Science and Technology News

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Criminal Justice Technology in the News



Police: Gunman Continued Firing After Shooting Chicago Cop in the Hand
Chicago Tribune, (12/07/2017), Jeremy Gorner
A Chicago police officer was wounded in the hand but survived a number of other gunshots during an incident on Dec. 6, including one shot that was later found lodged in his ballistic-resistant vest. Two plainclothes officers had approached a group of individuals loitering in a parking lot; several of them fled and when the officers chased them, one of them turned and began firing on the officers. The wound to the hand knocked the injured officer down, and the suspect continued to fire at the downed man.
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Police, Sheriff's Offices Receive Grants from Criminal Justice Services Board
Martinsville Bulletin, 12/11/2017), Paul Collins
A total of $116,109 in federal grant funding for agencies or nonprofit groups in the city of Martinsville and Henry and Patrick counties has been approved by the Virginia Criminal Justice Services Board. A $19,750 Byrne/Justice Assistance Grant was approved for the Martinsville Police Department to offer training titled "Evidence-based practices of First-line Supervision in 21st Century Policing." The project will provide training for first-line law enforcement supervisors with the appropriate skills necessary for supervising officers in the 21st century with an emphasis on community policing.
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Erie-Area State Police Handle Record Year for Homicides
Goerie.com, (12/11/2017), Tim Hahn
Criminal investigators in Pennsylvania State Police Troop E are wrapping up a record-breaking year for homicides. Investigators in the troop, which covers Erie, Crawford, Warren and Venango counties, have investigated 15 homicides this year, nearly double the number of homicides in the troop's next-busiest year, police said. All but one of the year's cases have been cleared through arrest or other means.
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Corrections News

Electronic Monitoring Can Be a Boon to Criminal-Justice Reform
National Review, (12/07/2017), Barry Latzer
This opinion piece takes the position that increased use of GPS monitoring of individuals on probation or parole can offset the dangers generated by shortened sentences and bail reform. The author states that monitoring has been proven effective in reducing incarceration while at the same time keeping the community safe.
Link to Article


Texas Prisons Ban 10,000 Books. No ‘Charlie Brown Christmas' for Inmates.
New York Times, (12/07/2017), Matt Haag
For a variety of reasons, the Texas Department of Prisons has banned a list of 10,000 books, including a specific popup edition of "A Charlie Brown Christmas," "The Color Purple" and the 1908 Sears, Roebuck catalog. Publications have been banned for their content and also their structure, which could potentially be used to smuggle contraband. However, inmates may still read Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and a number of books written by white nationalists.
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Drone Delivers Marijuana into Georgia Prison
Ledger-Enquirer, (12/06/2017), Larry Gierer
A new pilot project at the Autry State Prison in Pelham, Ga., alerted staff to the possible presence of a drone on facility grounds. Although staff did not locate the drone, they found two packages of marijuana on the grounds apparently dropped by it.
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Former Prison Warden Calls Escapes 'Unacceptable'
WBRC, (12/05/2017), Beth Shelburne
Two prisoners escaped from a maximum security facility in Alabama last week, with one captured later in the week. It was not immediately known how the two escaped from the St. Clair Correctional Facility, but a former system warden told this television station that the department is faced with a severe staffing shortage and rising rates of violence. 
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Should Inmates Be Allowed to Call Cellphones? Court Orders Formal Rule on Issue
Courier Post, (12/05/2017), Jim Walsh
A New Jersey appeals court has struck down a Department of Corrections policy that stops inmates from calling cellphone numbers. However, the policy of only permitting outgoing calls to landlines will stay in effect until a formal rules-making process, which will include a period of public comment and possibly a public hearing, takes place. The panel ruled in a favor of a suit that argued the policy is outdated and keeps inmates from staying in touch with their families.
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Weapons, Drugs, Phones: Contraband Flows into Jails Despite Technology
WHIOTV, (12/07/2017), Lauren Pack
The Butler County Sheriff's Department and the Middletown Police Department both face a constant struggle to keep contraband out of correctional facilities, even with assistance from technology. The opioid epidemic is driving inmates to search for more creative ways to smuggle drugs and other contraband, in an attempt to defeat modern technology and employee vigilance.
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The End of American Prison Visits: Jails End Face-to-Face Contact – and Families Suffer
The Guardian, (12/09/2017), Shannon Sims
This article provides an in-depth look at the myriad issues surrounding the use of video visitation in correctional facilities. Many facilities that implement online visits then eliminate in-person visits, which officials say cuts down on contraband and helps ease staffing issues. However, many studies and organizations say that in-person visits help inmates stay connected to society and reduce chances of recidivism.
Link to Article


States to Try New Ways of Executing Prisoners. Their Latest Idea? Opioids.
Washington Post, (12/09/2017), William Wan and Mark Berman
Nevada and Nebraska face opposition to their new plans to use fentanyl to assist with inmate executions from both doctors and death penalty opponents. States are seeking new methods of execution because pharmaceutical companies are refusing to supply the drugs previously used.
Link to Article

Autonomous Flight Technology to Provide Rapid Resupply for Marines



By Warren Duffie Jr., Office of Naval Research

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va., Dec. 14, 2017 — Cutting edge technology sponsored by the Office of Naval Research may one day enable the Marine Corps to resupply combat-deployed troops via unmanned aerial vehicles, officials announced.

A successful final helicopter flight demonstration was achieved here Dec. 12 with autonomous capability as part of the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System program. AACUS is a partnership between ONR and technology company Aurora Flight Sciences.

Sensor, Software Package

The system consists of a sensor and software package that can be integrated into any manned or unmanned rotary-wing aircraft to detect and avoid obstacles -- like telephone wires, other vehicles or large ground objects -- in unfavorable weather conditions or to facilitate autonomous, unmanned flight. This capability will be a welcome alternative to dangerous convoys or manned aircraft missions in all types of weather.

“This is more than just an unmanned helicopter,” said Walter Jones, ONR executive director. “AACUS is an autonomy kit that can be placed on any rotary-wing platform and provide it with an autonomous capability. Imagine a Marine Corps unit deployed in a remote location, in rough terrain, needing ammunition, water, batteries or even blood.”

Jones added, “With AACUS, an unmanned helicopter takes the supplies from the base, picks out the optimal route and best landing site closest to the warfighters, lands, and returns to base once the resupply is complete -- all with the single touch of a hand-held tablet.”

The need for this capability surfaced during Marine Corps operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, officials said. Cargo helicopters and resupply convoys of trucks bringing fuel, food, water, ammunition and medical supplies to the front lines frequently found themselves under enemy fire  -- or the target of roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices.

Easy to Use

AACUS is designed for simple use. An operator with minimal training can call up the supplies needed and order the flights using only an intuitive handheld tablet. During the Dec. 12 demonstration tests at Quantico, a Marine with no prior experience with the technology was given a handheld device and 15 minutes of training.

The Marine was able to quickly and easily program in the supplies needed and the destination, and the helicopters arrived quickly -- even autonomously selecting an alternative landing site based on last-second no-fly-zone information added in from the Marine. The demonstration featured a UH-1 Huey helicopter flying autonomously on multiple missions.

“We’ve developed this great capability ahead of requirements and it’s up to us to determine how to use it,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, commanding general, Marine Corps Combat Development Command. “The young Marines today have grown up in a tech-savvy society, which is an advantage. We’ve got to keep pushing and moving this technology forward.”

Officials say AACUS represents a leap-ahead technology for the Marine Corps and Navy, moving unmanned flights far beyond the current standard, which requires a specialized operator to select a landing site and manually control an unmanned aircraft via remote.

“AACUS gives revolutionary capability to our fleet and force,” said Dennis Baker, AACUS program manager. “It can be used as a pilot aid to operate in GPS- and communications-denied arenas, or allow fully autonomous flights in contested environments -- keeping our pilots and crews out of harm’s way.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

U.S. Commanders Must Embrace Cyber, Special Ops Chief Says



By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

ARLINGTON, Va., Dec. 13, 2017 — Cyber capabilities are integral to everything the U.S. Special Operations Command does worldwide, the commander said at the Association of the U.S. Army’s hot topic discussion here today.

Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III noted that his command embraced the cyber world early, which has driven many of the successes the command has achieved.

While the command obviously defends its cyber community, Thomas spoke about “offensive and exploitive cyber operations across the cyber continuum,” during his address.

Operations in the cyber realm are as new as the domain itself, the general said.

“We special operations forces live -- some would say thrive -- in a world that is often out ahead of policy,” he said.

Many of Socom’s approaches since 9/11 were previously undefined in the policy realm. “Arguably the same can be said of cyber capability,” he said.

The idea of cyber as a warfighting domain is so new that many commanders consign it to a chief information officer, he said. This is “inconsistent with how we address every other domain,” the general said. “Commanders don’t outsource or pay so little attention to those.”

Attack, Exploit

The greatest space for advancement in the cyber worlds is in attack and exploit. From the U.S. perspective, he said, it is easier to conduct a kinetic strike on a target than it is to launch an offensive cyber operation.

This has gotten easier. In areas of declared hostilities, the timeline to launch an attack has compressed, he said. “But … it is still far too slow,” he said. “The limiting factor for cyber effectiveness continues to revolve around policy and process.”

Thomas quoted Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., who said: “One of the challenges of the United States is we are a nation of laws and our process to approve cyber operations is detailed and lengthy. Russia and China are not inhibited.”

Officials need to formulate processes consistent with American values that still allow timely offensive cyber operations, the general said.

Thomas said he considers cyber to be both a challenge and an opportunity. Cyber is global and does not fit inside delineated geographic command boundaries, he said.

The U.S. can address the cyber domain. “We can do this,” the general said. “We have the structure a know-how to dominate in this domain, but it requires a focused effort and repetitions matter.”

From this, the military must continue building the team of cyber warriors. “We are moving in the right direction, but talent and task organization matter,” Thomas said.

Trust the Team

Another guiding principle must be to trust the team. “We must give our commanders the ability to employ cyber at the strategic, operational and tactical levels,” he said. “Tell them the end state and allow them to get after it.”

The general stressed the need to integrate effects. Cyber should be one part of all tools used from kinetic effects to diplomatic actions. “Effects are much more powerful when executed in a coordinated manner,” Thomas said.

Like land or sea or air warfare, there must be a campaign in cyber that allows the United States to exploit success, he said.

The United States must work with partners in the cyber domain. “We cannot succeed in an international domain without international and industry partners,” the general said.

History is littered with examples of commanders not understanding new technologies or dismissing those technologies to their peril, Thomas said. Cyber must not be dismissed. Commanders must understand it and look for new ways to employ it. “Our adversaries are already adapting, we need to keep pace,” he said.