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Law Enforcement Renaissance: The Sequel
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In the early 19th Century, Sir Robert Peel lead law enforcement out of the dark ages. A Los Angeles sheriff captain is leading another renaissance.

by Douglas Page,2003

Terrorists enter the chambers during an evening meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, take 126 hostages, and threaten to blow up the building with a dirty nuclear device. A Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) SWAT team arrives.

First, several ‘throwbots’ equipped with digital cameras are dropped through windows to survey the building interior. Other wireless cameras, some equipped with see-in-the-dark lenses, are slipped under doors, feeding images into an ad hoc cyber network that incorporates data transmitted from the robots, cameras, and other sensors into a virtual-reality crime scene that incident commanders, SWAT officers, and other experts - all carrying pocket computers - can monitor no matter where they are.

A hostage negotiator who happens to be attending a seminar in San Francisco logs into the network. Phone contact is made with the terrorists and the conversations are fed through a deception detector system that is able to determine intent to deceive.

Malordorant grenades are readied. A through-the-wall radar surveillance system is deployed to help track movement inside. An Active Denial System device is targeted, waiting to instantaneously debilitate the terrorists by flash-baking their skin to around 130 degrees F using millimeter-wave electromagnetic energy fired from a device over 200 yards away.

Welcome to the future of law enforcement. While this particular scenario is fiction, the technologies are real, many of them now migrating from the military to civilian law enforcement.Blurring the Line

Blurring of War and Crime 

"Terrorism has caused a blurring of war and crime, requiring a closer alliance between U.S. military and domestic law enforcement," said Capt. Charles Heal, chief of the LASD’s internationally known Special Enforcement Bureau, the place where new gee-whiz technologies go to be evaluated.

Heal's organization was the first technology exploration program established on a department level. For the past five or six years, he and his staff have traveled the world rooting out technologies to enhance law enforcement. As a result, his office fields dozens of call a month from police agencies all of the globe interested in his outcomes.

The melding of military and civilian resources will result in law enforcement adopting some military technologies and tactics, and the military adopting and employing tactics and equipment developed by and for local law enforcement, especially in controlling riots and mobs.

"Local law enforcement will be expected to be the first responders and appropriately handle complex tactical situations such as chemical, biological, and nuclear events," Heal said. "We will also be expected to actively participate in the detection and arrests of terrorists and the prevention of terrorist acts, similar to the role of the Israeli police today."

Like the military, domestic law enforcement special operations (SWAT, intelligence, emergency operations, etc.) will take on increasing importance, resulting in both access to, and funding for, technologies previously only dreamed about by local law enforcement, including nonlethal options.

American law enforcement has never had the political clout or financial resources to develop these technologies independently. Now that the military is becoming involved in what has historically been law enforcement problems, they are bringing resources and backing never before experienced on the local level, Heal said.

In 2000, the National Institute of Justice Office of Science and Technology spent $128 million on law enforcement technologies, a five-fold increase from less than ten years earlier. That same year, the Pentagon allocated $37.4 billion dollars for similar programs, nearly 300 times as much.

"You can imagine the breakthroughs we might expect when these resources become focused on domestic law enforcement problems," Heal said.

Nonlethal Options

Among the breakthroughs are nonlethal technologies.

The first effective nonlethal riot control device can be expected near the end of this decade, which will almost certainly be the Active Denial System (ADS) being developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory, Heal said.

ADS will be closely followed by tetanization devices, especially hand-held tasers, and chemical-based options, such as malodorants, calmatives, and soporifics.

Technologies that allow the detection of contraband without intrusive searches will provide abilities to prevent handguns and other weapons on school grounds, prevent movement and smuggling of drugs into prisons and jails, and prevent the movement of explosive materials through airports, courthouses, transportation nodes, stadiums and other tempting terrorist targets.

Privacy concerns notwithstanding, Heal foresees this eventually including "chokepoint" terrain features such as freeways, borders, and along rivers.

"Detection of crooks and terrorists who currently reside in a sanctuary of anonymity will be greatly reduced, especially through the use of biometric technologies," he said.

Street crimes, such as robberies, burglaries, and car-jackings, will become less lucrative and crimes such as frauds, identify thefts, and forgeries will take on increased importance.

"This trend is just starting to manifest itself," Heal said. "Is the reduction in strong-arm and other robberies a result of more humane crooks, or is there less money to steal because the victims are increasingly carrying credit cards and ATM debit cards instead of cash, and because stores and banks are increasingly relying on electronic transfers instead of hard cash?"

Likewise, as car-tracking devices increase the likelihood of detection and capture, there will be a commensurate reduction in car thefts, and extending out to other high-value properties, he said.

These trends are already underway.

"The impetus for the expectation that local law enforcement will be the first responders to terrorist incidents is coming places like Israel and Ireland where local police routinely handles situations that we are only now beginning to understand as our new role," Heal said.

Cyber Command Post

One concept key to the new paradigm is Heal’s idea of a Cyber Command Post.

The most effective weapon in the war on terrorism will be information, not firearms, Heal said.

By definition, terrorists do not stand and fight, but rather rely on anonymity and mobility for success. Consequently, terrorism cannot be defeated with more firepower. We already have that.

Reliable, accurate and timely information defines every tactical operation, but especially those involving terrorism. It is the bedrock for dependable intelligence, effective decisions, and efficient operations. While gaining more and better information sounds simple in concept, it is exceedingly difficult in application.

Because terrorism is an asymmetric strategy, it succeeds by striking at an unexpected location or time, in an unanticipated manner. Accordingly, each tactical response will be unique, Heal said.

"In our efforts to defend against terrorism asymmetrically, LASD has sought help from the private sector in developing a ground video link system," Heal said.

This system employs cameras and sensors, of any type, to capture images and other types of information, to be transmitted to a receiver at a field command post. Once there, the signal is uploaded to a server connected to an extranet which provides secure viewing to authorized personnel anywhere in the world.

The cyber command post addresses four fundamental factors necessary for an effective response:

The first is to increase 'situational awareness', or a person’s understanding of a situation. While an officer’s training, experience, and education are critical components in making effective decisions, their understanding of a particular situation provides the largest contribution, Heal said.

Because the system uses a number of sensors and cameras, including those that provide surreptitious views or are in positions too hazardous to provide safe observation, commanders gain a variety of perspectives that enhances understanding.

The second is to obtain a 'common operational picture', which is simply the shared knowledge and understanding between individuals, teams, or groups.

"This is particularly critical whenever a number of agencies or echelons of command are involved, such as when handling major disasters or large tactical operations, because of the need for close coordination and cooperation," Heal said.

A common operational picture is necessary to create synergy between the various agencies. It is particularly critical when issues beyond the understanding and training of decision makers require the contributions of subject matter experts.

The third is to provide a 'virtual reach back capability', which provides a method for subject matter experts to view evidence, suspicious packages, crime scenes, disaster sites, and other locations safely from anywhere in the world, in real-time. Thus, every commander is provided a capability of incorporating advice of subject matter experts into the current situation.

"This aspect is particularly valuable because many important clues that are easily recognized by experts, and have profound implications, often pass by a novice completely unnoticed," Heal said. "The value of this in handling complex terrorist incidents involving chemical, biological, or radiological agents or devices hardly needs justification."

The idea is to include the views of an expert in chemistry or nuclear physics, perhaps at a distant university, participating in the handling of such an incident by describing the effects, counter-measures, cautions, and dangers.

The last component is a 'feedback loop', a communications loop using any available communication unit such as telephone, email, or radio to allow subject matter experts to contribute to the tactical decision-making process.

"When the ground video link system is completely operational, it will provide an ability to create a cyber command post where the limitations of geography and time are irrelevant," Heal said. "All personnel involved with an operation, including those thousands of miles away in different time zones, will be able to actively participate in solving the problem."

-end-

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