New technology is making it easier to patrol without a cruiser. From wireless communications integrated with audio/video equipment, to body-worn cameras, to fabrics that offer protection from the elements and weapons, six new offerings stand to make bicycle and foot beats safer and more cost-effective.
Wireless a/v recording
The Seattle Police Department made headlines last year when it put a limited number of wearable wireless video cameras on patrol officers. Although the department has curtailed testing — the Seattle Police Officers' Guild objected to not having approved the testing — the cameras' maker, Seattle-based VIEVU LLC, continues to sell to both U.S.-based and foreign police departments.
The patent-pending PVR-LE 2 improves on the original PVR-LE by providing enhanced low light capability and image quality. The camera lens itself has a 71-degree field of view. Four gigabytes (GB) of memory allow for up to four hours of audio/video recording time at 30 frames per second; video resolution is color VGA 640x480. The bright green coloration around the lens tells subjects they're being recorded, and when the camera isn't in use a black lens cover conceals the green.
Weighing in at three and a half ounces and sized about the same as a pager, the lightweight PVR-LE 2 neither interferes with other electronics nor other body-worn tools. It secures to windshields or an officer's uniform, and is built to withstand physical confrontations. In addition, its ruggedized case meets IPX 5 waterproofing standards.
VIEVU's cameras don't only record incidents for internal use, however. The companion VERIPATROL software (compatible with Windows 2000, XP and Vista) also authenticates video evidence for use in court. A chain of evidence log tracks who accesses the video and what they do with it, while the camera case itself is tamperproof. Officers cannot access much less edit the video; only department-assigned software administrators can do that.
"If a copy is needed for court, the administrator can copy a video file to a disk," says VIEVU Marketing Director Heidi Traverso. "Any and all actions taken on a video file are updated in the [software's] master log, [which] shows who accessed the file and what they did with it." And, if for some reason anyone outside of the agency obtains the camera, she adds, "The video files cannot be viewed or downloaded."
Digital Ally, based in Overland Park (Kansas), also offers products that benefit foot or bike patrol officers: Its FirstVu body-worn camera and the DVM-750 in-car system record officers' actions even when they are out of cruiser range.
The DVM-750 replaces a cruiser's factory-installed rearview mirror. Its ultra-bright and sunlight-visible screen is invisible when not in use. The tiny camera mounts beside the mirror and features high resolution D1 (720x480) video with h.264 codec, an improved version of MPEG 4. It records to an 8GB solid state memory card or larger.
The DVM-750 records audio to on-board memory — even when the officer-worn wireless VoiceVault microphone is out of camera range. "The VoiceVault has a built-in digital audio recorder," says Ken McCoy, Digital Ally's vice president of sales and marketing, "so if the transmitter goes out of range, [VoiceVault] automatically senses this and starts recording, storing it on the digital voice recorder." The wearer can be up to one mile away, or even in a building.
Meanwhile, the FirstVu single wireless unit that attaches to an officer's uniform, has many of the same features as the DVM series. It comes standard with a 2GB solid state memory card, and its lithium polymer battery enables up to five hours of hi-res video recording. In "covert" mode, FirstVu vibrates rather than using LED indicator lights, and can switch from LED to infrared illumination.
Digital Ally's video systems are bundled with VideoManager II software to allow for playback on any computer. Reviewers can search, retrieve and annotate video frames. And, because GPS is integrated with both systems (including the microphones), it's possible to mark events with exact geographical coordinates.
Marquette (Michigan)-based V.I.O. Inc.'s wearable video system, the POV.T, is made to withstand harsh weather and shock. Combining the 3-ounce POV.1 camera with a 110-degree field of view via wide-angle lens, the POV.T comes standard with an 8GB memory card and is compatible with 8GB SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity). Users can tag and save video segments via "LOOP" mode, or record continuously via "CLIP" mode, and choose among resolutions and frame rates.
Setting V.I.O. Systems apart are its modular mounts that allow secure mounting even to high-impact equipment like bicycles. The Special Unit Public Safety (SUPS) package lets users wear the camera in a number of specific tactical applications like search and rescue, while the PSAGT-MICH-PROTEC (PMP) package is intended for patrol and traffic officers.
Other mounts allow for use on smooth and vented helmets, ballistic shields, guns, robots, handlebars, rollbars, goggle bands and head straps, as well as any part of a wearer's uniform: External body armor, duty belt or hazmat gear.
Eagleville, Pennsylvania-based Streamlight's Strion LED flashlight was available as of April 1. Ideal for bicycle and foot patrol officers because of its light weight (5.22 ounces) and bright C4 LED technology, the Strion rechargeable light boasts a variety of features. Three light intensity modes and a strobe function prove valuable for traffic control or disorienting suspects.
Strion's main feature is its power LED, outputting 160 lumens on a high setting, 80 lumens on medium and 40 lumens on low. Intensity is electronically regulated via microprocessors. On a single charge, the light will last for two hours on high, seven and a half hours on low and five and a half hours on strobe. The LED has a 50,000-hour lifetime, and its lithium ion battery can be recharged up to 500 times in any existing Strion charger.
The IPX 4 water resistant light is impervious to shock thanks to its 6000 series machined aircraft aluminum with anodized finish. The lens is also protected from the LED's strength by borofloat high temperature glass.
The 5.9-inch Strion can be carried on its own or mounted to long guns. Its tactical tail button switch allows officers to switch among modes with one hand; the tail cap rotates to a "Safe" position so that the light will not go on at random.
The science behind 5.11 Tactical's (Modesto, Calif.) one-pound Light for Life UC3.400 rechargeable, battery-free LED flashlight, was first developed by Flashpoint Power Technology for the hybrid car market. Now small enough to be incorporated into a handheld flashlight, the light allows for recharge in 90 seconds, with one charge lasting up to two hours. It boasts a long life, too: Its internal components are rated for a 50,000+ charge/discharge cycle — or 135+ years — life if used and recharged once a day.
How is this possible? Flashpoint Power Technology uses carbon/aluminum ultracapacitors which, in concert with computer circuitry, manage and optimize energy load and dispersion. The ultracapacitors need no chemical reaction to charge, as batteries do; they are also not affected by extreme temperature and are rated to operate between 4 degrees and 104 degrees Farenheit. This renders them able to hold a full charge even after first use.
At 50,000 hours of run time the light's LEDs never need replacing. In peak mode they produce 270 lumens; in standard mode, 90 lumens. A tactical strobe is included as well. Impact-, abrasion-, and water-resistant polymer makes up the flashlight's exterior.
The flashlight comes with a 12V DC car charger, as well as a mounting plate and a belt ring. Other accessories include lens filters, flare cones and an AC adapter.
Hi-Tec Sports, the United Kingdom-based sister company of global safety and uniform footwear company Magnum Boots, has introduced nanotechnology to several boot products in its line — footwear with Ion-Mask treatment repels water entirely.
Ion-Mask protection begins after manufacturing. Inside a vacuum chamber, boots are first pretreated with plasma that activates the leather or other fibrous surface. A monomer fluorocarbon repellent is then introduced to the chamber. It bonds to the boot's surface by penetrating each fiber. Finally, a polymer one thousand times thinner than a human hair is applied to finish and enhances the water-repellent bond.
Of particular interest is the Magnum Elite Force 8.0 WPi boot. "[This] new style for 2009 targets all facets of law enforcement, from street to undercover and [everything] in between," says Dayna Panales, Magnum's public relations manager. "These boots are built for comfort, durability and value." The Elite Force features composite non-metallic hardware and full-grain leather upper.
Other Magnum models with Ion-Mask are the Elite Spider Recon 8.0 HPi and the Precision Ultra Lite WPi CT. All will be available via Magnum's Web site, Panales says, by the end of August this year.
Also in protection, Point Blank Solutions, Inc. announced ThorShield last year as a way to shield officers from electric shock via electronic control device (ECD) discharge. ECD barbs are small enough to penetrate the weave of Level IIIA ballistic panels, thus ThorShield is a conductive lining sewn inside a concealable or tactical armor carrier. The durable, flexible, lightweight (and even machine washable) material completes the circuit from a stun device, carrying and dissipating its current rather than the human body. Even if one probe hits the vest and the other hits the skin, the effect will be lessened.
Michael Foreman, senior vice president of domestic and international sales at Pompano Beach (Florida)-based Point Blank, says the company has been able to adapt its production processes to make the material in more ways than just a carrier liner. ThorShield-lined gloves are available now, and Point Blank plans to include it in uniforms themselves in coming years.
ThorShield is a standard feature of Point Blank's VISION Level IIIA, a 0.88-pound-per-square-foot vest made ergonomically designed for, and popular among, bike and foot patrol officers. It is also an optional upgrade to Point Blank's Hi-Lite and C-Series lines of armor, for about $60 per application. ThorShield is available only to law enforcement, corrections or other qualified individuals. "If we do sell to other markets, we will ensure it doesn't get into the hands of undesirable individuals," notes Foreman, a retired law enforcement officer.
As more departments look for ways to save money, bicycle and foot patrols will become more important. But so will protecting the officers assigned to them — both physically and legally. These offerings stand to reduce not just fuel costs, but also the indirect costs associated with injuries and lawsuits.
Christa M. Miller is a New England-based freelance writer who specializes in public safety issues. She can be reached at email@example.com.