Making it work

Along the similar thought process of “you can’t please everyone all the time,” one technology may not solve today’s law enforcement officer’s problems all the time. As the days and years change so must products, however new innovations...

According to Verrico, with this process the "forensic camera" was developed within five months - with prototypes already produced.

However that turn-around may be an exception, the goal of the program is to have an 80 percent solution within a 12-month to 15-month time frame, the "short-term." The DHS S&T has six other divisions that work on transitioning the technologies from three years to five years.

The "80 percent solution" refers to if the solution will in fact solve 80 percent (minimum) of the initial problem. In addition, IPTs score ideas to rank priority; on a 5.0 scale work begins on anything receiving a score of 4.2 or higher.

Looking at the acquisition process, Grove explains that the equipment for state and local government has to fall within the grants process; a solution that takes 18 months for the industry to manufacture is almost 36 months before it will be in the hands of a first responder.

"If we're really doing our jobs if we're trying to get that in the hands of where it can do the most good, then we have to try to be as efficient, proficient and as fast as we can at getting these technologies out," he says.


To illustrate

Examples of first responder products going through the research and development process include (among many others) 3D situational/location technology, multiband radio and a newly designed rebreather unit. Under the short-term aspect, the program annually funds 10 to 12 products, as many as 18.

When 3D location/situational awareness technology came to their attention, the program called for any company that could accomplish a determined set of specifications. After multiple testing with law enforcement tactical teams and comparing results to current procedures, none tested met the situational requirements. During testing, the program allowed individual companies to be present and listen to its own product’s evaluations.

“In this particular case we [initially] had vendors saying the technology met the first responder requirements,” adds Vazquez. “It really came down to a misperception, in people not knowing what the first responder requirements were … the problem is that it didn’t work under the operational requirements.”

Recently, after receiving similar feedback from evaluating teams, one manufacturer of vehicle stopping equipment returned its product redesigned to better meet requirements. "They [the working group] wanted it smaller, lighter, to be able to reuse it and cheaper. The company came back to us with a new version that's the size of a soda case, weighs a bit more than a soda case, is reusable, can be maintained in the field, deployed faster and under $1,000," says Vazquez. He adds that the product will be brought to the working group for another evaluation.

In another situation, during the Presidential Inauguration, says Vazquez, law enforcement officers had four to five radios on their duty belt - a substantial and annoying capability gap. In an attempt to avoid this situation, DHS S&T began work on a multiband radio to combine these “five radios” into one.

According to a Directorate’s press release published October 2009, the radio will “work on the five frequency bands currently used by state and local first responders, and, if necessary, can work on four other bands used exclusively by the federal government, the Department of Defense, National Guard and Coast Guard.” It also says that they expect the battery to last “in excess of 10 hours.”

“We needed a radio that was the same size, same basic shape and same weight as current radios that the guys are using now,” says Grove.

“The genesis is the law enforcement officer and us as their intermediary taking a look at the technology and seeing where we can bring the right technology to assist,” adds Vazquez.

Similarly, Grove also heard complaints about large bulky SCBA rebreathers. A group of both law enforcement and fire was gathered to take a look at what was needed. Grove explains that law enforcement said they wanted it to be compatible to existing systems, because they would not be able “go out and buy a whole new system.” But also include some enhancements such as a cheap-to-stock filter capability and a low-profile mask to not impede line of sight.

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