The U.S. military is playing with some of the most impressive technology in the world. However, the tech local law enforcement agencies have access to is no slouch, either. While most of these advancements are designed with genuine intentions, some are quite controversial due to their potential to jeopardize privacy and give Johnny Law a little too much visibility. Good or bad, these innovations are blazing interesting new trails in the area of law enforcement.
1. Wearable Cams
Watches and eyewear like Google Glass represent the wearable device wave that looks poised to take the consumer tech vertical by storm. Law enforcement is delving into the wearable trend, too, but appears to be more focused on camera technology. Deployed in multiple agencies throughout the nation, these so-called “body cams” attach to an officer’s uniform or belt, where they can be useful in monitoring interactions from arrests to interrogations. Although they certainly bring value to law enforcement endeavors, pundits are concerned that wearable cameras could infringe on the privacy of both civilians and officers.
2. GPS-Powered Bullets
Evil doers can run, but can’t hide when a police cruiser equipped with GPS bullets is hot on their tail. But these aren’t the conventional bullets you load into a firearm, you see. They’re more like huge, sticky pellets that shoot from a compressed air gun similar to those T-shirt cannons mascots fire into the crowd at sporting events. With the press of a button, an officer can command the cruiser to open the front grill, unveiling the mounted gun that fires a bullet and sticks to the back of the vehicle they’re trailing. Thanks to the GPS tech integrated into the bullet, the cop can back off and track the suspect via computer.
Police in Iowa are currently using a technology called StarChase, a system that fires these GPS-driven bullets in hopes of effectively tracking runaway vehicles and eliminating the need for dangerous high-speed chases.
3. Data Analytics and Intelligence
Big data, the practice of using analytics and other tools to make data-driven decisions, is primed for a field like law enforcement. Agencies are collecting mountains of data at the the federal, state, and local levels – data that can be used to profile criminals, identify suspects, and guide criminal investigations. The bombing at last year’s Boston Marathon led to one of the most high profiled uses of big data in this arena. Law enforcement combed through terabytes of data, including photos and videos submitted by smartphone-toting consumers, to narrow down the suspects and eventually bring one to justice.
4. Automated License Plate Recognition
Having the ability to read license plates may seem like trivial police stuff, but it’s critically important when it comes to hunting down stolen plates and suspects on the run. Local police and state troopers are revving up their use of Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technology for this very reason. ALPR uses software to scan the license plates of parked cars as well as those both in front and behind police cruisers. The numbers on the plate are paired up with information in a database, snapshot of the vehicle included, that lets officers know if they have a match.
Most technology merely shows potential until it starts producing results. ALPR looks to be producing quite well. According to Grand Rapids Police, this automated innovation has helped local patrol cars recover at least 18 stolen vehicles and led to 26 arrests.
Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAV) or drones, are perhaps best known for their usage in military operations. In the very near future, they could literally be the driving force behind local law enforcement initiatives. Drones are increasingly being deployed to support surveillance operations that allow police to obtain vital information without being in harm’s way. Today’s models are capable of capturing high quality images and video footage as well as tracking targets beyond what is possible with traditional surveillance technology. Drones will surely grow more advanced as they are used to aid in tracking drug trafficking and other criminal operations.
Managed IT Solutions for Law Enforcement
Law enforcement agencies and their increasing reliance on technology opens the door for skilled IT specialists who can support their technical needs. After all, cops and federal agents excel at solving crimes, not necessarily installing and managing complex software systems. As the go-to guys for IT outsourcing, managed service providers are best suited to handle a lot of those needs. The vast and diverse field of law enforcement creates numerous opportunities for MSPs to step up and bridge the necessary technology gaps.
Here are a few examples of how MSPs can tailor their services to bolster law enforcement in some of the aforementioned areas:
- Provide secure remote storage for digital evidence and surveillance data
- Standardize archives to optimize storage and improve data security
- Centralize data sources and streamline management with automated tools
- Enhance the speed and efficiency of evidence evaluation by providing remote access to law enforcement networks
- Improve system continuity with backup and disaster recovery planning
Law enforcement has come a long way since the wild wild days of Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp. In the last 10 years alone, we have witnessed several innovations that warrant a second thought or two before committing the smallest crime. The more the high level tech in this field advances, the more federal and local agencies will depend on IT service providers who can keep their systems affordable, efficient, and available.