Edge technology reaches policing
How cloud computing and mobility have become an extension of the officer’s duty belt
Sponsored by Amazon Web Services
By Laura Neitzel, PoliceOne BrandFocus Staff
With a firearm, extra mags, radio, body-worn camera, flashlight, cuffs, baton and electronically controlled device, a law enforcement officer may be carrying over 15 pounds worth of gear – and all of it is essential. You never know what a duty shift may hold, so you have to be prepared for anything.
You wouldn’t skimp on a piece of gear that allows you to do your job efficiently, effectively and safely, so you shouldn’t skimp on equipping your mobile device with cloud-based apps that do the same. Mobile apps are an essential component of a law enforcement officer’s duty belt, adding power without adding heft.
Whether it’s a laptop, a smartphone, a tablet or a smartwatch, mobile devices and cloud computing have given police officers exponentially more information at their fingertips – along with greater efficiency, cost savings, evidence integrity and responsiveness to citizens.
The power in your mobile device
“Every officer today is responding to events with a super computer (also known as a smartphone) by their belt, but few applications are tailored specifically to the unique needs of law enforcement,” said Steve Ressler, President of Callyo, a mobile communication company for law enforcement.
In fact, two Callyo applications, 10-21 Police Phone and 10-21 Video, maximize the convenience of an officer’s personal cellphone, but with the added security of data hosted on AWS instead of the device.
“If data is stored on a device, the device may be called into discovery for a court case – and there is the risk that you can lose the phone or expose personal data,” said Ressler. “Whether you are using our applications on a personal device or work device, it all gets stored to your agency’s Cloud.”
The 10-21 Police Phone app solves a common dilemma for police officers who want to be timely in returning citizen phone calls but who are understandably reluctant to answer calls from blocked numbers. Caller ID blocking is common among law enforcement officers, yet the majority of calls from blocked numbers are sent to voicemail.
Instead of revealing the officer’s true device number or a blocked number, calls from 10-21 Police Phone dial the citizen from a temporary local number that matches their own area code. These calls are more likely to be answered. When the citizen returns a call from an officer who used 10-21, they are given the option to request a call back, or connect immediately to the dispatcher. The 10-21 Police Phone “Callback Requests” reduce the burden on understaffed dispatch centers by a magnitude of millions of calls per year.
Force multiplier for eyes on the scene
Callyo’s 10-21 Video app turns any cell phone into a livestreaming mobile body camera so a law enforcement officer can immediately show a live scene to another officer.
Arkansas County Deputy Glen Fisher put the app to good use shortly after it launched. When his department-issued body camera was damaged by a suspect, Fisher quickly remembered that he had another option – his smart phone.
“When the altercation started, I was using the city-provided body camera. But the suspect became aggressive and broke the camera, which I was unaware of for a few minutes,” Fisher said. “When I realized that, I asked the animal control officer who was on the scene to get my cellphone from the visor of my pickup. I immediately opened the 10-21 Video app then started the video. When the suspect kicked me and knocked the phone to the ground, the animal control officer picked it up, stood about 10 feet away and continued recording the whole event.”
“I think it’s a wonderful tool, especially considering the video is stored in real-time so if the camera gets destroyed, the video is still good up to the point of destruction,” added Fisher. “Not to mention that you can allow fellow officers to view your live stream.”
Callyo also recently launched i911, an website that provides free location data to emergency callers and helps responders narrow location information to as accurate as 3 meters, a vast improvement over the typical 300 meters.
According to Ressler, the secure environment provided by AWS is a critical component of Callyo’s growth and success. Starting as a small company in 2011, Callyo’s free and low-cost apps are now used by over 10,000 law enforcement agencies and over 100,000 officers.
Ressler says working with AWS means Callyo can achieve large-scale impact with a small team and pass their cost savings on to their law enforcement clients.
Streamlining evidence management
“Our original goal was really just to create a simple, easy-to-use solution using web and barcode technology so that we could modernize police evidence management,” said former detective and company founder, Ryan Parthemore.
Many agencies are still using pen-and-paper evidence management systems that can be error prone, but evidence must be managed impeccably to hold up in court.
“If we have incomplete or inaccurate chain of custody reports, we're not going to be able to withstand the scrutiny in court of a defense attorney who's trying to put holes in the prosecution's case,” said Parthemore.
PDEvidence EMS helps police departments overcome the challenge of evidence management from crime scene to disposition. An officer in the field can enter the evidence into the system, print a barcode, attach it to the item and move the evidence to the evidence location. The barcode attached to the evidence is scanned every time it is accessed or moved, so there is a complete audit trail. A chain of custody report can then be generated for all pieces of evidence related to a case, so at any moment an officer or prosecutor can know exactly where the evidence is located.
PDEvidence also tracks digital evidence, such as crime scene photos or body-worn camera video, by allowing an officer to upload the media directly to AWS GovCloud (US), where it is securely stored according to CJIS standards and can be accessed by any authorized user with a web browser.
“Not only do we store them,” said Parthemore, “we also add a secure hash to them so that we have a validity check to prove that the photo is the same when it comes down as when it entered the system.”
In the last few years, PDEvidence has extended their mission to include crime lab management, police records management and even the prosecutor's office in order to bring all of these law enforcement systems together.
Eric Radnovich is a crime lab director with the Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, Office of the District Attorney, who helped PDEvidence develop its crime lab management software. As a member of Pennsylvania’s Local Technology Workgroup, he can attest to the value of the automated, cloud-based systems to law enforcement.
“The more automated tools you can put in place in the departments, the better it is. The joke is, if you're a detective you should be out detecting,” Radnovich said. “There's just a lot more efficiency in using an automated network that requires less paperwork. And it's also more accurate.”
Benefits of secure cloud storage
Both Callyo and PDEvidence run their web applications and store data on AWS and AWS GovCloud (US).
“AWS allows us to store all of this digital evidence in a secure environment with redundancy beyond internet connections and power backup facilitie, and with personnel who are vetted according to CJIS Security Policy” said Parthemore.
Being able to instantly access data stored in the cloud via apps like 10-21 Video and PDEvidence EMS can help save officers’ lives and speed a criminal case to justice. Thanks to apps like 10-21 Police Phone and PDEvidence Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS), police can quickly access lab results and have new tools for responding to citizen inquiries about the status of their cases.
“Family members and loved ones are at times crime victims,” said Parthemore. “When they're calling their police department and they want to know what's the status of this investigation or where are we with this lab work, the agency is actually able to answer the question for them.”
Companies like Callyo and PDEvidence are working with cloud providers like AWS to create cloud-based apps that make law enforcement more effective, efficient and responsive.
“The more effective law enforcement is, the safer communities, safer streets, and safer citizens we are,” said Ressler. “By saving officers more time from tedious tasks, we give them more hours on the streets actually policing and spending time with citizens. That is one huge opportunity with technology.”