Science and Technology News

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Public Safety Technology in the News

Only 59 Percent of Agencies Require Officers to Wear Body Armor, Survey Shows, (09/22/2009)

Most law enforcement agencies provide body armor to officers, but just over half require their officers to wear the armor at least some of the time, according to a new report. The report details results of a survey sponsored by the Police Executive Research Forum and the Bureau of Justice Assistance. A nationally representative sample of 782 agencies participated in the survey, 59 percent of which said they require officers to wear body armor at least sometimes. Nearly 100 percent said they make body armor available to officers, which the report said has helped reduce the number of officers killed in the line of duty. In 1987, only 28 percent of police agencies provided body armor or money to officers to purchase armor. The report said agencies can take further steps to ensure officers wear their armor. For example, most departments do not have written policies, which can make enforcement more difficult.

Alabama Could Pioneer New 911 Technology
Tuscaloosa News, (09/20/2009), Stephanie Taylor

Alabama is eyeing technology that would allow text messages to be sent to a 911 emergency line. Rod Coleman, Tuscaloosa E-911 director, said Alabama could begin using Internet protocol-based 911 technology next year. The network would be called ANGEN, for Alabama Next Generation. Calls could be shared with other agencies within the network, and agencies would not have to make a series of phone calls to share information. Citizens could send photos to 911, which could then be transferred to laptop computers in police vehicles. Dispatchers could access car crash data, building plans and extrication guides, traffic information and electronic maps. The cost to set up the system is estimated at $1.9 million, part of which will be paid for with federal grant money.

FBI, Fairfax Police Test Child Abduction Response Plan
Washington Post, (09/20/2009), James Hohmann

The FBI and the Fairfax County (Virginia) Police Department recently conducted a mock kidnapping to test the FBI’s child abduction response plan. The six-hour simulation involved 100 people from five local police departments. In the early hours of an investigation, separating suspects from victims can be challenging. Many children are abducted by people they know, and investigators are trained to not immediately rule out parents as suspects. Organizers said participants learned a valuable lesson during the drill. Agents did not check with neighbors until several hours after the child had “disappeared,” although canvassing a neighborhood can lead to important information. After a series of investigative actions, the scenario ended with tactical entry into the “suspect’s” room, where the child was recovered.

Grant Gives Fresno County Another Crack at Cold Cases
The Fresno Bee, (09/19/2009), Pablo Lopez

Fresno County authorities are making progress in solving cold cases, thanks to DNA technology grant funding from the National Institute of Justice. The Fresno Police Department has about 425 unsolved homicide cases and more than 900 unsolved sexual assault cases, many of which occurred more than 12-years ago. Since receiving the funding, the department has solved two old homicide cases and more than a dozen rape cases. The Fresno Sheriff’s Office has solved two homicide cases dating back at least 20 years. Over the past three years, the police department has spent more than $300,000 on DNA equipment, and the sheriff’s office is using part of its grant money to pay a private lab to analyze DNA samples from old homicide cases.

James Bond-Caliber Crime Center Opens Downtown (City News Service), (09/17/2009), Christina Villacorte

The Los Angeles Police Departments new Regional Crime Center has boosted the city’s arsenal of investigative tools. The 5,000 sq. ft. center contains sophisticated computers to collect crime information in real-time, facial recognition software to help identify suspects on security cameras, a GPS tracking system to monitor ex-offenders and paroled gang members, and a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear sensor system. The round-the-clock center will be run by the department’s Real-Time Analysis and Critical Response division.

Grant Expected to Improve Communication Among Fire Departments, (09/18/2009), Raymond Legendre

First responders in one Louisiana parish will soon be able to easily communicate with each other using handheld and mobile radios purchased with a federal grant. The 700 MHz radios will make it easier for firefighters, law enforcement personnel and emergency preparedness staff to work together during disasters. The $780,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide LaFourche Parish’s 11 fire departments with 107 mobile radios for fire trucks and 265 portable radios for chiefs and line officers.

Mobile Phones Connect Police, Community
San Francisco Examiner, (09/18/2009), Tamara Barak Aparton

Some San Francisco foot patrol police officers can receive incident calls on cell phones from businesses and citizens, courtesy of local merchants. Officers working out of the Ingleside Station have voicemail and e-mail, but they did not have department-issued cell phones because of the expense. At the suggestion of Ingleside Capt. David Lazar, merchants participating in the Bernal Business Alliance, which is served by the station, chipped in to pay for one police cell phone, which cost $47 per month. Implemented in August, the phone is shared by two beat officers. The phones do not replace 911. Merchants have called the officers to report license plate numbers of drug dealers and shoplifting problems. Lazar said he hopes to expand the pilot program to the three other foot patrols in his district. The cost of the phones would be paid by other neighborhood merchants.

Shootings Study to See If Stun Guns Would Help
San Francisco Chronicle (09/19/2009), Jill Tucker

San Francisco Police Chief George Gasc√≥n has ordered a review of shootings involving police officers since 2005. The analysis will likely include whether police use of less-lethal weapons, such as conducted energy devices (for example, Taser®), would have made a difference during the incidents, according to a spokesman for the department. The review will examine eight fatal and 12 nonfatal shootings by police. City police currently do not carry conducted energy devices. A 2008 review by the Police Executive Research Forum recommended that San Francisco officers use stun guns.

State-of-the-Art Computer Forensic Lab Opens
The Reading Advocate, (09/23/2009)

Boston has a new computer forensics laboratory that will provide additional tools for investigating cyber crime. The technology in the 3,000 sq. ft. lab enhances investigators’ ability to conduct exams on digital media such as computers, cell phones, laptops, PDAs and GPS devices. The lab also includes features to make it more cost-effective. For example, it has a climate-controlled training room that can detect when the room is occupied and can adjust the room’s temperature accordingly to save on energy costs. An enhanced security system will protect evidence stored in the lab. The floors of the evidence intake room and the imaging room are “grounded” to eliminate static electricity and protect digital evidence from being damaged or compromised.

Domestic Violence Death Risk Study
Tulsa World, (09/21/2009), Nicole Marshall

Law enforcement officers and domestic violence workers hope to reduce domestic violence deaths in Oklahoma by predicting the likelihood of domestic violence homicides using a “lethality assessment.” Eight Oklahoma agencies are participating in a study, funded by the National Institute of Justice, to determine the effectiveness of using the assessment. Oklahoma typically ranks about fourth in the United States in the number of domestic violence homicides, according to Janet Sullivan-Wilson, an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. The assessment, developed by a nursing professor at Johns Hopkins University, is being used in other states, but Oklahoma will be the first to evaluate it. The assessment is a set of interview questions used to determine the danger level of the victim’s relationship with an abuser. Officers can use the assessment at domestic violence scenes.

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