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Chicago PD: What Modern Law Enforcement Agencies Need to Know About Modern Public Safety Technology Innovations

Author: Jonathan Lewin, Commander, CPD

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content,

Date: 2014-09-10
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The advent of Internet of Everything (IoE) and evolution of video analytics has expanded the capabilities of connected cameras and enhanced the delivery of insights into forensic investigations. Law enforcement and fire departments around the country are leveraging new technologies to better inform their personnel, increase situational awareness, respond to emergencies, and protect citizens. Next-Generation 9-1-1 is becoming a reality for many local municipalities as they incorporate modern digital devices within their everyday routines.

The Chicago Police Department (CPD), recognized nationally as a technology innovator, is one such example. CPD’s CLEAR (Citizen and Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting) system is the largest transaction police database in the United States. During a Cisco discussion panel on the impact of Internet of Things (IoT) in the public sector, I showcased CLEAR as a system, which brings together data from a wide range of sources to identify hotspots of potential crimes. In essence, CLEAR drives all aspects of our operations, including incident and arrest reporting, crime mapping and analysis, advanced crime prediction functions, command and control capabilities during major events, and management accountability.

The CLEAR system plays a major role in analyzing the City of Chicago's Operation Virtual Shield (OVS) system, which is the most extensive municipal camera network in the nation with over 25,000 cameras. The video surveillance system consists of fixed cameras, a private camera federation, and mobile assets such as video trailers, trucks, helicopters, and boats. Funded primarily though the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the video system is in place to ensure public safety and to protect critical infrastructure throughout the city.

Video provides situational awareness during major planned and unplanned events and supplements the work of police officers in the field to fight crime. Our 176-mile fiber optic network provides the backbone for connectivity to the OVS system. The effectiveness of this platform is enhanced through advanced analytics capabilities such as facial recognition, which allows unknown criminal suspects captured on camera to be identified through post-event matching against a library of almost five million digital mug shots of prior arrestees.

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Alongside video capabilities, mobile devices and new mobility applications support a wide number of public sector priorities, which include citizen services and public safety. For instance, mobile devices allow first responders to use handheld tablets and phones to increase situational awareness. And new security solutions such as IP video surveillance and physical access controls ensure greater protection without increasing costs.

Right: The Chicago Police 9-1-1 Communications Center  
[9-1-1 Magazine file photo]

We have 2,500 police vehicles that are equipped with state-of-the-art mobile data terminals that utilize a high speed wireless connection to access the police department's advanced applications including crime mapping, electronic dispatch of 9-1-1 calls for service, criminal history information, wanted persons and vehicles, critical facilities information on key infrastructure, global positioning, and real-time automated incident and suspicious activity reporting. This platform allows first responders to access critical situational awareness for improved officer safety and more efficient service delivery.


Moving forward, the CPD and Office of Emergency Management and Communications are working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology on a high speed public safety broadband LTE (Long Term Evolution) pilot program to test broadband coverage in Chicago's South side. This pilot will allow us to become one of the first major cities to begin use of the FirstNet public safety communications spectrum to deliver more content to mobile computers in police vehicles.

In our times, the threats to public safety are ever changing. And in order to be one step ahead of our adversaries and circumstances, we need to be smart, nimble, and creative. Essentially, Communications are the foundation of everything we’re doing. And moving in the same vein as CPD, we all need to look beyond what currently exists and enhance the communication pathways in our public safety systems. By embracing new technological trends, we will equip those who work in public safety professions with the tools and skills they need to do their jobs.

Commander Jonathan Lewin has been a sworn member of the Chicago Police Department since 1991 and serves as Managing Deputy Director of Public Safety Information Technology for the City of Chicago, where he oversees surveillance cameras and related systems, mobile computers, voice and data communications, crime mapping, business intelligence functions, and Predictive Policing. Lewin was an adjunct lecturer at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is a peer reviewer for the National Institute of Justice. He is a member of the U.S. Department of Justice Police Technology Futures Group, exploring national best practices throughout the Nation, and serves as vice-chairman of the Illinois Integrated Justice Information System (IIJIS).



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