More for less: Using 4G technology to catch bad guys

Broadband wireless technology enables police agencies to outfit their officers with handheld devices that have capabilities which used to reside only at the station


The latest version mobile broadband communications is called 4G, and it represents a significant increase in speed and capacity for the exchange of mobile data. Because of 4G, officers can spend more time on the street catching bad guys, which is all right by me.

For law enforcement applications, broadband wireless technology enables police agencies to outfit their officers with pocket-sized handheld devices that have capabilities that officers used to have to travel to the station to access.

I got a chance to talk to talk to Verizon’s David Moses, who explained some of the advantages of the 4G migration to me.

4G will not make a person talk or text faster. However, it will allow most applications a much lower latency. One of the popular demonstrations of the capabilities of broadband technology is a side-by-side downloading of the iTunes application to a mobile device.

With the new protocol, it is noticeably faster.

While I don't particularly expect that any law-enforcement officer would get excited about downloading iTunes, I definitely see the advantage when the officer on scene live streams an incident to the EOC nearby.

Mobile Hotspot
Imagine a Critical Response Team rolling code to a school-hostage situation with multiple suspects. Dispatch finds an architectural/structural map of the incident area. In this particular case, a faster download might save lives.

One of the most tangible things one can do with increased bandwidth is turning a patrol car on a scene into a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Moses told me that Verizon quickly realized that they didn't need to give simply better service – their product needed to create a better ecosystem.

For police video, Verizon realized that the 3G experience of 100 ms of latency wasn’t good enough for real-time streaming. The new mobile broadband system can deliver about 30 ms latency. If the command cell is watching an op and sees something that isn't right, the 70ms difference is enough time for a verbal "Abort, abort."

4G can, and will, save lives.

Moses told me that the most exciting 4G advantages are the least tangible. For example, a mobile broadband system can "work through" or "on top of" the current video feed. This allows the viewer to isolate an event.

Let’s say for example that during the course of a video feed monitor, a suspect sets a backpack down in the middle of a subway station. The person on scene, using live feed video, and accessing the monitoring system, has enough on scene info to make a decision: Is it terrorist or innocuous?

According to Moses, the best products are "future proof."

Future-proof devices are ruggedized law enforcement communication devices with capabilities in the public safety band spectrum and the ability to operate as vehicular modems. Moses emphasized the need for devices that are portable, multi faceted and have reasonable battery life.

The Problem
Law enforcement products are usually niche products. That is, sales volume for many products don’t produce enthusiasm in the corporate world, because greater sales volume and profits are best made elsewhere.

Most companies piggyback their law enforcement products on the commercial market to keep the price from being prohibitive.

The Solution
Verizon has encouraged the public safety niche market by a strategy that can only be termed "corporate citizenship."

When looking for partner products for 4G, Moses explained, Verizon often asks, “What do you have with Band 14?” — referring to the frequency spectrum allocated for public safety use.

Corporate citizenship has responded to some of the unique needs of law enforcement equipment. Most of us no longer use PCMCIA slot devices, trading them for USB products, particularly for external modems. PCMCIA products work for law enforcement because they plug into a recessed port.

I can tell you from personal experience that stuff sticking out of the computer-in-the-car is a memo generator. That is, break it and write (and receive) a memo for your personnel file. Verizon found a PCMCIA solution for 4G.

Moses told me that there are off-the-shelf products that are “future proof”, meaning they are mobile products which will work before and after transition. Foremost is Motorola’s VML 700 4G Modem, a broadband vehicular modem. The VML 700 is EVDO and WiFi capable, and allows exactly what we need at a major incident: A private, Banded, on-scene secured hot spot, which will support any agency, anywhere there is service.

Since broadband is broadband, local network control can be done at the end-user level. If multiple units from multiple jurisdictions are responding to an incident, the net controller can isolate the incident.

End users will still be on the same network and it really won’t look any different to the end user. However, the parking enforcement unit will not share the same workspace as the incident commander or patrol officer and so forth.

4G is the future. Even though users already report faster, higher-definition videos, it’s really about a higher margin of safety for law enforcement.  

About the author

Lindsey Bertomen is a retired police officer and retired military small arms trainer. He teaches criminal justice at Hartnell College in Salinas, California. He has a BS in Criminal Justice and an MS in Online Teaching and Learning. Lindsey has taught shooting techniques for over a decade. His articles on firearms tactics have appeared in print for over a decade. Lindsey enjoys competing in shooting sports, running, and cycling events.

Contact Lindsey Bertomen

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