Field tactics and the Panasonic Toughbook Arbitrator
Part 5 of a Special 5-Part Series presented by the Panasonic Toughbook® Arbitrator™
by PoliceOne Columnist Lt. Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.)
Incorporating new technology into field tactics is a critical task. Panasonic's Toughbook® Arbitrator™ offers a combination of dynamic technologies that integrate well into street survival strategies and support solid investigative techniques. The task of a good street cop is to figure out how to incorporate new technology while looking at how that technology may change the way he conducts business on the street. This article will look at a few of the ways the Toughbook® Arbitrator™ can become a real partner in officer safety and superior investigations.
Officers working with a partner should employ the concept of "cover and contact." That is, one officer is primarily responsible for contacting the traffic violator, suspect or witness and the second officer is primarily responsible for providing tactical cover. This clear division of responsibility greatly enhances officer safety and may ultimately strengthen investigations. The Toughbook® Arbitrator™ system allows for both officers to be equipped with wireless microphones. In instances where both partners are wired, or if responding units have Toughbook® Arbitrator® mics, the cover (or back-up) officers should consider deactivating their wireless microphones. This will enhance the clarity of the contact officer's microphone, which is recording his verbal interplay with the violator, offender or witness.
In instances where an agency has chosen to provide just one wireless microphone per Toughbook® Arbitrator™ system, strong consideration should be given to having the contact officer wear it.
Police officers should consider integrating the Toughbook® Arbitrator™ "triplex operation" feature into their investigations. This feature allows officers to view, review and capture audio and video evidence simultaneously. It has long been held by the Courts that offenders do not have an expectation of privacy in a police vehicle. For years, officers have used the strategy of placing a tape recorder on the front seat of the patrol unit to covertly record conversations between offenders in the back that occur while the officer is outside the unit. To accommodate this effective tactic, The Toughbook® Arbitrator™ system is built to record in-car conversations. The immediate play-back options allows officers to review these conversations on the spot to surface and leverage converstions that may help the on-scene investigation
Traffic violators, like arrested persons, have no reasonable expectation of privacy when speaking with a uniformed officer. There are several practical reasons why the International Association of Chiefs of Police recommends police officers inform traffic violators, witnesses and other members of the public that they are being recorded by technologies such as the Toughbook® Arbitrator™. Primary among these reasons is the potential calming effect. Traffic violators may be openly hostile and uncooperative because they are unhappy about the consequences of a citation. However, people tend to moderate their behavior when they know it is being recording. The simple statement, "Sir, I appreciate your concerns and want you to know that an audio and video recording of our conversations is being automatically made by my police vehicle," will decrease your odds of facing verbal and/or physical resistance.
Unlike equipment that relies on old-style technology, the Toughbook® Arbitrator™ captures a much wider and clearer picture of events. Indeed, even in low-light environments , the Toughbook® Arbitrator™ is designed to provide maximum clarity. In the past, officers have been tempted to tailor their actions to accommodate the limited capabilities of their less advanced recording equipment. Comprising safety in order to capture a video recording is never a good tactic. Fortunately, the Toughbook® Arbitrator's™ wide area of capture allows officers to move freely and focus on tactics, not camera placement. Even if you are operating out of camera frame the Toughbook® Arbitrator™ is capturing the audio. With this in mind, remember that narrating your actions can be a good investigative technique. For instance, recall an instance you made a traffic stop and observed evidence of a crime (like possession of a control substance) from your vantage point during the initial contact. You removed the offender from the vehicle, handcuffed them and placed them in your police vehicle. It is completely acceptable to now return to the offender's vehicle, stand in the same position your were in where you spotted the contraband and say as you recover the evidence, "I was standing here when I observed the small coin envelope containing a green leafy substance resembling marijuana on the driver's side floor board of the violator's vehicle. I am now opening the door, reaching in and recovering the coin envelope." By fully leveraging the Toughbook® Arbitrator™'s A/V capabilities you are thoroughly documenting the arrest as it occurs and building a case that will be difficult for the offender to challenge in court.
Capturing your Probable Cause
The Toughbook® Arbitrator's™ digital technology is light years beyond video tape. With video, recording only occurs when the system is activated. In the past, police officer's using old-style technology often missed the opportunity to capture their probable cause because their recordning system was off. Usually, the system was activated only after observations gave the foundation to justify officers' subsequent actions. The Toughbook® Arbitrator's™ digital technology is a significant improvement. Think about typing a document. As you type, you correct and change before you save. However, the words you are viewing on the screen are in your system, temporarily saved until you can decide what actually needs to be retained. The Toughbook® Arbitrator™, like your human partner, is always watching the action. Impressively, when the system is turned on it has the ability to save anything it viewed up to 180 seconds prior to activation.
The Toughbook® Arbitrator™ has seven "triggers" that can automatically activate recording. One of the primary activating triggers is your use of the light bar. Say you observe a driver failing to stop for a red light. Presuming this action took place within the superior field of view provided by the Toughbook® Arbitrator™, when you activated the light bar you also activate the saving feature of the Toughbook® Arbitrator™ thereby capturing and recording your probable cause.
The Toughbook® Arbitrator™ is an integrated system designed to allow officers to record information, write reports, query information sources,and integrate all of the pieces. Because of the triplex feature, which allows viewing, reviewing and recording, an officer can review an incident, refresh his or her memory about the sequence of events, write the report and then tag or designate portions of the digital recording as "electronic addendum" or evidence. Of course, this means the recordings made by the Toughbook® Arbitrator™ are available to you before you testify. In essence, the Toughbook® Arbitrator™ is a technology that impacts the entire criminal justice system. It aids you, the officer, in the street, the detectives in the station, the prosecutor developing and arguing the case and the jury weighing the case in the court room.
Developing your Technology Skills
Clearly, the Toughbook® Arbitrator™ is a technology that increases your safety and enhances the quality of your investigations. As with any new tool, police officers should become familiar with the technology's capabilities and limitations. By further exploring how this technology fits into time-tested tactics, how it meets the expectations of the Court and how it can increase the quality of your investigations you will probably find a number of other uses for the Toughbook® Arbitrator™.