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​”​This is going to allow for Douglas County, which has no 911, and Ozark, who has 911, but their equipment is outdated,” Wright County Communications Director Jeff Holman says.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

Capture 100%; Sacrifice Zero: Diagram your Scene in Record Time

Discover how more agencies are turning to 3D tech to capture the complete scene in investigations with more confidence and create powerful visuals the courtroom can understand.

Did you know you can capture an entire crime or crash scene in 3D and with millimeter accuracy? Did you also know it is possible in a fraction of the time than other traditional methods like total stations or manual measurements?

Join us for this special webinar to take a closer look at 3D technologies for investigations. A panel of current and former law enforcement and forensic professionals will share their experiences using different solutions and lessons learned by adopting 3D technology in their investigation process.

What you’ll learn:

  • Hear from a panel of current and former public safety and forensic professionals about the use of 3D in investigations
  • Learn of the different types of 3D tech out there, what the benefits, used and things to consider with each
  • Live Q&A
  • ​The panel will be hosted by:
    • David Dustin: Creator of forensic animations and 3D crime scenes for 10 years
    • Lieutenant Gabe Mullinax: Knox County Sherrif’s Office and Forensics Services division
    • Russ Boynton: Veteran crash reconstructionist, distinguished former law enforcement official, experienced trainer, and published author with 30+ years of experience


  • They’ll discuss personal anecdotes in using 3D tech for holistic data capture including:

    • Different 3D solutions used for crime and crash scenes
    • Experiences moving towards 3D technologies for scene documentation
    • Impact to their teams and standard operating procedures
    • Results from moving to 3D scene capture in their daily lives and in the courtroom  

Premieres LIVE: December 16, 2020

2:30 PM EST / 1:30 PM CST / 11:30 AM PST / 7:30 PM GMT

Free to Attend. Register now.

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.


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.


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 and visit

​By David Ihrie |​
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.

Using Technology to Mitigate Mass Violence: Before, During and After the Call

A King County Sheriff bomb disposal unit officer walks near a robotic device near the scene of a shooting involving several police officers in downtown Seattle, Thursday, April 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)​


This article briefly describes some technologies for handling mass shootings and other mass violence events based on lessons learned from over 50 after-action evaluations, including the Virginia Tech shooting, the Aurora, Colorado theatre shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing. In the Marathon bombing incident, thermal imaging found one of the two suspects. In the Aurora theatre shooting, a robot disarmed a complex explosive device left in the shooter’s apartment that was intended to booby trap officers investigating the location.

For technology to be useful, it must be available quickly, and officers have to be trained in its use. In some incidents, officers had not practiced sufficiently to use the interoperability features of their radios. Or even more basic, could not quickly remove shotguns from their car mounts.

In this article, we will review technologies that can be used before, during and after the active phase of an incident.


The best intervention is one that is averted before it starts, such as identifying bad guys and stopping their entry.

Magnetometers and radiometers are being used more frequently to screen building entrants, but are far from common in places of public assembly such as shopping centers and stadiums. Israel, which is under continual threat of terrorist attacks, has widespread entrance screening, which has been successful, though at considerable expense.

Artificial intelligence software that processes video from surveillance cameras can detect weapons with high probability, and then alert law enforcement. This can replace more unwieldy magnetometers.

Facial recognition technology is another form of surveillance-camera processing. Following mass shootings, some schools in Florida installed the technology to screen for students, teachers and approved visitors. This can identify persons of interest to LE, such as those with outstanding warrants or restraining orders. However, the technology is raising concerns about civil liberty and racial equity. And sometimes the potential harm-doer is authorized to be present, such as someone who plans to attack fellow students or co-workers. [1]

Where several buildings are involved, like a college campus or industrial site, it often is desirable to order an immediate lockdown. One approach is an electronic emergency lockdown system where a security officer or other authorized person can push one button to lock all doors on all buildings at the same time. We saw this demonstrated in a large city university, which prefers anonymity.

Other physical security technologies include access control readers on buildings or rooms in-office or in-classroom video broadcast capabilities, and of course vehicle barriers.


The goals for early warning systems are to alert law enforcement that an incident has started, and to alert the people at risk of an immediate threat, and what to do.

Technologies can provide real-time information and instructions using visual and audible communication modalities, both indoors and outdoors, through personal and public means. There ideally should be capabilities for two-way communications for event reporting and message verification, and an audit trail for post-alert analysis. Such warnings are commonly used on cell phones for weather events and amber alerts and can be used for other threats as well.

Traditional loudspeakers and megaphones also can alert those in danger, and relay instructions on what to do, especially for those without a cellphone on, or who have not registered for alerts. Some agencies have reserved use of public safety vehicle “hi-lo” sirens as a rudimentary but readily available warning system. One of the latest versions of loudspeaker technology allows messages to be broadcast from an LE cellphone to an area. This super-powerful loudspeaker system, known as an LRAD or Long Range Acoustic Device, can be mounted temporarily at a rally or rock concert or staged at the scene. It is louder and clearer than most loudspeakers.

Outdoor fixed or mobile electronic messaging signs are old technology but can be effective to supplement broadcasts.

Shot detectors can discriminate shots from other noises. These systems can be fixed (e.g., on telephone poles, as in Washington DC), or mobile (e.g., on SUVs) that can be parked at outdoor events like rock concerts and demonstrations. The detectors immediately report that a shot has been fired. They can also pinpoint the source for larger munitions, such as RPGs.


For an active shooting, current protocols call for the first officers on the scene to go to the shooter. The most basic technology is for officers to wear ballistic vests with rifle plates inserted and be equipped with long guns. Endoscope attachments to officer cellphones can help see around a corner without being exposed. Extensions of this are optical fiber technologies that enable officers to see into rooms through existing or drilled holes.

“Black box” systems can link building security cameras directly to police commanders. [1] To trigger the linkage, an authorized person in the building hits a “panic button” or turns on the system via a coded cellphone call. Police then have real-time views inside the event building via its surveillance cameras, to help guide their response. Again, some schools have installed such systems following mass shootings of schoolchildren.

Drones with cameras are increasingly inexpensive, and usually faster and cheaper to deploy than helicopters, but they need to be quickly available and operated by a trained user. Drones can give an excellent command view, check rooftops, examine bomb damage, and look for suspects and victims.

Digital files of building plans should be readily available to incident commanders. Even better is 3-D imagery of the interior and exterior of complex building sites. They can be produced with rotating laser survey scanning instruments.

GPS tracking software that shows the path used by a patrol unit or officer on foot to get to the scene can be installed in cellphones. They can show follow-on units where to go. Think of a complex of buildings or an outdoor setting where the street address alone may not be enough to find the specific location of the incident.

Live bodycam video and images can be relayed to an incident commander to improve situational awareness.

Large incidents requiring mutual aid can be managed better with compatible regional CAD systems, so the incident commander knows who is where and can track their assignments. Responder locations can be shown graphically.

Portable license plate readers may be installed or staged at locations from which suspects, witnesses and victims may be fleeing, to assist with the investigation.

Interoperable communications are critical in a large incident. They enable responders to communicate with sister agencies such as fire and EMS, neighboring jurisdictions, and state and federal agencies. Many “black boxes” can handle frequencies of other agencies interoperably. Interoperability worked well by and large at the Boston Marathon bombing across local law enforcement, and to FBI and National Guard units.

Often a large incident requires calling up off-duty officers, which can be done with software that is an extension of daily attendance systems.

Some incidents pose a concern about chemical, biological or radiological threats. There are good static and mobile CBR detection systems. For large, potentially problematic events (e.g., the Boston Marathon, or New Year’s Eve), the detection units can be pre-positioned. Many local agencies rely on nearby National Guard or federal CBR detection units for this purpose. CBR detection monitors were critically important immediately after the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon; they showed that the bombs were ordinary explosives and not contaminated with worse stuff, key information on proceeding with rescues and the investigation.

Robotics are increasingly available for analysis of packages, disarming bombs and even interdiction, but they are often expensive and require considerable expertise to use. Since time is of the essence, some agencies like to have several inexpensive, simple robots that have a mounted camera, can shake a package, and operate almost like a toy. As mentioned earlier, robotic bomb dismantling reduced casualties in the Aurora theatre shooting – not in the theatre, but at the shooter’s apartment, which he had booby-trapped. The robot used to snip wires on the explosive device actually was operated by an FBI expert in the DC area! As a side note, nearby military units are often relied on for EOD assistance, but they may not be trained to collect and preserve evidence.

Armored vehicles often take too long to get to a scene unless there is a prolonged incident, and may appear too militaristic to purchase these days if you do not already have one. A dual-role rescue vehicle may be more acceptable. They can be invaluable in rescuing citizens and LE personnel.


Every patrol vehicle should have a medical first aid kit with tourniquets and occlusive dressings for sucking chest wounds. Many lives have been saved by officers not waiting for the first ambulances to deliver care, or where the wounded are in a hot zone.

Immediately after an MCI, police departments often are overwhelmed by families and media seeking accurate information about the people killed and wounded, and where to get assistance. Often victims are spread across multiple locations. Public assistance software can be used to centrally track the location and status of victims, and information such as where personal effects have been taken.

A host of facial recognition and other picture analysis algorithms can be used to identify a shooter or bomber. The FBI did a masterful job in going through cellphone and security camera recordings to quickly identify the Boston Marathon terrorists.

It is beyond the scope here to go into DNA and other technologies available to crime labs, but it is a good idea to have the crime lab that you use to review the state-of-the-art technology.


We hope this article gives you some ideas about the technology that you might consider for dealing with mass casualty incidents. More are in the pipeline, such as small robotic devices that can scurry ahead of officers to search for perpetrators and victims; remote-controlled scoop stretchers to retrieve victims from hazardous environments; more advanced drones for use indoors; and technology (other than TASERs) to disable without killing perpetrators. Most important, however, is to make sure that your officers know how to use the technologies you already have.

Police1 readers: If you know of successful technologies in practice not noted in this article, we would appreciate hearing from you. Email


1. An excellent report on technology that can be used in schools and elsewhere is “A Comprehensive Report on School Safety Technology” prepared for The Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in cooperation with The Johns Hopkins University School of Education, Division of Public Safety Leadership. The research described in this report was sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, 2016.

By Philip Schaenman and Hollis Stambaugh |

About the authors
Philip Schaenman is founder of TriData LLC, which specializes in public safety consulting and research. He has advanced engineering degrees from Columbia and Stanford Universities. He led over 50 after-action reviews of mass casualty incidents and has written articles and reports on advanced technology for public safety, and technology for improving the efficiency of police and corrections.

Hollis Stambaugh, a former senior project manager at TriData, heads HS Management Consulting. She has been the project manager for many after-action reports, consulted on improving arson investigation in over 50 communities, and helped lead a series of focus groups across the nation on technology needs for counterterrorism. For further information, email

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.