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New Forms of Communication Technology for Law Enforcement in 2014

Author: Blake Pappas

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2014-02-26
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Law enforcement and military services have remained a big challenge even in the technology rich 21st century.  Creating a safe environment for civilians and dissolving crime usually involves taking risks and maintaining effective communication methods. Nonetheless, meaningful progress has been made on that front. Here are some of the standout technologies for law enforcement in 2014.

Cameras and two-way radio systems for K-9 units: While this technology isn’t in full use yet, it has been touted as a potential milestone in law enforcement. Agencies will be allowed to equip their K-9’s with cameras and a two way radio system that enables security officers to stay a safe distance from the scene of crime while still sending instructions to and controlling police dogs. The technology can be used in search and rescue operations and searching dangerous building just to name a few. A prototype for the project is expected to be out in 2014.

Automatic recognition of license plates: Known as Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR), this technology is based on an integrated camera-database communication. The camera takes pictures of a vehicle license plate and then uses optical character recognition technology to process the characters (letters plus numbers) on that plate against a target database. If a plate generates suspicious hits, such information is relayed to ALPR users either verbally or visually. There are both static as well as mobile ALPRs. The latter can be mounted on user patrol cars and used in motion and has been used extensively in automotive theft interdiction. It can determine if a vehicle is stolen or if the owners of such vehicles are wanted.

Diagramming crime scenes: Diagramming technology employs easy to use, state of the art three-dimensional scanners with high speed lasers and built-in cameras. This way a crime scene can be rapidly captured in the state in which the first responder found it.

Language translation impediment: One of the biggest impediments to law enforcement is a language barrier. In the past, language students affiliated with colleges were hired to offer translation services. This still remains an option; however, with the documented sensitivity of current crimes, a better way of dealing with such crimes was needed. Today, there exist devices capable of translating officer-to-citizen conversations. The devices are fed with pre-set law enforcement phrases. You can then set the device to the language of the citizen (most of the devices are pre-set to English).

Advanced radio technology: Radio technology has always been a welcome component of law enforcement. Advances in both digital capabilities and wireless technology can only be said to have furthered growth in this area. You can now easily share fingerprints, pictures of a suspect, criminal data, bulletins and video footage over thousands of miles. Communication systems enhance operability – the ability to securely share information in a real time environment. In today’s systems, officers can share information regardless of the network architecture. Later in the year (2014), a new radio technology will be released where one handheld device will be able to communicate with all radio frequencies.

Thermal imaging in marijuana searches: Armed with a search warrant, law enforcement officers are now able to use thermal imaging in determining how long-row lights have been in operation which can lead to establishing the age of marijuana plants. Thermal imaging technology is said to work best if the marijuana has reached the maturity stage. Officers, viewing from a raised platform, can easily locate marijuana plants using this technology. Even if the marijuana plants are grown inside grass, weeds or other plants, the immediate vegetation and ground around the base of marijuana plant is usually turned during weeding and planting. Such a turned ground or vegetation absorbs more sun heat as compared to other areas. Imagers can capture this variation in thermal absorption and therefore expose individual marijuana plants.

Thermal imaging in finding individuals and detecting disturbed surfaces: Thermal imaging can also be used in detecting suspects who are hiding in search areas. The technology is capable of detecting and picking up a heat map of the ground on which a suspect had previously been hiding. This enables the law enforcement officer to carry on with his duties without exposing himself to risks. It can be used in rescue missions in collapsed buildings, attics and crawl spaces.

The technology has also been used in examining physical evidence. Imagers can identify disturbed areas such as ground that has been dug up to bury bodies or conceal evidence. It can also be used on the road to detect tire tracks or any other marks not visible to the naked eye. It can thus be used in scanning public streets, parks, parking lots and other high traffic areas.

Graffiti cameras: Graffiti has always been used in relation to gang activities. Graffiti cameras can take photos of suspected “gangsters” in the process of vandalism. Better still, these cameras can instantly inform law enforcement officers of an ongoing criminal act. Talking graffiti surveillance cameras are also being developed with the capability to warn gangs that it is illegal to spray graffiti on that given area or informing them that their photographs have been taken and that they are due to be prosecuted. By deterring graffiti activities, gang activities can be effectively disrupted. Most modern graffiti cameras are light, portable and can easily be moved from one point to another.

In-car mountable cameras: An in-car camera system can record videos from within a patrol car. These cameras don’t need public intervention making their working as discreet as possible. The first in-car cameras were used in documenting roadside driving sobriety tests. As technology improves, so have these systems. Today they are successfully used in criminal investigations, military training, internal investigations and traffic stops among other places.  As a silent witness, video footages from these camera systems have played a big role in expediting resolution of complaints. Initial in-car systems were also notably expensive; the improvement in technology has resulted in more affordable systems.

Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD): This device that can aim highly concentrated sound waves at a target rendering it unable to be used. It can project 95+ decibel sound profiles towards the target resulting in immediate inefficiency. This renders the target unusable unless the target changes it’s once potentially dangerous position. Advanced versions of the LRAD cover longer ranges, have wider sound fields and boast an intense sound projection. Emerging technologies also incorporate scent based deterrents and sensory dulling among other technologies. LRAD can be used in controlling riots or defending high risk areas.

Metabolic supplements for law enforcement officers: It looks like the future of law enforcement science will also include supplements that can help officers become better humans than the criminals they pursue. According to ongoing research, supplements can make officers smarter, faster and stronger. This would allow these officers or military persons to function and work without stopping to drink or eat. It is work in progress and scientists in various labs are already working hard on that front. At the moment, there are injections available for use. Hopefully 2014 is the year when a major breakthrough is made.

Active Denial Systems (ADSs):  ADS deal solely with heavily protected or shielded targets, threats of high risk and flaming rioters. It can target high frequency microwaves at an offender causing a reaction in water carrying molecules and (in most cases) fatty tissues of the target. This causes the target to heat from the inside subjecting them to immense pain which forces them to change positions. The threat can longer continue in the normal fashion; this change of behavior means that the target stops acting as a threat. The biological reaction in the body incapacitates the target rendering them effectively useless.

Nanotechnology: Also dubbed the "future of law enforcement," nanotechnology promises to change just about everything to do with security enforcement for the better. With this technology, a fabric can be made so slick it would resist knife thrusts. The technology can also be used to improve bullet proof fabric.


There are definitely many other law enforcement technologies ready to take off in 2014. Crime lights for example have been around for a long time but advancements will see this technology become even more useful. Each flashlight will possess a preset wavelength capable of detecting body fluids, hairs and fibers at a crime scene. This should allow for exhaustive and faster processing of evidence involved in crime scenes. Crime mapping is another idea with huge potential. As opposed to random patrols, law enforcement officers will now walk around armed with crime maps. The future definitely looks promising with a focus on improving communication and efficiency in the law enforcement field.

Blake Pappas is a free-lance writer who completed his undergraduate degree in Justice Studies from Arizona State University.  Blake has also recently worked in higher education and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Business.


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