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Public Safety Column

The IPSA's Public Safety Column is an opportunity for our members and corporate sponsors to provide thought leadership articles about all topics facing public safety. 

The articles we publish are not necessarily the views of the IPSA, rather they are opinions shared by each contributor.

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  • 30 May 2017 10:49 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Roger Rodriguez, NYPD-Retired, Vigilant Solutions, Director of Business Development

    Television has created a very unrealistic perception of facial recognition technology that many interpret as reality. Big Brother is watching you with a camera, all crimes are solved in an hour and a satellite camera positioned in the far reaches of outer space can produce an instantaneous facial recognition match. Throw in some special effects and we immediately have someone’s birth certificate, high school graduation photos and know he likes to eat pizza on Thursday nights.

    It’s simply a misrepresentation of a powerful technology that is proven very effective when used properly. Understanding this technology through research, education and communication often sways the misguided perceptions of many. Unfortunately, misperceptions persist, even among those holding leadership positions at the state and national levels of government.

    A report from the Government Accountability Office criticized the FBI’s “facial recognition database” for violating civil liberties and privacy. The GAO fears are really based on misinformation and a misunderstanding of what happens when law enforcement agencies use this technology every day. The report states facial recognition technology raises potential concerns as an effective tool for aiding law enforcement investigations, the protection of privacy, and individual civil liberties.

    As a detective assigned to the New York Police Department’s (NYPD’s) Real Time Crime Center, I considered technology and data two critical components to any investigation. And that experience taught me that facial recognition was simply a technology tool, not an absolute science like DNA, but a biometric technology which could be used to identify unknown suspects and generate leads. Facial recognition technology, in particular is not a smoking gun. It’s only one component in the investigative process that detectives can use to help close cases faster, solve crimes effectively, and ensure public safety.

    Facial recognition explained

    As I go across the country, or travel to various parts of the world discussing facial recognition technology, I have found it mission critical to first ensure that there is a full understanding of what facial recognition is and clearly define what it is not.

    Because of the misguided Hollywood perception that dominates this space, I always remind everyone this is nothing like the movie Minority Report or the TV show CSI. It’s a hands-on process requiring more than just a computer application to find a Possible Match. It still requires a fair amount of good, old fashioned police work.

    It is really about matching photos or sketches of unknown suspects to galleries of known faces in photos, in our case mug shots, to try and find an investigative lead that will enable us to identify a perpetrator in a timely manner. The photos or sketches of suspects are often blurry or grainy, requiring a significant amount of enhancement work to make them usable. It’s not so definitive and greatly lacks the mystic Hollywood makes it out to be.

    Understanding facial recognition versus facial identification

    There are two distinct processes when it comes to using faces for investigations: facial recognition (an automated process) and facial identification.

    Facial recognition is the automated process that enables investigators to compare a probe photo against an entire photo database, and helps reduce thousands of possibilities to dozens, and dozens, to one. Yes, I said one. As a matter of fact, it should always be one single candidate match. Upon search, many candidates are usually returned depending on the parameters set by the user.

    But how does an analyst sift through millions of images and find a face? Apply search filters.

    Most facial recognition applications have filtering capabilities and allow an analyst to constrict searches down to levels of specificity. Once the large mugshot gallery or “haystack of images” is reduced to a few hundred “bundles” of possibilities, analysts must undertake the critical aspect of this process known as facial identification.

    Here, the analyst physically inspects each face in the gallery and looks for physical similarities and differences between the probe and each of the returned candidates. This process allows for higher probabilities of success in locating a possible candidate match that resides in the returned list because the reliance is not left solely on the software. Hoping to find that single “needle,” that one face in the gallery, requires an effort from the analyst to carefully review each face.

    Tedious and time consuming to say the least, but essential to the investigation. This is the differentiator for higher accuracy rates and makes for a credible and successful facial recognition program.

    Implementing this into a facial recognition workflow, makes it easier to obtain one possible candidate match from thousands, or even millions of faces in a gallery.

    Most importantly, it is critical to remember that facial recognition technology can only be used to aid in the investigation. Arrests cannot be made solely based on a facial recognition possible match. The onus still falls on the agency to establish probable cause for an arrest.

    What about the false positives?

    Often, you will hear about the fear of false positives routinely being generated in facial searches. While it may sound interesting and plausible, it is not. If the facial recognition application returns faces that are similar, the agency should implement a process to physically inspect each face in the returned gallery.

    The GAO report states the FBI allows law enforcement agencies to request between two and 50 photos be returned from any NGI-IPS face recognition search. The report further states this is a completely automated process with no human analysis.

    Is the criticism by the GAO justified? Yes. The reason for higher rates of false positives is because there is no physical inspection performed by an analyst. Another reason for high rates of false positives is because the list of candidates set by the FBI is far too low at 50.

    When searching against galleries that are in the millions, many factors prevent algorithms from reading images effectively. More faces mean more similarities to cull through. 

    Image quality 

    If a submitted image is high quality and meets all the necessary requirements of a good probe in pose, lighting, and expression, then a return in a top 50 is likely. But what happens when images are less than ideal by facial recognition standards?

    Lower quality images will never return a top 50 ranking. In order for this to work correctly, the gallery must be smaller and the returned list of candidates should be set higher. I always set my returns between 250 to 500 candidates. 

    When images are less than ideal regarding pose, lighting or another reason the possible candidate most often resides deeper in the returned list. So setting a return at 50 is counter-productive because in a gallery of hundreds, the probe-to-candidate match may be found at rank 51, 150 or 500.

    Every image is different and algorithms read each face uniquely and will interpret results based on the number of faces it is searching against. Because of this, there is a definite need for the analyst to individually examine each face.

    Possible match and next steps

    Once a subject has been identified as a possible match through physical attributes, an immediate background investigation should be performed to validate the candidate as a viable suspect in the investigation.

    After the physical characteristics and background checks match up, a possible match report is provided by the agency to verify the single facial recognition match. A properly constructed possible match report document will clearly state in sum and substance, that probable cause must be established by other means for an arrest.

    No arrest can be made solely because of the facial recognition possible match report.

    Facial recognition simply automates a manual task

    As is the case with most forms of newer technology, facial recognition is not necessarily helping us do something different. It’s simply enabling us to do something better. 

    What was once a manual drawn out process of viewing mugshot images to determine someone’s identity, or conducting neighborhood canvasses by knocking on doors to determine someone’s true identity from a photo, has been streamlined by facial recognition by returning investigative results quicker and more efficiently. 

    We are not re-writing the rules of law enforcement or privacy rights, just generating valuable leads which lead to identifications critical for criminal investigations.

    Don’t view facial recognition as an absolute scientific breakthrough, or a tool infringing on our constitutional right to privacy. Rather, view it as a valuable resource in our lives, as we continue to live within the parameters set forth by our forefathers when they wrote the U.S. Constitution. 

    We now simply have better tools to capture the criminals who are preventing all of us from pursuing life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    About the Author

    Roger Rodriguez joined Vigilant Solutions after serving over twenty years with the NYPD where he spearheaded the NYPD’s first dedicated facial recognition unit and helped start up the Real Time Crime Center. Both are recognized as world models in law enforcement data analytics and facial recognition used in criminal investigations. Today, Roger drives the Facial Recognition, License Plate Reader, and Mobile Companion product lines for Vigilant Solutions as Director of Business Development. As subject matter expert and author, he shares his experiences through thought leadership presentations, media interviews, publications, and hundreds of law enforcement agencies around the world have benefitted from them.

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  • 26 May 2017 8:45 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    As public safety practitioners, we face danger, injury and potentially fatal consequences every day. We pilot our police cars, fire apparatus and ambulances toward chaos and mayhem. 

    In the back of our minds, we offer a little prayer that we will complete our assignment and return safely. Our friends and family know what we do for a living and they offer the same wishes and prayers.

    There is National Police Week, Fallen Firefighters Weekend, National Fallen EMS Responders week and we all pause to remember the fallen in our ranks. But there is another time, when we are obligated to reflect. The unofficial start of Summer - and that is Memorial Day. 

    To many, Memorial Day and the weekend prior, means the beach, the mountains or getting in the RV to anywhere USA. However, Memorial Day remembers and honors the sacrifices our military made, continues to make and potentially will make in the future.

    Whenever someone willingly ventures into harm’s way to sacrifice and protect others, they are worthy of honor and respect. 

    Since the founding of this nation, our military has stood guard, battled tyranny and insured justice for people around the globe, people not of their own country.  

    On this day, the International Public Safety Association recognizes their sense of duty, their courage and their honor.   

    Thank you for your service and stay safe. 

  • 24 May 2017 2:22 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Chief Rob Wylie (ret), BS, EMT-T, EFO

    What is a resilient community? According to the Community & Regional Resilience Institute, resilience is “the ability to anticipate risk, limit impact, and bounce back rapidly through survival, adaptability, evolution, and growth in the face of turbulent change.”

    As a 30-year veteran of the fire and emergency services, the holy grail has always been for me to assist the communities I served to become resilient. This means to prepare for natural disasters such as tornadoes, floods and fire; to have individuals and groups (neighbors) can stand on their own for a period until the fire department can get to them, especially during a disaster.

    To that end, we have spent countless hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars training people in CPR and basic first aid. However, the underlying premise had always been, “We (the fire department) are coming, and when we get there, get out of our way.”

    Response time reality

    The issue with this concept that if someone just calls 911, then a police officer, firefighter or medic will magically appear and solve my problem, is that it really doesn’t work that way.

    During a recent class I taught, attendees were asked, “What do you do in an emergency?” The answer was unanimous – call 911.

    When the same group was asked, “How long do you think it will take a responder to get to you after you call 911?” The most popular answer was five to seven minutes.

    The issue that we overlook is that it takes as little as three minutes to bleed to death from a traumatic injury. It takes time for responders to be notified and to make their way to the scene of the emergency. When someone is dying, time is a matter of life and death.

    While five to seven minutes is certainly an acceptable response time for emergency responders in many communities, in other communities – like Barrow, Alaska, where my colleagues and I recently taught a First CARE Provider class – the response time could be hours or days depending on such variables as weather and distance. The North Slope Fire District is responsible for over 90,000 square miles.

    And while Barrow, Alaska represents an extreme example of prolonged response times for emergency responders, in fact, even in a metro or suburban area response times can vary greatly depending on the scope of a disaster, the number of emergency calls resulting from that disaster and the number of responders available at any given time.

    Statistics revealed

    The International City Managers Association set the acceptable rate of emergency responders at about one responder for every 1000 residents. That translates to very few responders when a major incident like a tornado or a hurricane occurs.

    Hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars are spent training people in CPR, how to use and automatic external defibrillator and basic first aid.

    An American Heart Association report suggests the incidence of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is 326,200 annually. The average survival rate is 10.6 percent and survival with good neurologic function is 8.3 percent.  

    Compare those statistics with those that list trauma as the number one cause of death in people between the ages of 1-45 years of age, with an economic impact annually of 400 billion dollars, of which 20 percent are survivable with proper intervention and you are looking at 30,000 lives saved annually.

    Stop the bleed

    Uncontrolled post-traumatic bleeding is the leading cause of potentially preventable death among trauma patients.

    In fact, if proper interventions are done within the first three to five minutes for such injures as critical bleeding, there is a 90 percent chance that the injured person will survive. With that in mind, we get a much bigger bang for the buck teaching civilians to use tourniquets than we do teaching CPR.

    Before you vehemently disagree with this notion, I fully support teaching CPR. It saves lives. But a broader, more comprehensive approach is needed.

    To build truly resilient communities though, we must first dispel the myth that emergency responders will solve all our problems. We must acknowledge that for the first five to seven minutes in an emergency the true first responders are the people who are present at the time of the incident.

    Teaching those First Care Providers to deal with traumatic injuries such as critical bleeding will save lives and empower those who receive the training to make a difference rather than just calling 911 and hoping help arrives in time. Hope is not a plan.

    I am not advocating that people sitting at home see or hear a story about a bus accident and leap from their chairs to go render aid. I am advocative for teaching the people who may be on that bus sitting next to their child or spouse or friend to act and to save that loved one’s life.

    We, as emergency responders, must get past the idea that we are the only ones who can help in these situations. Civilians with a modest amount of training can make a difference when it comes to traumatic injuries such as critical bleeding (tourniquets and wound packing), airway obstructions (recovery position) and breathing problems resulting from trauma (chest seals).

    Through a series of exercises held during First Care Provider training sessions we have found that average people with as little as a half day of training are almost as effective as trained responders in recognizing critical issues like bleeding, and intervening. See below figure.

    • (Trained) = Civilians who have completed First Care Training
    • (Untrained) = Civilians before any training
    • EMS = Trained EMT’s, Paramedics and RN’s

    Shifting the paradigm

    To be a truly resilient community, we much teach people how to rely on themselves in the first five to seven minutes. Every minute that passes makes a difference between life and death.

    First responders must teach and educate their residents to be force multipliers instead of unlucky bystanders that need to be moved out of the way during an emergency.

    As emergency responders, we must pop the illusion that we will always be there in time to make a difference. We must acknowledge and prepare of citizens for the reality that in a time of a wide spread crisis like an earthquake, a tornado, severe weather or agencies with large areas to cover and not enough resources to cover them all in that five to seven minute window.

    Let’s educate our communities that with a modest amount of training, individuals who are present during a time of crisis can provide meaningful and effective care.

    About the Author

    Robert B. Wylie

    Chief Wylie has been in the fire service for 30 years serving first as a volunteer firefighter and then as a career firefighter, rising through the ranks to become the Fire Chief of the Cottleville FPD in St. Charles County, MO in 2005. He is a graduate of Lindenwood University (84’) The University of Maryland Staff and Command School (96’) and the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program (2000).

    During his tenure, Chief Wylie has served as director of the St. Charles/Warren County Haz Mat Team, and President of the Greater St. Louis Fire Chief’s Assoc. He currently serves as the President of the Professional Fire & Fraud Investigator’s Assoc. Additionally he has been an appointed member of the Governor’s homeland security advisory council, and is a current board member of the State of Missouri’s Fire Education and Safety Commission as well as immediate past Chairman of the St. Louis Area Regional Response System (STARRS). Rob has served as a Tactical Medic/ TEMS Team Leader with the St. Charles Regional SWAT Team for the last 20 years and serves on the Committee for Tactical Casualty Care’s Guidelines

    Chief Wylie will be presenting at our 2018 Conference. 

  • 22 May 2017 1:22 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Donald R. Weaver, Esq.

    Send me another unit
    Requesting backup
    Signal 00
    Roll cover
    Officer needs assistance
    Officer needs help

    Chances are, you have uttered at least one of these phrases before, and you have responded to countless similar requests from others. While the exact terminology or urgency of the requests may vary, at their core, each request communicates the same basic concept: Additional resources are needed (or, I need help).

    Calling for backup is appropriate in many different circumstances. Sometimes we need specially trained personnel or specialized equipment. Sometimes we just need another officer or two and sometimes we might need advice or guidance from someone who is more knowledgeable or experienced. Perhaps we need help this instant (or sooner) or maybe we help nearby just in case. Calling for help is a simple, yet elusive, way to help improve safety and minimize risk in all kinds of situations.

    There are situations where we don’t have time to wait, we don’t have the opportunity to ask for help, or help is simply unavailable. But often we avoid calling for backup even when we can. The idea that we should ask for help when help is available applies well beyond the on-duty uniformed patrol officer. It applies broadly to almost everything we encounter in law enforcement, including when we are acting as supervisors, managers and commanders.

    Most of us want to help. We are eager to lend a hand. We will quite literally drop whatever we are doing and run as fast as we can to get there. Yet many of us remain uncomfortable asking for help or guidance; and some of us flat out refuse to ask, except in the most dire situations.

    Does it really matter? Does our profession actually discourage asking for help? And if so, what can we do improve the situation?

    Does it really matter if we don't ask for help?

    Our failure or refusal to ask for help when help is reasonably available can contribute to us getting hurt or killed. Depending on the situation, not asking for help can also costs us in other ways, including the loss of coveted assignments, court cases, careers, reputations, money and relationships.

    We know that our actions and decisions will be thoroughly examined and evaluated after a tragedy. We try to make well-reasoned decisions that we can effectively explain and defend later—even if things go terribly wrong. One of those decisions is whether to ask for help. 

    As the following scenarios illustrate, whether we ask for help can and does matter very much.

    • Shift changes. When you wake up in the hospital with debilitating injuries to see your spouse and kids sitting nearby, would you be able to convince them that your decision to disregard backup and respond in alone was reasonable because there were several non-emergency calls pending and your backup officer was due off soon? 
    • Deadly force. After you reasonably use deadly force, are you certain that you could effectively explain and defend your decision to stop that felony suspect (who was known to be armed) by yourself instead of waiting for another officer?
    • Personnel concerns. Will your boss be understanding when you are in front of a jury explaining the hasty personnel decision you made on your own about your subordinate’s medical leave, off-duty social media use, pregnancy or disability?
    • Not calling for fire. How forgiving would the public be if, because we “did not want to bother them,” we decided not to call the fire department to the crash scene and it turned out that it was not just steam escaping from that trailer after all? 
    • Not calling the bomb squad. How will the media portray our decision not to call the bomb squad for help with that brown package that we had reason to think was suspicious when it blows up and injures someone?
    • Not engaging SWAT. Could you look a mourning spouse in the eyes and defend your decision not to use the tactical team to serve that warrant at the violent drug dealer’s house because, as you put it to your team of investigators, “We have guns and badges too”?
    • Not calling investigators. How well will you sleep when you realize that the young girl’s only chance at justice is all but gone partly because you thought that you could conduct the sexual abuse investigation just as well as the detective who normally works those cases?
    • Not calling forensics. How forgiving do you expect the victim’s family to be when they realize that the most powerful evidence of the predator’s guilt disappeared because you thought you would check it out yourself before calling the forensic examiner because, after all, you know a thing or two about computers?
    • Not supplementing your reports. How will you feel when you realize the thing that most people will remember about your stellar 25 years of service will be the multi-million-dollar verdict that was returned against the department all because you weren’t sure whether that tidbit of information was important enough to justify a supplemental report and you didn’t think it was necessary to ask anyone?
    • Not recognizing signs of suicide. As you sit at the funeral of your dear friend, will you be certain that you did the right thing by not calling for help when you were concerned she was suicidal?

    Does the law enforcement profession discourage asking for help?

    There are many factors that contribute to this phenomenon. But it appears that the culture of our profession generally discourages officers, managers and commanders from asking for help. 

    On one hand, we want and need officers who are generally self-sufficient. We need people who are willing and able to jump right in the middle of chaos and try to take some degree of control. We require officers to solve problems and to make well-reasoned decisions—sometimes with very little information and time to think. 

    But what about those situations when we have more facts, time to think, time to gather additional information, and the opportunity to call upon additional resources before we act?

    In many departments, police officer job descriptions don’t mention that officers are required to use discernment and to summon additional specialized resources when appropriate. 

    Further, many training evaluations list “trainee relies on others to make decisions” as an example of unacceptable performance. From the very first interactions with our agency and continuing throughout their careers, we seem to be telling officers that calling for backup is not a good thing.

    How to change the culture

    It is not enough to merely tolerate asking for help. We must strive for a culture that actively encourages people to ask for help, whether in the form of backup, specialized resources, advice or sometimes even professional counseling. 

    We must convince each member of our department that we recognize them as imperfect humans, incapable of knowing all or being all, and as we do this we should remember that our actions in dealing with those who make honest mistakes will speak louder than our words.

    As leaders, we will not be able to eliminate the deep-rooted pride that keeps certain officers from asking for help or the deeply held belief that asking for help is a sign of unacceptable weakness. But we can and should do something. 

    We can start by adopting policies that provide guidance on when asking for help is appropriate and even required. We can reinforce these policies by ensuring that our job descriptions, field training reports and performance evaluations reflect this core function. 

    Finally, we should never let a day pass without taking the opportunity to teach our personnel what our policy says, what it means and how to apply it.

    Author bio
    Donald R. Weaver is the Training Director for Lexipol and an attorney who specializes in law enforcement matters, including officer representation, police training and risk management. He spent 13 years as a police officer in Missouri and California and has worked various assignments including patrol, SWAT, overt and covert drug investigations, street crimes, forensic evidence and policy coordinator. 

    Lexipol’s Law Enforcement Policy Manual and Daily Training Bulletin Service provides essential policies that support officer safety, including guidance on situations that may require additional resources or the presence of a supervisor. Contact us today for more information or to request a free demo.

    Lexipol is an IPSA Supporter

  • 22 May 2017 7:59 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Heather R. Cotter, Executive Director

    The International Public Safety Association brings together the entire public safety community – law enforcement, fire, EMS, telecommunications, emergency management and allied emergency responders.

    Given this, we recognize the importance of creating awareness between the different disciplines about events going on that support each service whether it’s National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, National Police Week or EMS Week.

    IPSA and EMS

    The IPSA is a proud sponsor of EMS Week, and we support the EMS profession in many ways. And it starts with our leadership.

    Several of our Board Members are highly trained and respected EMS professionals. We also have several committees that include EMS professionals (and other first responders given our multidiscipline approach to developing policy, research and training), including our Rescue Task Force Committee, Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee, Communications Committee and our Mentoring Committee to name a few. In fact, we have current EMS professionals who serve as Chair our TEMS Committee and our Mentoring Committee.

    Finally, we also support EMS through training and education. Whether this is accomplished via a webinar, an article or at our upcoming conference – we are continually striving to bring relevant and timely information to the EMS profession.

    EMS Week and EMS Strong

    This year, EMS Week is celebrated from May 21 – May 2017. It’s a time to honor these first responders who take care of us when we are often at our worst and unable to do so. Without their care – whether it’s in our home, at our workplace or even care under fire – many of us (or our loved ones) would not be here.

    EMS Strong is a philosophy for EMS professionals to channel to keep them going when times get tough because you know they do and will. The IPSA praises everyone who serves in the EMS profession and truly thanks them for their dedication to the service they provide. Be EMS Strong.

    Getting involved

    Did you know one of our core value’s is to be inclusive of the entire public safety community? We want everyone to join the IPSA – whether you’re in EMS or law enforcement or the private sector.

    We want EMS professionals to write articles for us about leading practices so we can share them with the global public safety community. We want EMS professionals to join a committee to help develop policy that can be used at the local, state, national and international levels. We want EMS professionals to be a future webinar instructor and present lessons learned.

    The IPSA’s mission is to break down cultural barriers and foster relationship between the disciplines because ultimately our vision is for a stronger, more integrated public safety community capable of an effective joint response to all public safety incidents. Get involved. Join today.

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  • 12 May 2017 11:52 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    We are all aware of the large concern administrators face when trying to implement new technology solutions into their organization or agency. Many problems arise such as short on capital, project creeping inevitably ensues, and the technology does not perform as expected.

    Now for the difficult part — finding a vendor who will listen to your needs, understand your project timeline and requirements, while still providing a solution to obtain your desired results, and yet in the end, performs as promised. Some might say that is almost impossible to find, do you find this to be true?

    Implementing the right technology is not always about the “best of breed” but it is always about delivery.

    Everyone has worked with vendors who pursue based on dollars and do not understand the or care to understand your actual needs. There are key differentiators between an integrator and a solutions provider, these levels of support are crucial to successful technology rollouts.

    Characteristics of a good solutions provider

    What do you look for when selecting a vendor? The increased complexity across the technology ecosystem, combined with the continual emergence of new trends and offerings, has made it extremely challenging for most agencies to effectively design and manage their IT systems.

    Finding a partner who will act as a complete solutions provider to listen, design, implement and manage the entire system is a big deal today and more and more agencies are searching for this model. After all, who has the time, resources and patience to manage multiple IT vendors?

    Here are 14 things to consider when searching for your next IT solutions provider:

    1. Look for a company who makes meaningful connections with their customers and has a high level of client referrals.
    2. Companies who invite perspective and innovation — working together to bring the best possible solution to clients no matter what.
    3. A one-stop-shop value proposition: a multi-partner approach with strong product manufacturer relationships and distribution partners to service a global portfolio of IT solutions that make the most sense for your specific IT environment.
    4. Look for an organization who understands complex licensing requirements, who understands how to optimize agency usage and compliance management.
    5. Find a vendor with custom client portals which enhance the user experience, manage customized purchasing, and allow for a view of hardware warranties and software licenses. Furthermore, streamline procurement and processes through a self-service online tool available in the client portal.
    6. Find a partner with scalable service and solutions offerings — select a vendor who helps organizations of all sizes and has well-developed services capabilities focused on managed, technical and professional services that integrate hardware to provide end-to-end solutions to meet your individualized agency needs.
    7. Find a company with strong cash flow with the resources necessary to invest in sales, technology, training, engineering and leadership. By doing so, this vendor will deliver the promised leading edge technology solutions.
    8. Choose a company who is efficient, with high-volume and cost effective direct sales and marketing models to allow for the most competitive prices. By having a choice of multiple partners, you will be provided a variety of product solutions to address your specific department needs.
    9. Look for a company with a vendor-agnostic approach, who will assist you in choosing the best IT systems to meet your needs, not based on what product they are trying to promote or push.
    10. Vendors who currently hold a significant number of cooperative purchasing contracts are a wise choice and offer a variety of viable options.
    11. Choose a partner who begins with either an assessment or planning and design session. Technical specialists and field solution architects are experts in many areas including unified communications, networking, wireless, network and physical security and server/storage solution. Make sure this partner has a trusted team of advisors to protect your investment.
    12. Decide on a partner whose services offerings include assisting agencies with onsite help desk and technical support services. These services will provide skilled, temporary staffing to assist with IT challenges that will arise.
    13. Several engineers and project managers, paired with configuration capabilities, allows a company to handle any rollout project that agencies may have. Choose a company capable of delivering on your investment.
    14. Installation services can include installing and deploying new systems, moving existing equipment, assessing systems and testing installed equipment, and advanced IT support. Staging options are also important, should you need to complete the installation in several rollouts — selecting a company capable of deployment services is a must.

    Bottom line, when you are ready to implement new IT systems into your department, really spend the time to select the proper partner who truly understands your IT ecosystem.

    It is easy to find a reseller who will order boxes of hardware and deliver them to your door. Choosing the right partner not only ensures a successful implementation but a partner who will be present and available for the life of your project.

    Select a company who cares to align a complete consultation to understand your budget, timeline and project details — that is how you achieve a true return on investment.

    Contact one of Group Mobile’s public safety technology experts today to discuss how your IT rollout can be a seamless project from beginning to end.

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  • 27 Apr 2017 4:11 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Shane W. Fitzpatrick, ACP - Tactical, Tactical Emergency Medical Support, Emergency Medical Services, Calgary Metro Alberta Health Services, IPSA TEMS Committee Chair

    The illegal use of fentanyl is quickly becoming a public health crisis in Northern America – specifically Canada and United States. As a paramedic working the front lines on Calgary streets, I am seeing more and more fentanyl overdoses leading to respiratory and cardiac arrest.

    This drug is not only affecting the drug users but poses an exposure risk to first responders. Public safety workers need to be educated and protected by protocols and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

    Fentanyl powder is being shipped into Canada from China where it is manufactured. Due to the high potency of fentanyl and the ability for criminal drug producers to cut fentanyl powder into drugs like cocaine, heroin and oxycontin it is impossible to know how much is being added to the products. This may result in an increased risk of overdose especially in individuals who take them unknowingly or pose a dangerous exposure risk to first responders who come in contact with fentanyl accidentally.

    Alberta Fentanyl Statistics

    Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in Alberta responded to 2,267 opioid related events in 2016. The Alberta government states that 343 people died of apparent drug overdoses related to fentanyl last year, up from 257 in 2015. Calgary has consistently seen more deaths than any other health region. Since January 1, 2014 a total of 717 Albertans died from fentanyl overdoses. That’s an average of 60 deaths per quarter.

    The Risk To First Responders

    Fentanyl and its analogues may pose a risk to the public safety workers who may unknowingly come in contact with the drugs or individuals who are taking these drugs. EMS, fire and police responding to fentanyl related calls such as overdoses, warrant executions, or white powder calls are all at risk of being fatally exposed to fentanyl through inhalation, ingestion, skin or eye contact.

    First responders may also be confronted with violent behavior from the patient after naloxone is given.

    Safety measures need to be in place to protect the public safety community. Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) and protocols need to include education of the risks involved with the different forms of fentanyl, methods of exposure, proper PPE and appropriate decontamination.

    How is the Public Safety Community Responding to this Crisis?

    EMS has been using Naloxone to reverse the effects of narcotics on patients for several years. Police and fire departments are now being provided with training on how to use nasal naloxone kits on patients that have overdosed on fentanyl related drugs when arriving first on scene. They are also carrying the nasal naloxone kits for their own personal safety and can administer the antidote to a colleague if they become exposed to fentanyl. Nasal naloxone allows a simple route of administration and does not require the use of needles or syringes. They eliminate the potential of accidental exposure by contaminated needles. Since it is not always possible to know the presence of fentanyl or its analogues prior to responding to emergencies, it is crucial that all first responders conduct an assessment of the situation and don the appropriate PPE.

    Fentanyl in the Tactical Environment

    The Calgary Tactical Emergency Medical Support (TEMS) Unit has been working with the Calgary Police Service (CPS) Tactical Unit and K9 Unit to develop an SOP for all fentanyl related calls.

    The SOP discusses different scenarios where fentanyl exposure may occur including but not limited to CDSA fentanyl warrants, fentanyl buy busts and trafficking, and fentanyl production through labs or pill press operations. The SOP explains the proper PPE required for the different threats of exposure. It lists the signs and symptoms of a fentanyl exposure and the appropriate treatments and decontamination procedures for each scenario.

    Based on the intelligence collected prior to a Tactical Operation the strategic tactics may have t be altered to prevent increasing the risk of an exposure. For example if there is intel that fentanyl powder exists in the basement of a house that the Tactical Unit is going to conduct a no knock warrant on, then they may not want to use distraction devices (i.e flash bangs) that may disrupt the powder making it airborne and increasing the inhalation and skin contact exposure risk.

    The public safety community needs to be educated on the risks of fentanyl exposure and must take the appropriate safety measures to protect the workers. Here are some educational websites that discuss how to mitigate the risk of fentanyl exposure.

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  • 25 Apr 2017 2:41 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Tom Joyce, NYPD Retired Lieutenant Commander of Detectives, Vigilant Solutions VP of Business Development

    Most conversations about License Plate Recognition technology inevitably focus on the camera. Maybe that’s because the cameras can easily be seen and touched. But, the real power is in the LPR data gathered from the cameras. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. It’s all about the data – especially when it comes to law enforcement investigations. Cameras capture data and data helps solve crimes.

    The LPR camera serves a dual, targeted purpose: to capture anonymous, publicly available license plate data and to send alerts to a police car. But, it is what goes on behind the scenes, after the data is captured, that makes LPR such a valuable tool for law enforcement. When the data evolves into more than just data – when it becomes vehicle location intelligence – that’s when it becomes a force multiplier for law enforcement in three specific ways (1) analytics; (2) prediction and (3) real-time alerts.

    Vehicle location intelligence is a proven game changer that helps law enforcement develop leads, solve crimes and stay safe on the job. Let’s explore these three items further.

    1. Analytics

    How does analytics power the data? It does this through robust analytic capabilities that enable law enforcement agencies to develop leads and solve crimes quicker and more efficiently. 

    In a matter of minutes, one officer sitting at his or her desk can identify a potential lead in a pattern or serial crime simply by analyzing historical data to develop vehicle location intelligence. Here’s how - data filters like year, make, model, time, date and location enable officers to rapidly verify which license plates were scanned in the area around a set of crime scenes. The key here is that officers are receiving more than a data dump of scans from a camera, they are getting actionable, workable intelligence. From here, a common plate analysis can help identify a plate common to multiple crime scenes.

    2. Prediction

    In law enforcement, knowing is better than guessing. Once a plate, or vehicle of interest is identified, the same historical data can help investigators predict where that vehicle can be found. By reviewing previous scans and scoring methodology, investigators can identify a set of locations where the vehicle is most likely to be, and even give investigators the location type (e.g. residences or businesses).

    Then, investigators can compare how many times a vehicle has been “seen” versus the number of times an LPR unit scanned at that location for a percentage seen; essentially reporting a canvas “seen” rate. Again, this is developing further vehicle location intelligence for investigators, while maximizing resources. 

    All thanks to the power of the data.

    3. Real-Time Alerts 

    Officers’ situational awareness is improved through real-time alerts. Let’s explore a hypothetical investigation. Investigators identified a vehicle and the locations where the vehicle is most likely to be found. Investigators now have sufficient reason to add the license plate to a hotlist of vehicles of interest.

    Because of this intelligence, the investigators send officers to the suspect’s likely residence and place of work; however, the vehicle isn’t there, but the officers are posted to wait for its return.

    At the same time, a patrol officer across town (or even an officer across the state), receives a real-time alert as they pass the vehicle of interest on a hotlist at a shopping mall. 

    With permissible purpose to access DMV records and determine the owner of the vehicle under the Driver Privacy Protection Act, the officer is able to determine the driver has a history of violence and aggression. This real-time data leads to a call for backup. The officers apprehend the person of interest without incident and turn the suspect over to the investigators.

    Because of data, all vehicle location intelligence in the scenario I described above – from identification, to location prediction, to real-time situational intelligence for officers – is possible.  

    Agencies that understand the investigative power of vehicle location intelligence are generating more leads, solving more crimes, apprehending more violent offenders, enhancing officer safety and better protecting the communities they serve. 

    In the end, that’s what it’s all about.

    Author Bio

    Tom Joyce is a retired member of the NYPD in the rank of Lieutenant Commander of Detectives. He commanded the NYPD Cold Case Squad upon his retirement and additionally held many other roles within the detective and organized crime bureaus. Prior to working with Vigilant Solutions, Tom was the Director of Law Enforcement Market Planning for LexisNexis Government Services. Tom often lectures on various subject matters relating to Homicide Investigations and has published numerous articles on criminal investigations. Tom is currently a member of the International Homicide Investigators Association’s Advisory Board.

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  • 24 Apr 2017 4:19 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By George Steiner, Firefighter/ Paramedic/ Police Officer, City of Elgin (Illinois)

    Smart or automated homes is a trending technology that is rapidly advancing. It seems that every time you turn on the TV, you see an ad to buy one.  

    Smart homes give homeowners the ability to monitor the wellbeing of their homes remotely with a touch of a finger on their cell phones, tablet or computer. Individuals can lock or unlock a door, observe their security cameras, monitor alarm systems, adjust thermostats, turn on or off lighting. Essentially, they can control almost every aspect of their home life as long as it’s electronic.

    But, is a smart home really safe? From cybersecurity concerns to fire hazards – is it smart to use this type of technology for your home?

    Just like everything there are pros and cons. This article will shed light on some of the benefits that smart homes provide, could potentially provide and discuss some of the concerns. 

    There are myriad benefits and conveniences to this technology for the homeowner – and for public safety.

    Reducing false alarms

    Once a detector or the system is activated, it notifies the homeowner immediately. This can let the homeowner check out the alarm and possibly cancel a false alarm before the fire or police department is notified or while they’re en route. This could help reduce the number of false calls that both police and fire departments respond to which save the individual and the departments time and money.

    Detecting smoke, CO and heat

    Smart detectors can be packed with many options besides alerting your smart phone and monitoring for smoke and heat. They can sample air quality for dangerous carbon monoxide (CO) levels, can automatically shut down your HVAC system once the detector or system is tripped, and there’s also the possibility of adding a video camera to the detector or area. If a detector keeps malfunctioning or false alarming, there might be an option to change the settings of that specific detector.


    If homeowners forget to or are unsure if they shut off the stove, coffee maker or other appliance, they could check that appliance’s status and shut it off before it becomes problematic. Smart appliances or smart outlets can shut down if they get surged, overloaded, or heated up, thus stopping more damage or fire. This also notifies the homeowner that there is a problem.

    Real-time video

    Real-time video can offer a lot of advantages for the homeowner and possibly for fire responders. The homeowner can observe what’s going on inside the home from a safe location. They can see if there is a fire and the possible location of that fire.

    In a perfect world

    What if first responders could use this technology to monitor fire safety conditions or home invasion throughout the house?

    Regarding real time video, it would be nice if responding firefighters or police officers could also tap into the video system to get a look inside before entering. This would be especially helpful in wellbeing checks. They could possibly get a view inside the house to see if anyone is in the home before forcing entry and causing unnecessary damage.

    The real-time video could also let firefighters see where the fire has been and where it’s at, helping get water on the fire faster. Fire investigators could use saved video to assist them to determine the origin and cause of a fire. Video and other important information can be saved remotely in cloud storage rather than being saved in your home on a physical storage device, which can be damaged.

    Finally, smart home technology could also benefit police officers and firefighters by giving them real time information that can help determine their incident action plan.

    Privacy, connectivity and cybersecurity

    On the other hand, allowing the fire or police departments access to your smart home’s video system brings up the potential invasion of privacy.

    If you allow departments to access your system during an emergency, could they gain access anytime? Other questions arise as well.  Who has access, what can they watch and when, what kind of information can they collect on the homeowner and what could the information they obtained outside the intended purpose be used for?

    Smart homes require Internet access and electricity or an alternative power source. If you lose power, the Internet’s service goes down and you don’t have backup capabilities, your system will not work, leaving you unprotected.

    And since the system is tied into the Internet there is always the possibility of being hacked, which can create its own set of problems. There are numerous cybersecurity concerns for homeowners to consider.

    Despite the few potential downsides, the technology being used in smart homes will certainly aid in fire safety and overall home safety because it allows homeowners to monitor their homes and adjust as needed.

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  • 20 Apr 2017 2:46 PM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

    By Stephanie Erb

    The #IAM911 movement brought Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to light in telecommunications. Call takers never know what type of call they are about to answer – and when they hang up the phone, no matter what kind of call they just took, they have to quickly adjust their mindset and prepare for the next incoming call. This all happens in a matter of seconds.

    Listening through violent acts

    I received a 911 call and listened to a child scream in pain as he was burned by flames while his drunk father yelled at him.


    After help arrived, I hung up and took the next call about someone who locked their keys in their car. The immediate shift in mindset is challenging, but a necessary part of the job. 

    All the different voices

    Telecommunicators do not get to go to the scene and see these voices we hear. Some voices become so familiar that the caller's name, address and often date of birth, are singed into our memory. Some voices have obvious fear. Some have the sound of desperation and helplessness. Some have hatred.

    The 911 calls we answer are sometimes quickly disconnected, and we never get to see what sounds like screams of sheer terror was actually a small child crying from a bump to the knee.

    When officers are on a call and not answering their radio, we do not  get to observe their status in the field – we just have to wait and wonder. It’s possible, and probable, that the officer doesn't hear us because he or she was playing catch with the neighborhood kids or talking with a member of the community.

    Recognizing 911 call takers/dispatchers as first responders

    Because telecommunicators are unseen by those we help, we are rarely thanked for the service we provide. Although we are the first line in public safety, we are usually the last one people think of when the term public service is discussed or used.

    Many people assume that all 911 call takers/dispatchers want to be cops or firefighters. But that’s not the case for the telecommunications profession. Most 911 call takers/dispatchers are proud of their role in public safety and do not desire to switch public safety professions.


    PTSD and everyday job stress runs rampant through the telecommunications profession. It’s important for agencies and the communications centers’ teams to establish a routine check-in – especially after a rough call. 

    Make sure to offer to listen while they go get some fresh air or while they call their family. More importantly, don’t ignore it. Acknowledge the call and assist with recovery.

    Author Bio

    Stephanie Erb is an IPSA Member and on the Peer Review Committee for the IPSA Journal. She is happily married to her Police Sergeant husband for 8 years. They have two dogs that are spoiled more than most kids. Stephanie was a police officer for 9 years until a back injury ended her career in policing. She switched to the other side of the radio as a dispatcher. She now does policy development along with handling her police department’s training and accreditation and continues to dispatch part time. Having the grand slam experience as an officer, dispatcher, and wife to an officer Stephanie brings a unique perspective to this crazy weird public safety world we live in and love. 

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