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Video conferencing and collaboration tools for law enforcers

October 7, 2011 | Hogan Keyser
Using everything from sophisticated TelePresence solutions to simple online meetings, police can achieve improved effectiveness and arrest rates

October 06, 2011 by Doug Wyllie via - It's long been said that "a picture is worth a thousand words," but what does that say about video? In essence, video is basically dozens of pictures per second, often accompanied by sound. Altogether too often in law enforcement, we think about video from the standpoint of after-the-fact usage, not live, real-time video streamed over the Internet. We think of video used in training like that which you'll see during a Street Survival Seminar, or as evidence presented at trail. We think also of citizen-shot footage that ends up on YouTube. We rarely contemplate the potential upside that live video conferencing and collaboration has for law enforcers.

A month or so ago, I wrote a PoliceOne column about the Cisco Network Emergency Response Vehicle (NERV), a rapidly-deployable mobile command and communications resource for public safety personnel in mass-casualty and mass-emergency situations. In essence, the NERV helps first responders from all disciplines to establish real-time communications in mass-casualty and mass-emergency situations. Those interoperable communications capabilities run the gamut from LMR (Land Mobile Radios), to P25 (Project 25) radios, to 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) mobile devices, as well as POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) lines. Importantly for this discussion, I had mentioned that the NERV also has TelePresence (live video conferencing) and IP telephony on-board, giving emergency managers and on-site responders significantly enhanced situational awareness.

I recently caught up with Bob Stanberry, who leads Cisco's public safety team, to talk further about video conferencing and as it relates to increasing situational awareness for police officers. Why did I choose to talk with Stanberry? Well, primarily because he is a former chief of police who has more than 15 years experience in law enforcement, justice, safety, and security in both the public and private sectors. Secondarily, because of his knowledge and expertise about the variety of video conferencing solutions out there I knew I could get a complete picture of what law enforcement agencies are doing with this technology, not just with mass-casualty and mass-emergency situations, but also day-to-day police work.

Cop_and_Computer.jpgBetter-Informed Deployment Decisions
"I think overall what you're talking about from a video standpoint is the situational awareness for public safety," Stanberry told me. "The key thing to understand is that by utilizing video technology in an array of different ways, officers and agencies are getting better situation awareness. This then gives everybody the right information, getting the right information to the right people at the right time to make the right decision."

For example, some call centers are now adding the capability to monitor live video feed over an IP (Internet Protocol) backbone. We're not talking about adding dozens of video screens being constantly monitored by people -- there are plenty of other screens for call takers and dispatchers to monitor already. We're talking about video that is analyzed by software programs to find "discrepancies" and "inconsistencies" and "anomalies" that could be investigated further.

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