President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation in 1962 designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as National Police Week. It is an opportunity to recognize the women and men who are out there on the streets safeguarding American lives every day of the year. We honor their bravery and sacrifice and we are grateful for their service—especially as they face the added danger of potential exposure to COVID-19 during this pandemic.
A key way the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) shows its support is through the research and development of knowledge products and devices that make law enforcement jobs safer, easier, or more effective. We know where to concentrate our efforts thanks to collaboration with stakeholders like our First Responder Resource Group. These are actual first responders, including many from law enforcement, who regularly meet with S&T to discuss capability gaps and requirements; determine technology priorities for the coming year; and discuss progress on current S&T research and development efforts. Their input is invaluable.
Let’s now take a look at some of our recent work that helps police officers so they can help all of us.
The First Responder Robotic Operations System Test (FRROST) program assesses commercially available small unmanned aircraft systems, commonly referred to as drones. The unbiased reports produced by FRROST help emergency responders make procurement decisions. Not only are drones incredibly helpful during emergencies such as natural disasters, but law enforcement is finding more and more applications for the technology, including searching for missing persons and pursuing armed suspects. FRROST uses methods developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to test various drone models and evaluate how the technology stands up in the field.
The DHS Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC) provides career-long training to law enforcement professionals to help them fulfill their responsibilities. FLETC helps officers enhance proficiency in areas such as firearms, driving, tactics, investigations, and legal matters. Training is provided to state, local, and tribal departments throughout the United States and the curriculum is constantly evolving to focus on emerging threats. In fact, S&T just helped FLETC assess a new operations driving skills course earlier this year aimed at addressing a major issue police officers face: vehicle-related collisions while traveling to the scene of an incident. These tragedies are one of the leading causes of death for law enforcement officers.
The Electronic Recovery and Access to Data (ERAD) Prepaid Card Reader has been a game changer. It allows officers to quickly investigate suspicious magnetic-striped cards such as credit and debit cards, retail gift cards, or even hotel keys that could be loaded with illegal funds. Work that would have previously taken months now takes minutes. Used by state and local law enforcement in 48 states, as well as federal and international agencies, ERAD has been instrumental in the recovery of millions of fraudulently-obtained dollars.
Many aspects of response have moved into the digital realm, with incredible results. 3D-Hawk technology is a prime example. This Crime Scene Mapping Tool turns incident scenes into virtual, interactive 3D models in minutes. Using high-definition video footage, 3D-Hawk helps move the investigation from the incident scene back to the police station sooner. This speeds up the process of documenting evidence, allows public spaces to resume normal activity, and creates an exact replica of the scene for investigators to build a case and verify witness testimony.
There are also exciting new projects coming down the pike that will further support law enforcement efforts, including outdoor gunshot detection. This S&T-sponsored innovation will give our nation's police the ability to protect high-threat areas with fast, reliable gunshot detection. The simple-to-use system will leverage infrared and acoustic technologies previously developed for indoor use. The resulting capability will be designed for hasty setup and tear down, providing law enforcement agencies with the mobility they need, as well as the highest detection and lowest false alert rates available.
Another effort just kicking off is “Hands-Free-Presence-of-Life through Walls” technology. This system will increase situational awareness, effectiveness, and safety as responders enter potentially dangerous situations filled with unknowns. The desired prototype will operate hands-free and be able to detect a person, or people, behind a wall. In addition to allowing the operator to select overt or covert alerting methods, it will be able to wirelessly share and keep records of the data collected.
These are just some examples of S&T innovation helping support police. We are constantly looking for ways to assist first responders through cutting-edge scientific solutions. Knowing that our efforts are directly helping law enforcement officers makes me incredibly proud. Our nation’s police forces serve with courage, dedication, and strength. They fearlessly enforce our laws, even at the risk of personal peril. We owe them, and their families, our full and enduring support.