Mountain View, Calif. Police Department (MVPD) became the first law enforcement
organization in the San Francisco Bay Area to trial a high-accuracy blueforce
MVPD is no stranger to deploying technology to enhance its crime-fighting
efforts, since it’s in Google’s hometown in the heart of Silicon
Valley. However, the use of blueforce tracking to monitor officer
movements breaks new ground, and is a strong indicator of where law enforcement
in the U.S. and other countries will be headed in the next few years.
Adapting Technology to Protect Officers
departments have long used wireless location technology—usually GPS—to locate
and track criminals and suspects. More recently, they have turned the tables
and deployed high-accuracy, software-based wireless location to
have grown ever more brazen in their use of technology to thwart law
enforcement, so it only makes sense for the police departments to track
officers to more effectively direct them where they are needed, ensure their
safety, and gain efficiencies.
are some drawbacks, such as officer privacy, but they are easily mitigated by
technical and administrative safeguards. Blueforce tracking with high-accuracy
wireless location represents the future of law enforcement.
cars are equipped with tracking devices but once the officer leaves the vehicle
(for example, when pursuing a suspect on foot or if undercover), he cannot be
located or tracked. The only way to reach him is by using a traditional two-way
radio. The two-way radio does not provide geo-location and is an obvious
giveaway that an officer is in the area. Also, not all officers carry a two-way
radio on them at all times.
tracking is also becoming more prominent as local police departments struggle
with significant personnel cuts brought on by budget pressures. By making do
with fewer officers, department heads are seeking ways in which technology can
fill the gap. Blueforce tracking using high-accuracy wireless location offers
is efficiency. Blueforce tracking provides a solution to monitor officers and
better allocate resources to meet the needs of the community, for example,
during events such as Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
is officer safety. Fewer officers means it is vital to know where the closest
backup is to respond to officers in need. High-accuracy wireless location
enables authorities to locate and track suspects and officers simultaneously,
preventing ambushes and ensuring adequate response force.
economy has forced reductions in training, safety equipment and personnel at
law enforcement agencies across America,”
stated NLEOMF Chairman Craig W. Floyd. “These budget cuts have put our officers
at greater risk…” Blueforce tracking ensures dispatchers have the visibility
that is needed to protect officers.
better intelligence. Blueforce tracking provides data to build prosecutors’
cases. Police departments can prove where officers were at the time of an
incident, helping re-create crime scenarios and convincing jurors that their
version of a case is the correct one.
The Advantages of RFPM
police departments have relied on GPS devices to track criminals, but this only
works if: a) the suspect is in possession of a GPS-enabled phone, b) that he
has not disabled the GPS chip inside the phone, and c) that he is not indoors
where it is near-impossible for GPS satellites to obtain a location fix. If any
of those conditions are not met, then the requested location information is not
useful. Likewise, Blueforce tracking using GPS is less than reliable.
standards-based alternative location method is Radio Frequency Pattern Matching
(RFPM). This network-based positioning
method uses an officer device’s own radio signals to identify his location,
eliminating any dependency on satellites or other network hardware. RFPM is
able to locate officers across any air interface and in any environment,
eliminating limitations related to the device type or network technology.
works extremely well in non line-of-sight conditions such as dense urban and
indoor environments and cannot be disabled by the officer (or an attacking
criminal), unlike GPS, making it highly reliable for mission-critical law
the location technology cannot be disabled, the question of officer privacy
arises. In some cases, an officer may not want to have his movements tracked. A
useful compromise is for officers to “opt-in” first as a part of their
employment agreement. The tracking can also be limited to coincide with the
officer’s shift, thus helping to overcome any privacy issues and enforce
Mountain View Looks Toward the Future
PolarisWireless partnered with the Mountain View, Calif. Police Department (MVPD) to
pilot the company’s Altus Blueforce tracking application to augment police safety
measures at a recent area concert. Altus was used to locate and track over 20
uniformed and plain-clothes police officers during the two-day concert, during
which the MVPD conducted approximately 100 arrests.
this pilot deployment, some officers were equipped with department-provided
mobile phones, which were monitored using Polaris Wireless Altus from a command
post set up in the event grounds.
tracking provides police departments and other law enforcement organizations
with the ability to track police and other field officers (such as firefighters
and emergency medical services [EMS] technicians), specifically when they are
out of reach of their patrol vehicles, which typically contain separate
location and tracking capabilities.
Francisco-based Locaid, the world’s largest LaaS (Location-as-a-Service)
company, provided the officers’ location information, which was then displayed
on the Altus tracking application. As a
result, MVPD commanders were able to track officers’ movements during the
concert. Altus provides a more efficient and less obvious way of tracking an
officer’s location than traditional two-way radio and verbal alerts.
MVPD sees many applications for this useful technology. According to MVPD’s Lt.
Chris Hsiung, “One of the use cases would be if an officer got in a pursuit and
then got in a foot pursuit…this technology would theoretically let us track
where that officer was going.” Blueforce tracking fills a gap where current
officer tracking methods fall short.
Hsiung, “Anytime you have a visual representation of where your resources are
deployed, it’s much easier to see where they are at and to redeploy them if
needed…currently, we basically go off experience when officers say they are at
successfully trialed the technology, and overcome any privacy objections by
having officers opt-in on department-provided Smartphones, the MVPD is looking
ahead to maintaining its reputation as one of the most technologically advanced
small police departments in the country.
possibility is to combine officer tracking with suspect surveillance to ensure
that investigations are successful and police operations are as safe as
possible. “The power of the [Blueforce] application to locate officers via
mobile devices presents us with many exciting opportunities.”
Bhavin Shah is the Vice President of
Marketing and Business Development for Polaris Wireless.