We leave it to law enforcement officers to safeguard citizens, but what or whom do they rely on for protection? A&S examines how personnel in police stations, court houses and correctional facilities are protected by security electronics.
Security setup at a law enforcement agency often serves a twofold purpose of protecting the staff and monitoring those detained on the premise, relying on systems that capture minute details on screen or provide instant alerts for timely response. To be able to provide credible court evidence, sort out inmate/ officer conflicts or watch for any suspicious activity, law enforcement bodies around the globe are increasingly opting for comprehensive security and safety equipment for day-to-day operations.
Common security devices include analog/network cameras, tape recorders, D/NVRs, matrix switchers, intercoms and biometric readers. “In all buildings, especially law enforcement establishments, overall security and safety are based on people management, site-specific operational regulations, processes thoroughly adapted to individual premises, and strict application of security and safety guidelines in addition to suitable, reliable, secure products,” said Felix Schrimpf, Senior Manager for EMEA Marketing and Sales Support of Intrusion, Fire, Access Control and Integrated Systems, Bosch Security Systems. The key lies in the seamless operation and application of the various functions to aid law enforcement officers in critical situations.
A good starting point is to understand the threat levels and alarm situations as defined by a law enforcement facility, in order to devise a blueprint of equipment layout to support the officers on duty. “The efficiency of a solution is reflected in the timely operation of users, which leads to overall operational savings,” Schrimpf said.
In an environment where polarized groups interact on a daily basis, knowing and controlling the whereabouts of every person on the premise is essential. Access control is, thus, more about limitations rather than unobstructed foot traffic. In high-risk areas such as detention or cell rooms, only one door in the area can be unlocked at any given time. To facilitate such measures, hand geometry readers have been deployed in various cases to be used along with identification cards for added credential verification and security. For maximum security, some buildings have even implemented a complex interlocking solution, where the authorized person can only open one door at a time in a designated area by confirming identity with staff in the monitoring room via video surveillance.
It is equally critical to integrate cameras, intrusion detection and access control points in a way that not a single place is left unattended physically or electronically. Therefore, what equipment to be planted at what strategic locations around the building or area needs to be thoroughly planned out beforehand. Cameras provide constant and consistent monitoring, and every movement is loyally captured and stored for evidentiary purposes when necessary. Inspector Tim Mifflin of the Chatham-Kent Police Service from Ontario, Canada commented that one of the various responsibilities of the police institution is to monitor prisoners for court proceedings and provide reliable and useful video evidence.
Video evidence is not only provided to the district attorney's office as part of an inmate's file, but can be used for liability disputes when physical violence or mistreatment accusations arise, which often lead to time-consuming investigations and costly lawsuits. “We had an inmate claim that an officer used excessive force to confine him,” added Captain David Baisden of Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office. “But when we reviewed the surveillance video, it was clear that the inmate had tried to head butt the officer without provocation. The case was quickly thrown out.”
Delivering consistent and clear footage to officers on duty allows them to determine the level of threat or urgency of any situation, before deciding on the best course of action. “There was a case where an inmate attempted to hang himself while in custody, and the camera system showed that the officers reacted adequately and swiftly as required,” said Don Tennyson, A&E Business Development Manager for Pelco (a Schneider Electric company). It also meant a quicker investigation and evaluation by the supervisor.
Another common installation is a synchronized audio setup for sound evidence. Interrogation rooms on law enforcement premises require this kind of device to help ascertain and provide records for any discussion that takes place between the interrogating officer and the detained. “Typically, when the door is unlocked to enter into an interrogation room, both video and audio recordings begin automatically,” Tennyson said. “Upon conclusion of an interrogation, burning the interview onto a DVD is quite simple — just very few keystrokes on the computer.”
Aside from recording voices as evidence, some users find that hearing an incident complements the video. “Solutions are available for delivering an ‘ear' to work with the already common ‘eye' (camera) in any premise under surveillance,” said James Beldock, International President and Executive VP of Corporate Development for ShotSpotter. Noise in the background, such as loud arguing or gunfire, can be picked up and located on the site map of the monitored premise, and those on duty can be directed to check on the incident, saving time to sift through an overwhelming amount of video data. “For instance, if 100 cameras are installed on a premise but only five guards are in place for every shift, it means that only five monitors are watched at any given time,” Beldock explained. Real-time video and audio monitoring offers the potential to be more efficient and effective.