A Sign of the Times

A recent report stated that a number of South Carolina State Troopers have started buying their own high-powered rifles and using them to replace the standard issue state-issued shotguns that tend to be less than lethal. Could things really be this bad in the state of South Carolina? The simple fact is that no matter what state you live in, violent crime (especially those against LEOs) is getting worse.

To make things even more interesting, the state’s Department of Public Safety has asked the State Legislature for $500,000 to help pay for enough AR-15 rifles to equip all state troopers. They say the purchase of these rifles has the potential to save many lives, especially in the event of a mass shooting in the state.

It’s True
According to Highway Patrol, Commander Chris Williamson has recently confirmed that a number of front-line troopers have been calling for more high-powered rifles such as the AR-15 in the last couple of years. In fact, approximately 50 officers have purchased their own AR-15s and were employing them in their vehicles instead of the standard issue shotgun.

So, the average AR-15 costs approximately $1,000 in comparison to the average shotgun that costs about half the price. But, should cost really be a deciding factor when it comes to protecting our brothers and sisters in law enforcement? While cost has to be factored in, what the average law enforcement officer may have to face on any given day, a shotgun may or may not be the best choice.

Rule Change
A recent change in S.C. Highway Patrol policies now allow troopers to bring their own rifles to work with them. However, the rifle must meet department standards and the trooper must complete an eight-hour course on the weapon put on by the department. This means that instead of being stuck with a shotgun that holds six shells and four in their pouch, officers now have access to a rifle that holds 30 rounds and can carry a total of three magazines. This gives them a total of 90 rounds with which to do his job.

To date, the agency has managed to equip 150 officers with high-powered rifles for use by their emergency response teams. The new budget request is for the purchase of 535 Sig Sauer M400 rifles. These will be used to equip the rest of the troopers who will also be required to take the initial 8-hour course and then an annual 4-hour refresher course.

Commander Williamson states that these rifles are more accurate at longer distances and that the spread from a shotgun shell could lead to innocent bystanders being wounded. The good news is that to date, none of the South Carolina State Troopers who have been equipped with the new high-powered rifles have yet to be involved in any type of incident where they have had to use them. However, Williamson states that his troopers “can definitely go in there and get the job done.”

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Is “Smart” Technology Going Too Far?

This is a question many citizens are asking as more of this type of technology in the form of drones, smart cameras, body cams, and more become a permanent part of the arsenal used by law enforcement officers across the country. While many of these new devices are intended to make the job of working in law enforcement easier, the general public sees much of it as having serious potential to invade their privacy. What many fail to realize, is that the vast majority of this technology can also be used to protect them and keep them safer.

Enter the “Smart” Camera
One of the newest pieces of technology to be put into use in Delaware is the “Smart” camera. But, unlike most other cameras in use by law enforcement, the video captured by these cameras is fed directly into an AI (artificial intelligence) system that uses information collected such as license plate number or a face to provide officers on the scene with vital information while they are on patrol.

According to David Hinojosa (Coban Technologies the manufacture of the equipment), the new system is a lot like a dash cam on steroids. This system and the use of AI, in general, is one of the fastest growing trends in law enforcement. But at the same time, its use is being viewed with skepticism among those concerned with civil liberties and privacy out of rear the information could be used by LEOs for “profiling” and other nefarious uses.

Predictive Analytics
Another company, Deep Science, is developing AI backed security camera systems for use in the retail industry. This technology can be used to alert law enforcement in the event of a fire, robberies, and many other events. This ability to monitor actions in real-time and provide instantaneous alerting can help those in charge of security be in a better position to do their jobs. Part of the problem is that far too many guards become bored with what they are watching and lose the ability to pick out important details.

While most CEOs don’t suffer from this type of problem, it exists instead in those who are responsible for watching the video that has been captured. Most people who spend time studying this type of video become ineffective in approximately 10 to 20 minutes, making them virtually ineffective. This is not a problem we can ever expect to have to do deal with when the video is being “examined” by AI.

Are There Privacy Issues or Are These Concerns Pointless?
There are huge privacy concerns when it comes to the use of “smart” cams and AI as a regular part of a police officer’s equipment. Since the system is designed to use facial recognition software, there are definite privacy concerns. This is where both state and federal agencies need to ensure they institute the right legal safeguards and procedures to protect the privacy of citizens who just happen to be captured in the video.

The use of AI in law enforcement is inevitable, but what its use does require is that every law enforcement agency assembles a set of rules intended to allow officers to make the most use of this technology while still protecting the privacy of the general public.

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Office Closed for Christmas and New Years

Closed for Holidays

In order to give our staff time to spend with their families during the holiday season, Privacy for Cops will be closed December 25, 2017 and January 1, 2018.

Support Options Limited

Please note that support options will be limited from December 22, 2017 to January 2, 2018. We appreciate your patience during this time.

Happy Holidays!

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Dodge to Up the Game in the 2018 Charger Pursuit Cars

One of the worst situations an officer can find him or herself in is being ambushed from the side or rear while they are in their patrol car. Dodge has announced the installation of the “Officer Protection Package”, developed in collusion with an Auburn, CA-based company, InterMotive Vehicle Controls. This system is designed to alert the officer when there is movement behind or to the sides of their cruiser while it parked.

Movements like these could well be an indication of someone trying to sneak up on the car and ambush the officer(s) inside. While the system is currently being offered to every law enforcement agency in the country, one of the earliest departments to take advantage of this offer was the Anaheim, CA Police Department.

How the System Works
This system is designed to be turned on by the officer when his vehicle is parked. It is easily turned on by a single steering wheel mounted switch. The only other requirement is that all four of the cruiser’s doors must be closed. The front windows can be in any position.

The idea is that whether the officer is involved in surveillance, is talking to dispatch or sitting watching traffic, he has a helping hand to keep him safe. When equipped with InterMotive’s Surveillance Mode Module™ working in tandem with Dodge’s Fleet Safety Group technology including the ParkView® rearview camera, ParkSense® rear parking assistance system and Rear Cross Path detection system, a full view of the back of the car and sides is displayed on a massive 21-inch touchscreen (the largest in the industry).

In the event the system detects movement, the doors are locked, windows roll up automatically, an alert is sounded, the taillights begin to flash, and the reverse lights come on. The best part of this system is that as long as the officer turns it on, the system will spring into action, even if the officer is not paying attention to what’s going on around him.

Offers a Few Seconds of Extra Reaction Time
While this system is not designed to prevent an assailant from trying to sneak up on the officer and attack them, it does have one very important role. This is to provide the officer(s) in the vehicle with what may only be a few extra seconds of extra time to react. This may be all the time a trained officer needs to be able to see what is going on behind his cruiser on the massive screen. The extra time may give the officer a chance to prepare him or herself for what is coming and at to be in a better position to react to it.

This can be enough time to protect the officer from injury or death and at the same time give them enough time to apprehend the potential assailant. This is a win-win situation and should be installed in every police cruiser in the country, giving officers just a little bit more of a sense of security in what is rapidly becoming a very dangerous work environment.

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Going Hollywood in Crawfordsville, Indiana

The action suddenly went from fiction to fact during the shooting a robbery scene in Crawfordsville, Indiana recently. The following may sound humorous, but the reality is that someone could have easily been shot. Also known as being sure of what is going on before you consider the use of deadly force.

It seems that a movie production company was shooting a scene at the Black Step Brewing Company at approximately 7 p.m. according to the official report from the Crawfordsville Police Department. As the scene was being shot, a concerned citizen who was unaware of what was going on saw what he thought to be an armed man wearing a ski mask walk into the bar. Being a good citizen, the person called 911 to report what he saw.

It gets better – when the police arrived, the first thing the responding officers saw was a masked man backing his way out of the bar with a gun in his hand. You can easily imagine their initial thoughts and what came next. The officers ordered the suspect to drop his weapon, but instead, he started turning towards them with his gun still in his hand.

Their first reaction was that their lives were in danger, so they immediately drew their weapons and opened fire on the “suspect.” Fortunately, for both the officers and the “suspect” were not injured as no one was hit. At this point, the suspect dropped the gun and removed his mask. At the same time, he informed the officers that they were only shooting a movie scene and that this was a movie set.

An Arrest was Made
Despite being told this, the actor, Jim Duff, was arrested by the officers until they were able to corroborate his story. Along with this Indiana State Police, investigators were called in to investigate the shooting, which is routine any time an officer is involved in a situation in which they have discharged their weapons.

The moral of the story is that no one should ever point a gun at a police officer. You should always do what the officer instructs you to do immediately. According to Sgt. Kim Riley a State Police spokesperson, “He was the only person who backed out, the only one that came out, and he was in a ski mask and holding a weapon. Whether it’s real or not, you don’t know at that time.”

The owner of the production company Montgomery County Movies said he was glad no one was hurt and that the rest of the cast and crew were all inside the bar, blissfully unaware of what was going on outside. The bottom line is that it was up to production company to notify local police and residents that they were shooting a movie.

This simple step could have prevented the entire situation and could even have saved a life. In hindsight, it is a shame there weren’t any cameras filming what was going on. Who knows, it could have led to the next big hit at the theaters.

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Protecting the Data on Suspect’s Smartphones

Modern technology in the form of the cell phone has created a new source of evidence and one that it is up to the officer who collects the phone to protect this evidence. I can hear you know, “I do protect it, I turn the phone off and lock it up in the evidence room.” Today’s cell phones contain a treasure trove of information that must be secured just as much as the device itself.


On Today’s Smartphones
Whether the phone is using iOS, Android, or Microsoft Windows® for phones, they all store a ton of data, have direct access to the web and can send and receive files in many formats. They also use a variety of communication apps that circumvent even the carriers attempts to provide records when subpoenaed. Among these apps are Skype, Snapchat, and WhatsApp, which all use data instead of the text messaging network.

But, if you want to be able to access this information for evidence, you better know how to protect it from the owner of the phone or his friends. Both Apple and Android phones can be accessed remotely, in many cases even if they are turned off. Once the phone is accessed, the perpetrator can use a special app to completely erase everything on the phone and restore it back to “fresh out of the box” condition, leaving you with a blank phone.

So How Do You Protect the Data
There are several ways you can go about protecting the data you badly need as evidence from being altered or completely erased.

• Kid Gloves
At no point in time should you touch the phone with your bare hands, be sure to wear gloves. This will preserve any prints and not contaminate the phone with yours.
• Keep It Off
If the phone is turned off when it is collected, leave it turned off and simply photograph it for evidence.
• If It’s On
If the phone is turned on, leave it turned on and photograph the screen.
• Keep It Safe
To keep the phone safe from outside interference, place it in a “Faraday” container, wrap it in aluminum foil, or some other form of signal-blocking container. The intent is to ensure that no one can remotely access the phone and tamper with the data it contains.
• Grab That Charger
If you can find it, grab the charger that goes with the phone. Once you place the phone in the container, it will constantly search for a network signal. This leads to rapid battery drainage. You will need to charge the phone in order to access the data.

What Not to Do
Once you have the phone in your custody, the last thing you want to do is attempt to access the data yourself. With most phones after a specified number of incorrect attempts to enter the password, they are designed to lock out the person making the attempt. In some instances, this can be overcome, but no matter how you look at it (even if you are able to access the data), any attempt is actually tampering with evidence. The evidence contained in today’s cell phones can make or break your case, it is your job to protect it.

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New Technology Brings Body and Dash Cam Video Together

One major problem facing law enforcement officers today is the use of body cams and dash cams in the course of duty. While what these cameras are capable of capturing has been in the news a lot since the development of the body cam, there is another side to the story that doesn’t get quite as much coverage. The amount of information this camera doesn’t catch. But, what about the dash cam? Doesn’t it capture footage as well?

Two Cameras Working Together
The reality is that yes both the body cam and the dash cam do indeed capture video, they are doing so individually in a totally uncoordinated way. What if you could find a way to make the most use of these cameras to capture images from a number of vantage points. What if you could make it possible for all of the cameras, both body, and dash to be turned on and start recording at the exact same timed?
It is far too easy for one or more officers to forget to hit the record button in the event of a major incident. Doing this could lead to a lack of video evidence that could prove to be vital evidence in a future investigation. It could be the difference between being able to prove who is at fault and someone walking out of court Scot-free.
But, if it were possible for any single officer on the scene to turn on all nearby cameras at the same time, wouldn’t that make a huge difference? Not only would this provide law enforcement officers multiple recordings of the incident, these videos would be from a wide variety of angles.

New Software Making It Easier
New technology and software from companies like WatchGuard make it possible for all the videos from a particular incident to be instantly uploaded to a central database. Once stored here, the files can easily be accessed in the event they are needed as evidence. For example, in a case where there is a question as to whether a gun was involved, while a single video may not show it when there are several videos all taken from different angles, the weapon is far more likely to be seen in at least one of them.
From routine traffic stops to armed suspect encounters, the use of technology such as this can not only help prosecute the guilty, protect the innocent, and allow the judicial system and law enforcement officers do their jobs. While there is no doubt that being in law enforcement today is as challenging as it has ever been, technology like this goes a long way towards helping to protect the innocent and ensure the guilty are punished.
This type of technology will also go a long way towards making the use of both body and dash cams more acceptable in the eye of the public as it helps to reduce the level of crime and police brutality this country has been experiencing over the last few years.

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Gun-Mounted Cameras the Latest Tool for Cops – Are They a Good Idea?

It seems that technology continues to evolve at an ever-increasing pace, with new tools showing up constantly. One of the newest devices to come along is the gun-mounted camera. This device is designed to activate record mode as soon as the officer draws his weapon from its holster. While they are still in short supply and not many departments have integrated them into the inventory. With all the hue and cry about unnecessary shootings and killings by police officers in the news, this technology might actually come in handy.

Added Angles

When it comes to an officer-involved shooting, there is no such thing as having too many camera angles and video recordings. Even if there are CCTV and body camera recordings of the incident, having a recording from a gun-mounted camera can make a huge difference in the outcome of an investigation.  However, investigators should not learn to rely on evidence supplied by more than one source.

While manufacturers claim the video captured by the gun-mounted camera is more apt to capture an unobstructed view of the shooting, this may not always be the case. When it comes to justifying a shooting or proving it was in error, the more camera angles that can be captured the more likely the exact chain of events can be established.

The Advantage of Automatically Coming On

While body cameras must be turned on by the officer wearing them and most departments require them to be on at all times while the officer is on duty, 100 percent compliance is never likely to actually occur. Since gun-mounted cameras are activated the moment the officer pulls his weapon, may help to ensure that at least some portion of the shooting is recorded on video, including sound. This can make the difference when it comes to determining who is found to be at fault in the event of a shooting involving a law enforcement officer.

Lack of Privacy Concerns

Privacy has long been an issue when it comes to the use of body cameras by members of law enforcement. But with gun-mounted cameras, not only do they come on only when drawn, but they have a much narrower field of view.  This means they don’t record a large number of the interactions between the officer and any civilians, but what they do record is those precious minutes after the officer has pulled his weapon and made the decision whether or not to use it.

In reality, these are the most important moments in any investigation and those that members of the public are most curious about. These videos can also be used in training officers how to react in certain situations and may, in fact, stop many officers from engaging in abusive behavior.  How this will play out remains to be seen as the deployment of gun-mounted cameras throughout law enforcement agencies across the country. In time they may become as important as body-mounted cameras in helping to protect both members of law enforcement and the public from abuse and unfounded accusations.

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Finding New Uses for Drones in the Aftermath of Hurricane Irma

Despite all of the negative press the use of surveillance drones has undergone since their inception, members of the Daytona Beach Police Department (DBPD) made use of a pair of drones when Hurricane Irma was bearing down on their city. A small group of DBPD police officers used a number of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) equipped with high definition video cameras to survey areas around the city before Hurricane Irma arrived.

Widespread Damage Expected
With hurricane Irma predicted to churn her way up through the entire state causing massive widespread damage, the officers were creating reference photographs and videos that could be used to assess the damage left behind. The idea would be that the same group of officers would send their drones out to perform the same aerial surveillance as they had before Irma hit.

Why Is Drone Surveillance Like This Necessary?
There are many reasons why high definition images and videos such as these are vital before, during, and after a natural disaster such as hurricane Irma. The most important of these is the emergency services can use this information to help them determine which areas were most affected by the disaster and where they most need to send the teams of first responders.

The afterimages can also be used to determine where to send power crews to repair downed lines, where roads and storm drains are blocked or damaged. They can do all of this without having to put the life of a single member of law enforcement or emergency services person in harm’s way. On top of this, the drones being used by the DBPD were able to stream live video feed that let the police department with real-time information regarding things like damage, crime, people in distress, and so much more.

Another very important use of the video and images captured by the drones lies in helping to streamline the disbursement of funds from FEMA. These high-quality images from before and after, make it much easier for the agency to determine the extent of the damage done to help them direct funding where it is needed the most first.

Not Just About Buying Drones
However, before you go running to the Chief screaming you want to add drones to your surveillance gear, there are a few things you need to know. There is more to it than training some of your fellow officers to fly them successfully and at the same time capture usable images and footage. Before you can start your own UAS program, your department will new aviation department that is dedicated to manning the drones.

For most departments, this represents a significant financial investment. There will be new policies to be developed, manpower to be trained and repurposed, and of course, plenty of ongoing training to be considered. However, the next time your department has a missing person to search for or a major disaster on the way, you may find the investment more than worth it.

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From Body Cams to Drones – Winning the Fight

Despite the continued advancement in high-tech devices available to law enforcement officers today, a certain amount of crime will always remain. While it might be technically possible for law enforcement to eliminate virtually all crime, the high cost of running such a dystopian police state such as that portrayed in George Orwell’s novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” makes it highly unlikely.

Nineteen Eighty-Four Becomes Reality
In his novel, Orwell predicted a state in which the public’s every move was watched by millions of CCTV cameras manned by an even larger number of law enforcement officers. Back in 1949, when this book was written, no one ever thought this could happen. Yet if you go to the U.K. it won’t take you long to see the countless CCTV cameras mounted virtually everywhere.

It would seem that Orwell’s view of the future that so many scoffed at back in 1949 when it was written, is now becoming more of a reality than most want to believe. From police operated CCTV cameras to those owned and operated by private citizens, in the U.K. you are constantly being watched by someone unless you are in the privacy of your own home.

Technology Continues to Prove Its Worth
Technologies such as the telephone, two-way radios, polygraphs, even fingerprinting have all advanced the abilities of law enforcement. Here in the U.S., the universal emergency phone number 911 came into being in 1968. Over the course of the next 30 years, we have seen a rise in community policing, DNA technology and testing, computerization. These new technologies have been followed by the development of body cams and rapid advancements in crime prevention strategies.

Once the standard camera was considered a vital tool in solving crime, but today the average camera has been relegated to the history files. The use of CCTV, body cams, dash cams, and smartphones with very capable cameras, have rendered them virtually worthless. Cameras are also being mounted on unmanned aerial drones that can provide still shots or live video feeds. Law enforcement also has the ability to track people using their cell phones.

Not as Effective as Hoped
While there are an estimated 4 to 5.9 million CCTV cameras in use in the U.K. covering an estimated 65 million residents, research has shown that their use in reducing crime has not been as effective as had been hoped. The problem is that criminals who are intent on committing crimes already know of their existence and how to avoid being recognized by those operating the cameras. For instance, pulling a hood over your head is enough to ensure they are not recognizable.

In 2012, the FAA passed new regulations making it possible for law enforcement agencies could use drones equipped with cameras. This technology could be adapted in the future to include drones equipped with weaponry, drones that could serve warrants, and much more. Technology exists that allows the video captured by these drones to be fed into highly capable face recognition software. Accordingly, the FBI currently maintains a database that now contains over 30 million mug shots, a number that grows every day.

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