comes to coordinating the best and fastest response possible.

Emergencies unravel quickly and can be chaotic – especially when multiple players or stakeholders are involved, so the ability to know the role every department plays in a response can save time and lead to better outcomes. By using technology to collaborate, share data and communicate effectively and in a streamlined manner, departments can better manage major crises, like the pandemic, but also be ready for daily emergencies that are shorter in duration, such as fires, medical incidents or acts of violence.

The right technology not only coordinates incident response with task management, activity status, reminders and reference resources, but also dramatically accelerates the response, allowing for those involved to return to safety quicker.

Solutions that allow law enforcement to better coordinate incident response, share real-time data and communications among multiple responder teams or departments, ensure compliance with task lists and protocols, and record all actions taken for audits and reporting will become critical to our emergency responses.

This allows law enforcement and other emergency personnel to do their jobs to their greatest ability, knowing that there is one source of data that can guide actions, support on-the-fly changes and escalate past due tasks to the appropriate personnel.


Public safety and law enforcement are often leading the charge when it comes to communicating to residents about new protocols and guidelines around COVID-19. This can be especially challenging when living in a large city or town where some areas are more affected by the coronavirus than others. Communication to residents must be customized based on their unique population and experience with the spread of the virus.

However, despite the need to communicate and inform the public, many are getting weary of notifications and reminders about the pandemic. Up against this challenge in particular, public safety will need to get creative in how they communicate with their residents in 2021, taking both geography and channel – like phone calls, emails, apps, and text alerts – into consideration.

As public safety and law enforcement consider their go-forward strategy, officials should consider the modes and tone of various communications. For example, reminders for mask wearing, social distancing and the like could be kept to social media channels or digital signage around town while direct communications, like calls and text messages, should carry some weight of urgency and be used only for the most important information. Otherwise, residents may begin to tune out mass notifications – a potential risk to a community’s public safety.

Like many others, I’m excited to turn the page on 2020 and look forward to seeing how our communities become stronger from lessons learned. Public safety and law enforcement have always been resilient, despite the many challenges they have faced over the years. By learning from events of 2020, law enforcement can prepare for future emergencies and focus on what matters most: protecting their communities. And while 2021 may ultimately be as unpredictable as 2020, it is certain that law enforcement will be ready to adapt and serve.

By Todd Miller |

About the author

Todd Miller is the SVP of Strategic Programs at Rave Mobile Safety. Prior to joining Rave, Todd managed the self-service consulting practice at Oracle where he was responsible for the delivery of customized software solutions for clients in North America, supporting millions of users. At Oracle he was awarded recognition as a member of Oracle’s top 10% in consulting. Todd’s previous experience includes leading consulting teams for Siebel and eDOCS in North America, Europe and Australia.

Photo by Jakayla Toney

Tesla Wins the Savings Race

Bargersville Police Department in Indiana may only employ 14 full-time officers, but they ride in style while on patrol.

Last month, the town council approved Chief Todd Bertram’s request to add two more Tesla Model 3 cars to the department’s fleet, which already boasts three of the high-end electric vehicles. Despite costing nearly $8,000 more than the popular Dodge Charger, he convinced city officials the long-term fuel and maintenance savings with Tesla was worth the upfront investment.

Bertram conducted a cost comparison between the two makes and found that, during the 16-month Tesla tenure, the department recouped almost all of the extra sticker price, and expects greater long-term savings. Even with lower prices at the pump during COVID-19, Bargersville P.D. paid out $7,580 in fuel for the Chargers and $825 in electricity costs charging the Model 3, reported the Daily Journal.

The Teslas also appear to demand less maintenance. Other than basic services like new tires, the only big expenditure came after one of the vehicles hit a deer.

“My experience with Tesla is that it is an amazing car. There is less downtime because there is virtually no maintenance,” Bertram told the council, according to the newspaper.

Conversely, Bertram anticipates some of the aging Chargers in the fleet to require substantial repairs this year, which is why he submitted the request to replace them with Model 3s.

“We hired two people and we are putting them in reserve cars, and I know that is going to be a problem. This is really just me trying to get ahead of a problem that is coming and I think you know is coming, too,” Bertram said at the meeting.

Automotive news website The Drive reports the chief is so sold on the electric vehicle, that he proclaimed in an interview last year that an exclusively Tesla fleet could save the department enough funds to pay for the hiring of more cops without cutting other areas in the budget.

Story published by American Police Beat

In October 2020, electrek published an article comparing the Tesla Model 3 against the Dodge Charter in a one-year review of cost to operate the vehicles as police cars. You can review those results by visiting  Tesla Model 3 crushes Dodge Charger in 1-year review of cost of operation as police car

Eye for Evidence-Proof in the Print

Fingerprints play a large role in convictions. Lately, DNA evidence has been in the limelight when it comes to identifying (and eliminating) suspects and victims alike. Rightly so, DNA evidence has immeasurable value, but so does fingerprint evidence.

We all know each fingerprint is unique. Not only does each one have a pattern but they also each have other characteristics that serve as a “map” to identifying the print.

Collecting prints is not anything like it is on television. The portrayal is accurate but the execution and results are far different in real life. This being said, at crime scenes it is often easy to overlook latent fingerprints. However, it is crucial that if there are (logical) places where prints could be, you need to process that area and try to collect any prints that you can.

Commonly Overlooked Places to Find Prints

Often investigators will focus on the latent prints that are visible or obvious. However there are other surfaces that have prints such as paper, cardboard, and tape. Is it easy to lift prints on these surfaces? By no means is it ever easy. Is it worth it? Yes, it is certainly worth it. Many times these surfaces will have some of the best and most prominent fingerprints.

Processing these materials is sensitive and if you don’t know how to do it, bag it and let someone who does know process it. Many times this type of work will seem unnecessary and tedious. But going that extra mile can often make your case even tighter. Don’t settle for the visible print that is on the door of the house that was broken into. (those are often victims’ prints anyway) If something looks out of place or moved, chances are you’re right. Go with your intuition and collect those extra pieces of evidence.

Fingerprints on Paper

Surprisingly, I have found many, useable prints on paper. Can you dust those surfaces with standard fingerprint powder? Sometimes, but paper is best sprayed with Ninhydrin. Ninhydrin is a chemical that sticks to certain surfaces, it will turn purple if it happens to adhere to oils such as fingerprints. Once you find that you have prints using this method, photograph and submit them to the crime lab or an in house fingerprint analyst. The sooner the better for analyzing these prints.

Checking on paper for fingerprints is overlooked many times. However, there have been murder cases that were solved because of a latent print or palm print found on a sheet of paper.

Don’t overlook the little things, they could turn into big results.  

Story/Photo by Hilary Rodela |