Tech 2009: The year in review and the years to come
The technology that supports the mission of law enforcement is evolving at an ever-increasing rate. Every year in the past decade has seen dramatic advances in technology that facilities the free-flow of information to cops on the streets and increases officers’ ability to more safely apprehend suspects. We predicted very early on in 2009 that final year of this decade promised to be one of the busiest in history for police technology, and that turned out to be exactly what we got. In January and February we were only speculating about the newest technology in body armor that meets the .06 NIJ standard. By June and July we were holding it in our hands. As winter turned to spring we were still contemplating the prospect of a nationwide D-Block re-auction in late summer. By Labor Day that option had all but vanished in favor of a regionalized approach to 700MHz broadband communications deployment being touted by the Major Cities Chiefs.
Here is just a small selection of the milestone events and technology trends — decidedly not in chronological order — we witnessed in 2009...
Space and sanity do not permit a complete recap of everything we’ve reported on or found interesting in police technology over the past 12 months. But it’s a worthwhile endeavor to look a little more closely at how a handful of these things might tie together into 2010 and throughout the decade to come.
For example, in the area of computer hardware we think the introduction of the U1 and other ultra-mobile PC (UMPC) solutions will continue to increase the ability of police officers to share vital mission data. Think of the ability to wirelessly tie that handheld device, which might be in the hands of an officer preparing to make tactical entry to a suspect’s dwelling, to the type of software database announced this year by from Mobile BIS. Their software solution provides police officers “with instant access to an individual’s criminal history, gang affiliation, a color-coded warning rating, and more.”
With ultra-high-speed wireless broadband networks powered by IPWireless beginning to spring up in places as diverse as New York City and rural Georgia, the information arriving to the officers on scene can also include everything from building schematics to live video of the dwelling captured by a helicopter orbiting the area. Then, when the entry is made it is entirely possible that the teams will be wearing lighter and more resilient body armor meeting the NIJ .06 standard, and bring to bear a couple of new less lethal devices, notably the new TASER X3 which can take down three hostiles without having to change the cartridge in the weapon. Or maybe the suspects might just choose to get themselves shot — the technological marvels introduced in all manner of firearms have continued every year since the invention of gunpowder, and cops today have a wide variety of new options as long as their local politicians allow the armorer to make those purchases.
Another way we can string together a couple of seemingly unrelated developments in police technology might go thusly. An estimated 1.7 million General Motors vehicles will leave the showrooms next year with a new version of OnStar that allow police pursuing a stolen vehicle to disable the accelerator and slow the fleeing vehicle to a gradual stop. Using this technology, a highway patrol officer can easily and safely identify and stop a suspect vehicle without ever alerting the driver to his suspicions, or endangering himself or nearby drivers with a high-speed pursuit.
In an example scenario, the patrolman’s car passes a vehicle and his onboard license plate reading technology records the tag of a vehicle heading in the opposite direction. Moments later, the officer receives an audio alert that the plates match a JTTF database of vehicles associated with individuals suspected plotting domestic terrorism. It’s quite possible that in 2010, that information will travel to the officers’ squad car via the new Vehicle Mounted Modem (VMM) 4300 device from Motorola, which delivers wireless broadband connectivity “at highway speed” and data throughput rates that “far surpass those available through operator data cards, enabling new applications, such as streaming video from the moving vehicle or accessing real-time video surveillance footage for better situational awareness.”
The officer calls for backup, alerts the neighboring jurisdiction toward which the offending vehicle was headed, and reverses his course to come in behind the car. With the help of their GPS-enabled mobile notebook computers mounted in their squad cars, officers from a dozen different points on the compass rose all converge on a single location on an unpopulated stretch of the country road.
The Chief of Police for a small nearby town, driving an unmarked hybrid vehicle meant mostly for patrolling the sleepy streets in a hamlet of 8,000 people, enters the two-lane highway behind the suspects. When they look at the car following 100 yards behind them, the suspects see nothing unusual about it whatsoever. As the two vehicles approach the pre-ordained spot, the Chief activates the accelerator disabling feature, and instantly the hazard lights on the suspects’ car are lit as it comes coasting to a stop.
Like a heard of turtles, cops from three different jurisdictions are on the scene in what seems like an instant. But it was careful coordination and high-tech communication that made the takedown possible. Without a shot being fired, two dangerous terrorists are in custody.
These are but two examples. The possibilities are literally limitless. What do you see on the horizon as implications of this year’s newest developments in police technology? Add your thoughts to the comments area below.
Have a happy, healthy, hearty holiday season and a safe and productive New Year.
— Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne Senior Editor
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