Criminal Justice News

Saturday, April 29, 2006

New Website for Police Technology

On April 25, 2006, Hi Tech Criminal Justice Online launched a revised website for the text book, Police Technology (Prentice Hall, July 2004). According to CEO Raymond E. Foster the book is used in over fifty universities and colleges throughout the United States and is under consideration for adoption in at least sixty others. At the same time the book was in production the original website was also being developed. However, the initial website was parked as a sub-domain under Hi Tech Criminal Justice Online’s primary website.

Throughout the last 18 months the content of the website has grown as has the use by students and professors. The companion website offers students additional articles, resources, cases studies and web-based explanations for the key terms within the text. Additionally, behind a password protected site professors can find supplemental instructional material such as example syllabi, PowerPoint presentations for each chapter and hyperlinks to relevant videos, journals and web-based resources.

Foster said, “The tremendous success of the book and the website led us to secure an original domain for the book’s companion site and to expand the core content.” In addition to securing an original domain, Foster noted that the five additional PowerPoint lectures, new cases studies and unique student activities have been added to the revised site. Moreover, the site has been completely redesigned based upon student, professor and practitioner input. “The web enables us to be much more responsive than many other traditional text book publishers. Based on student and professor feedback we are constantly researching, updating and publishing.”
You can visit the new website at

Sunday, April 23, 2006

When Your Child is Missing: A Family Survival Guide.

What do to if your Child is Missing provides parents with the most current information on, and helpful insights into, what families should do when a child is missing. The first edition of this Guide was written in 1998 by parents and family members who have experienced the disappearance of a child. It contains their combined advice concerning what to expect when a child is missing, what needs to be done, and where to go for help. It explains the role that various agencies and organizations play in the search for a missing child and discusses some of the important issues that need to be considered. The Guide is divided into seven chapters, each of which is structured to allow information to be found quickly and easily. Each chapter explains both the short- and long-term issues and contains a checklist and chapter summary for later reference. A list of recommended readings and a list of public and private resources appear at the back of the Guide. This third edition of the Guide was published in 2004.

A copy can be downloaded here.

The Age of the Patrol Vehicle Platform

The mobile office is on its way out. In the near future, the only way to describe a police vehicle will be as a platform. A platform is a combination of technologies with real-world applications. Thinking of your patrol car as a platform gives us a foundation from which to explore your vehicle’s future. It won’t just be your office, it will be another set of senses, operating independent of you, and providing you with real-time information on the world around you. More importantly, the Patrol Vehicle Platform (PVP) will significantly enhance your safety and ability to conduct law enforcement operations.

Very small partners for safety

Nanotechnology is a combination of scientific and engineering advances that allow the design, fabrication and manufacture of products at the molecular level. As this field becomes increasingly more cost-efficient a variety of law enforcement uses will be available. For instance, developments in nanotechnology will change the threat protection level of vehicle ballistic panels and even your personal body armor

Nanotechnology can create material that has the weight of plastic but is more than sixty times stronger than steel. Furthermore, material produced at the molecular level can be given a number of “smart” features. It will be possible to design the outer body of your police vehicle to not only weigh less and provide more protection, but it will be somewhat “smart.” As an example, if a bullet was fired at your police vehicle the nanotechnology would “sense” the impact and be able to react quickly enough to re-arrange itself to maximizes protection and the deflection and energy absorption factors. These developments will also find their way into your soft-body armor. In the future, the way your current body armor distributes the energy from a bullet will be considered “dumb” when compared with the ability of armor produced through nano-manufacturing. Further over the horizon is duty uniforms with protection of today’s ceramic plates.

Heads Up!

Most of the technological advancements in the future will be difficult for the patrol officer to manage with a new way of receiving information. The military solved some of the human problem of receiving, processing and managing information by providing pilots with “Heads Up Display” (HUD) technology. There are a number of police vehicles with rudimentary forms HUD technology being tested. Essentially, a limited amount of information about your vehicle (particularly speed) and some information from your current mobile computer are displayed on the interior of the police vehicle windshield. Typically, this information is being displayed near the top portion of the windshield, in the area that usually has additional tinting.

However, today’s experimental vehicles are very simple versions of tomorrow. By combining a number of technologies, the PVP will have to provide the police officer with additional information about the surroundings such as best travel routes to calls for service and targeting information. Yes, you will some day get targeting information. But, before we explore Offender Targeting Technology (OTT), we have to understand a few more advances and components.

They know where you are

Many agencies have implemented Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) technology. There are basically three types: Independent systems using radio frequency detection and finding, systems based on cellular telephone technology and systems based on Global Positioning Satellites (GPS). The first two are considered “ground based” whereas GPS obviously uses satellites in orbit around the globe. All three systems have their advantages and disadvantages.
However, when GPS is combined with a ground based system it becomes extremely accurate and can provide near real-time information on your vehicle and objects or people around you. Some States are considering a requirement that registered sex offenders wear GPS linked “bracelets.” How long do you think it will be before we consider making those on parole, probation and offenders convicted of certain crimes where a bracelet?

It won’t be very long before a police officer’s PVP will be constantly reporting the officer’s location and monitoring the environment. Probably through a central communications dispatch center, the PVP will be constantly comparing its location against the current, real-time, location of sex offenders, parolees and persons on probation. Like many other computers that monitor problems for people, the PVP will probably have some threshold wherein the officer is notified. For instance, it may be set to notify a nearby patrol vehicle whenever two or more GPS monitored offenders are in close proximity to each other. Or, perhaps, it will alert the police officer whenever a sex offender is near a school.

It may just be an HUD displayed map that shows GPS monitored offenders in the vicinity of your PVP. Furthermore, there will likely be some data threshold that not only reports the location of the offender, but as your PVP moves closer it will decide to give you data on the offender. Perhaps, his or her photograph, trait information and conditions of registration, parole or probation will be displayed. Essentially, the PVP is providing you with targeting information.

Scanning the environment

There are several experiments being conducted on Optical License Plate Reading (OLPR) technology installed in police vehicles. In fact, there are several types of OLPR that are in use for parking and access control. This technology is beginning to be widely used in the private sector. The technology uses Optical Character Recognition technology to scan license plates and then query a database. In the relatively near future, your PVP will also scan your environment and run licenses plates. You won’t realize this is going on until your PVP locates a stolen vehicle and provides you with the targeting information. Of course, your PVP will likely notify your dispatch center and other nearby PVPs that you have a felony situation.

In the more distant future, your PVP will be equipped with Facial Recognition Technology (FRT). There have been a number of experiments by law enforcement with FRT. Indeed, FRT is used regularly by casinos in locating and tracking undesirable patrons. However, there a number of technical challenges to the full information in the field. But, someday, your PVP will scan for GPS signals, license plates and the faces of people you pass. As with OLPR, the scans will be compared against a central database and you will be provided with information concerning wanted persons, or perhaps those on probation who are not required to wear a GPS bracelet. In fact, the FRT technology may alert your PVP that it has just scanned a face that should be wearing GPS technology. Clearly, a lot of information to process, manage and act on.

Up close scanning

There are police department that are experimenting with fingerprint scanning in the field. The police officer carries a very small, hand-held device that is used scan the offenders print, send it to and compare it against a central database. According to a police officer in Ontario, California, where this technology has been used, “The gang members know we have the device and when we put it out they just give up their real name.” Personal scanning devices will create Fourth Amendment and officer safety issues. Whereas scanning a license plate is fairly unobtrusive and the court is likely to hold that routine OLPR is Constitutional, fingerprint scanning requires a detention and the touching of a person. Again, not very intrusive, but if you are going to use the scanner it is probably because the offender does not have proper identification. And, they know if they are wanted and you don’t. Are you going to search them for weapons before you stand within arms length and scan them? Fingerprint scanning is going to require that police officers develop and articulate reasonable suspicion and that they employ certain tactics (like searching) in order to maintain safety.

Watching you, watching them, watching you watching them

Your PVP is going to become more adept and watching you and recording your actions. Currently, digital recording devices record only that information taking place in a set camera frame. As the technology becomes better, small and cheaper, it is likely that your PVP will direct your digital recording system to track the small microphone you are wearing. Indeed, your PVP may have several small cameras. It may track you, continue to watch the offender and of course, scan your environment. As your digital camera gets smarter it is not difficult to envision technology that watches the traffic violators vehicle while you issue the citation. If they get out, it may alert you. Indeed, your PVP may be developed to point wherein certain actions (data thresholds) cause your PVP to call for back-up. For instance, maybe the drawing of your firearm, an increase in your heart rate, or your position (on the ground) may cause your PVP to request back-up.

The mobile office is fading into history. Tomorrow’s police vehicle will be an integration of technologies and databases that work with the police officer. It will be the Patrol Vehicle Platform.

Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA is the author of Police Technology (Prentice Hall, July 2004); and the co-author of Leadership: Texas Hold ‘em Style (Quill Driver Books, September 2006), From NYPD to LAPD: An Introduction to Policing (Prentice Hall, January 2007) and, From Cold War to Flaming Hot War: Homeland Security and the Global War on Terror (Prentice Hall, July 2007). His complete CV can be viewed at Criminal Justice Profiles. Raymond can be reached on the Criminal Justice Online Forum or at

Friday, April 21, 2006

Who has your number?

Information about law enforcement officers readily available Online

The Internet is a double edge sword for law enforcement officials. Public records and commercial information has long been used as an investigatory tool by police officers. But, in the past you had to ferret out the information. Trips to court, county hall of records or to the “backwards book” would give you access to a suspect’s personal information. Now, that information is readily available online. Except, so is information about police officers.
ZABA is a website that acts as a portal to public and commercial databases. By combing the power of the Internet and relational databases ZABA has made a tremendous amount of information freely available. Indeed, the word ZABA is from the Greek word, "tzaba", meaning "free" or "at no cost." A free search will likely provide your home address, telephone number and possibly your date of birth. And, for a small fee someone can obtain extensive information about you.
Click here to find yourself on ZABA
After you visit the site and found out how much information is available about you and your family, come back and look at several steps you can take to limit the amount of information floating on the net about you.

1. Open a post office box. Have as much of your mail as possible directed to the post office box. Be sure you have credit card statements, utility bills and magazine subscriptions come to the box. This is probably the most effective and least expensive long term solution.
2. An unlisted number isn’t an unknown number. It is simply not in directory assistance or in the telephone book. It can be obtained. And, most of the time, you give it out. Especially when you fill out applications, etc. Get a new unlisted number for your home. Obtain caller identification technology and only give the number out to friends and relatives. Consider using a cellular telephone number, with the bill going to your post office box, as a means of controlling
the number of people and organizations who have your telephone number.
3. Do not fill out any form, for any company or organization that does not have a privacy policy. Make sure that they will not sell your information. If they do not have such a policy in place, do business with another firm.
4. You can try to file a written request with information providers, asking that your information be kept private or deleted from their database. Some will comply, many will not.
5. Start a family trust and conduct your business through that trust. If you are in a position to do so, you might also consider a corporation or DBA as a means to control the flow of your personal information.
6. Buy a shredder. Shred all credit card, mortgage reduction, charity solicitation and any mail that has your personal information on it.

Of course, bookmark ZABA. Its not going away and is an excellent resource for conducting investigations!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Management of Dead Bodies After Disasters

Management of Dead Bodies After Disasters: A Field Manual for First Responders

Management of the dead is one of the most difficult aspects of disaster response. It has profound and long-lasting consequences for survivors and communities. Globally, disasters claim thousands of lives each year. However, care of the deceased is often overlooked in disaster planning and the absence of guidance for first responders has recently been highlighted following several large disasters. This Field Manual for First Responders presents simple recommendations for non-specialists to manage the recovery, basic identification, storage and disposal of dead bodies following disasters. It also makes suggestions about providing support to family members and communicating with the public and the media.

This manual will be useful during the immediate response to a disaster and where forensic response is unavailable. Furthermore, it will be useful for those preparing mass fatality disaster plans. The recommendations are relevant for local, regional and national authorities as well as for non-governmental organizations. The principles outlined in this document are being implemented and promoted by a variety of organizations, including the Pan American Health Organization, the World Health Organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

You can download a copy of the manual here.