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IACP 2013: Both Sides of Today’s Police Products

This Year’s IACP was a showcase for high-tech and conventional law enforcement tools.

December 23, 2013  |  by David Griffith and Paul Clinton

Gore-Tex's new Chem-Pak apparel retails with Blauer or Lion branding. 
Photo: Mark W. Clark
Gore-Tex's new Chem-Pak apparel retails with Blauer or Lion branding.  
Photo: Mark W. Clark

It's rare that the keynote address at a trade show and convention really sums up what is happening in the profession. But this year's keynote at the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) show at the Philadelphia Convention Center pretty much nailed it.

Presenting the keynote at the October show, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey addressed law enforcement's often ambivalent approach to technology.

Commissioner Ramsey, who began his police career in 1968, told a packed room at the Philadelphia Convention Center that more tools are available to law enforcement now than at any earlier time. And he said that's a mixed blessing. "Technology is a powerful tool, both a benefactor and a curse to policing," he said.

Ramsey spoke at the IACP show at a time when law enforcement leaders are grappling with technology.

Grappling with technology pretty much sums up the experience of walking around much of the show floor at this year's IACP as well. Many of the vendors brought dazzling displays of technology.

And this has been the direction of IACP for more than a decade now. More and more of the show floor is taken up with booths promoting analytic software, digital video, high-speed communications tools, and other wonders of the 21st century. All of that technology can kind of make your head swim. Fortunately, there are still booths featuring more easily understood items like apparel, equipment, gear, and vehicles at IACP to give you a break from all the mind-blowing stuff that would make Capt. Kirk from "Star Trek" jealous of what we can do. After all, once you've spent an hour discussing predictive policing software or LTE communications, it can be a nice respite to go and look at a motorcycle or a uniform.

And that's pretty much what IACP is like these days. There's the conventional stuff that you would expect to see at any law enforcement exposition and there's the stuff that seems to have dropped out of a science fiction movie and it can be on the same aisle and even side by side; sometimes it can even be in the same booth.

And all of it has the potential to be important to what you do in contemporary policing. So here's a look at some of the high-tech and conventional products that attracted our attention at this year's IACP show.

Next-Gen Communications

Law enforcement communication tools are being transformed by the growing capabilities of commercial cellular data networks and the advent of dedicated public safety LTE networks. This transformation is going to blur the lines between land mobile radios, in-car computer systems, and smartphones. And we may have seen some of the earliest radio/phone/computer hybrids at this year's IACP.

Harris (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22318) brought its new InTouch RPC-200, a rugged Android tablet that operates on 700 MHz LTE data networks. The

RPC-200 also runs Harris' BeOn push to talk application, which allows the operator to communicate vocally with land mobile radio users over any available high-speed cellular data network from anywhere in the world. Users can also text to radios that receive text. In addition to its PTT capabilities, the RPC-200 is a state-of-the-art tablet computer with Bluetooth, wifi, GPS, and an 8-megapixel camera.

Motorola (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22319) has also announced the availability of an app that enables PTT communication between Astro 25 networks and Android smartphones. The app called Unified PTT can connect to Astro 25 radios using commercial cellular, Public Safety-LTE, and even wifi networks.

Evidence Management

Digital evidence management is a critical element in any evidentiary video program whether an agency's officers are using in-car or on-body systems. And while just about every company that makes a digital video evidence capture tool also makes so-called back-end software, two new ones caught our attention at this year's IACP.

Kustom Signals (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22320) introduced Eyewitness Data Vault, a scalable evidence management system that can be used on a single workstation or enterprise wide. The software supports simultaneous playback of files from multiple, which means you can watch an incident as it was captured from multiple cameras and multiple angles. Eyewitness Data Vault manages evidence from Kustom Signals' digital in-car, motorcycle, and on-body systems, as well as data from non-proprietary sources. Rights management is configurable to meet agency policy.

TASER International (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22321) continues to expand the capabilities of cloud evidence management through Evidence.com. And toward that end at this year's IACP it introduced Evidence Mobile. The new smartphone app lets users supplement their TASER Axon or Body video systems by capturing still photos, audio, or video on an iPhone or Android. Once captured, the files can be easily uploaded to the user's Evidence.com account. The app is free at the Apple App Store or at the Google Play Store.

Forensic Tools

The forensic tools exhibited at IACP used to be things like alternative light sources, DNA capture tools, and a wide variety of fingerprint powders. Now, much of this aspect of the show is pretty much all digital, including software to manage crime scene evidence and software to take evidence off of computers, phones, and tablets.

Carlson Software (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22322) showed its latest version of CSI Office at this year's show. New features include: extensive vehicle spec databases, an interface for quick import of field data that creates a scene drawing in one step, a new room builder, and a new design palette.

Cellebrite (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22323) showed its mobile device forensic system, the UFED Touch. The system can take data and passwords off of a wide variety of mobile devices. It's available in rugged and standard versions and features a touchscreen interface. The kit includes the software and hardware, including SIM cloning cards.

Magnet Forensics (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22324) came to IACP with its Internet Evidence Finder (IEF). The software runs from a USB dongle that is inserted into a port on the suspect computer. This means you don't have to remove the hard drive or use a write blocker. IEF searches live files and common areas in as little as five minutes. Internet histories can be accessed on most popular browsers, pictures and videos can be quickly previewed, and Smart Media search technology finds pornography instantly. Evidence can be searched and previewed while preserving metadata.

Reading Plates

License plate recognition is one of the most versatile technologies in law enforcement. It can be used to track violent criminals, recover stolen vehicles, or just monitor the time that someone has been parked in a restricted space.

3M Traffic Safety (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22325) showed new software that allows any authorized agency personnel to query the LPR database. Called Back Office Portal, the software runs over the Internet and is accessed through a browser interface. Access can be restricted only to computers recognized by the agency's VPN or firewall with user names and passwords required.

One of the coolest new wrinkles in LPR is the ability to capture plates on mobile devices such as smartphones. Available for Android and iOS, Vigilant Solutions' (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22326) Mobile Companion app lets any officer snap a picture of a plate with his or her phone and compare and query the database for hits and alerts.

Software

In recent years, IACP has become as much about software as any other product category. At this year's show some of the most intriguing software products on display focused on social media monitoring and analytics/predictive policing.

Social media monitoring has been an investigative tool since the early days of MySpace. But it's become all the more critical in recent years as criminals have taken to Twitter, Facebook, and all of the other social media outlets. We saw two new tools at IACP that tracked tweets by their geographic origins.

Geofeedia (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22327) lets investigators receive a stream of Twitter, Instagram, and other social media feeds from a specific address or area designated on an onscreen map. Streams can be refined by keyword, timeframe, author's screen name, and other parameters. The feeds can be archived and analyzed.

Lexis-Nexis (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22328) is offering its social media monitoring tool called appropriately "Social Media Monitor" to subscribers of its Accurint investigative software. Social Media Monitor is a Web-based tool that allows officers to monitor social media like Twitter using a subject's handle or by geographic area. Lexis-Nexis personnel demonstrated the capabilities of this tool by using the Philadelphia Convention Center as a geographic zone and, of course, a flood of tweets came pouring in on the screen.

On the analytics/predictive policing front three products received most of our attention.

IBM's (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22329) i2 Coplink is an analytical tool used by agencies to consolidate data from a variety of sources. The software aids collaboration between agencies and helps analysts generate tactical leads. Investigators can even use the software to generate lineups. IBM i2 Coplink helps officers discover investigative case leads, analyze data on maps, centralize multiple data stores, and share data with other agencies. It can be used on a desktop, laptop, or mobile device.

PredPol (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22330) is one of the leading names in predictive policing software. At this year's IACP, the company showed the latest version of its flagship product. Using three points of information from an agency's RMS database, PredPol maps out 500-foot x 500-foot prediction zones. The zones are recalibrated for each patrol shift to show patterns throughout the day.

Spillman (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22331) introduced its new map-based analytics tool right before this year's IACP. Using Spillman Analytics, field personnel and supervisors can initiate queries from a map, then dig into the data, determine crime trends, and plan responses. Another aspect of Spillman Analytics is the CrimeMonitor community map that the public can access via the Web to see crime trends and submit anonymous tips.

Tactical Products

IACP is not a tactical show, but there's always a smattering of stuff for SWAT and other special operations units at some of the booths. The SWAT stuff at this year's IACP ranged from unmanned aerial vehicles, to tactical armor, to intimidating armored vehicles, but in general this category of gear will likely be more visible at the Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) show in January. Despite that, we did see two items at IACP that warrant mention.

Some 10 years ago, chemical biological, radiological and nuclear protective suits were fairly prevalent at law enforcement shows. Now, not so much. That's why Gore-Tex's (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22332) new Chem-Pak apparel really stood out. The Multi-Threat is hot-zone certified to deadly threat levels and offers no breathability. The suit uses conductive cooling and retails with Blauer or Lion branding. The XRT suit is selectively permeable and rated to Class 3 threats with a lower concentration. It also retails with Blauer or Lion.

At every IACP, there are vehicles, ranging from helicopters to motorcycles. And one of the most unusual at this year's show was the Rook armored tactical vehicle from Ring Power Tactical Solutions (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22333). The Rook tracked armored vehicle has been available for several years now, but the latest model features some nice improvements. Key to the capabilities of the Rook is its Armored Deployment Platform. The patent pending ADP offers an NIJ Level IV protection to officers who can be delivered into a threat zone while returning fire through 5 x 9-inch sliding gun ports. The Rook's improved ADP can be used to deliver bomb techs or SWAT officers with floor to roof armored protection. In addition to the ADP, the Rook can be fitted with claws, rams, and vehicle extraction tools.

Mobile Video

Next to software, probably no other product class is more prevalent at IACP than video equipment. Both body-worn and in-car systems are well represented.

And some companies like Digital Ally (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22334) make both. So it makes sense that Digital Ally is working on ways to make the two systems work together, which is the point of VuLink. Introduced right before IACP began, VuLink is a hardware device that connects Digital Ally's in-car video systems with the company's FirstVu HD body cams. A key feature of VuLink is that it triggers the FirstVu HD camera at the same time that it triggers the in-car system. This means the officer doesn't have to remember to activate the on-body cam. On the back end, recordings from both Digital Ally's in-car systems and the FirstVu HD can be maintained as evidence of the same incident on Digital Ally's VuVault management and reporting software. VuLink is ideal for use with Digital Ally's new DVM-800 in-car system, which is priced at less than $4,000.

High definition is a big trend in mobile video, and Panasonic (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22335) released one of the highest-resolution in-car systems in the market at this year's IACP. The Arbitrator HD offers a front-facing full-HD 1080p camera with a 65-degree wide-angle lens that also includes a 30X optical zoom and 12X digital zoom. Up to four side- and rear-facing cameras recording 720p high-def images can be added to the system to provide a 360-degree view around a police vehicle.

Vievu (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22336) brought its third-generation on-officer video system to IACP. The LE3 offers several upgrades from the previous LE2, including a more robust battery, additional on-board storage, and more memory, enabling high-definition video capture. The LE3 records on-body video in either high definition (1280x720) or standard definition (848x480) via a lens offering a 68-degree field of view. It offers four-hour recording time and 16GB of internal storage. It comes with Vievu's Veripatrol video management software with Vidlock security that locks access to the camera if the unit is lost or stolen.

Body Armor

Comfort was the common denominator in both of the new armor products that attracted our attention at IACP.

The Flying Cross division of Fechheimer (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22337) showed a new armor carrier with a uniform shirt appearance. Called the AeroShell, the shirt/armor carrier features a mesh spacer for comfort and breathability. Fabrics used in the carrier are also moisture wicking to prevent that soggy body armor experience.

Point Blank's (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22338) new armor designed with Dyneema (www.policemag.com/freeinfo/22339) was created to be both comfortable and provide excellent ballistic protection. Called the the Alpha Elite Series, the new armor boasts NIJ06 compliance, but it is extremely light and thin. Dyneema's Force Multiplier material helped Point Blank create Level IIIA protective plates that weigh only .87 pounds per square foot and are only .20 inches thick. Point Blank has tested its Alpha Elite model AXIIIA with rounds exceeding 2,000 feet per second. The armor is available in Point Blank concealed configurations and in Paraclete tactical models.

Tags: IACP, Harris Corp., Motorola, Kustom Signals, TASER, Carlson Software, Cellebrite, Magnet Forensics, 3M Traffic Safety Systems Division, Vigilant Video, Geofeedia, LexisNexis, IBM, PredPol, Spillman Technologies, Gore-Tex, Ring Power, Digital Ally, Panasonic, VieView, Fechheimer, Point Blank, DSM Dyneema

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