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Mixing good 'ole police work and new technology

I write about technology for PoliceOne mostly because my background has helped me help fellow officers I know who have had questions about technology. I’m neither a strong proponent for, nor an opponent of, technology. I write about technology and its benefits but at the same, I believe there are times technology can be overused. This month’s column is only marginally about technology — more than anything else, it’s about stopping evil in its tracks.

On November 6th, 2009, I was one of the several thousand law enforcement officers who were at the memorial for Seattle police officer Timothy Brenton.

Officer Brenton was an FTO killed in the line of duty during the evening of October 31st, 2009 while going over a traffic stop with his trainee, Officer Brit Sweeny. I think most of you already know most of what happened that fateful evening, so I will spare the details. Several days after the shooting, I had contacted several Seattle PD detectives on a probable lead and saw the look of despair on their faces because they had no leads at the time.

At the memorial I saw officers from all over Washington State. I spoke to a couple of our brothers and sisters from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and found out they were two of the several hundred who attended that had volunteered to attend the memorial. I even saw an officer as far away as Pittsburgh.

During the reception after the memorial a friend of mine received a phone call from his department telling him there was an officer involved shooting from one of his neighboring departments. As I was leaving with another friend from one my neighboring departments, the blue line at the reception was abuzz with news that the person involved in the shooting was a suspect in the killing of Officer Brenton.

As we drove home that night we listened to the news of what had transpired at the shooting during that rainy afternoon. It occurred to me that what pointed Police to the suspect was technology.

You see, Seattle PD had several video stills of the suspect vehicle from several different sources but did not release them until a day before the suspect was confronted.

A thoughtful citizen considered it odd that a person who had never before covered his vehicle, covered it so soon after those video stills were distributed. This person thought it so odd, he called the tip line. Officers confronted the suspect, which resulted in him sustaining gunshot wounds.

Finding the suspect in Officer Brenton’s murderer was a region-wide priority and in this case good Police work was augmented with technology. And technology has further tied the suspect with other recent crimes directed at Seattle Police.

For those of you who are ready to drive stun your computer with your TASER, remember that very computer can help you solve the crime and get the bad guy you’re after. For those of you depend heavily on computers, remember that for several hundred years good old police work has been about good guys outsmarting bad guys, and that Charles Manson was convicted without any of the technology we have today.

Until next time, stay safe.

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