Authoritative resources: Four technology centers of excellence

     Focusing on four different areas of technology, the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs (OJP) began four technology-based centers of excellence (COE). Working within the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center...

     "We might look at a piece of equipment that an agency was going to buy and say it's not ready for use in the field yet," Lothridge says. "Or, we might say here's a piece of equipment that you may not know about. Or, here's a field test that's very inexpensive that would be very helpful for you in your day-to-day work."


     Drakontas, located in Camden, New Jersey, received $3.68 million for the Communications COE to provide a means for testing, evaluating and demonstrating communications tools and technologies. Drakontas is establishing and managing a law enforcement wireless pilot project, supporting a communications technology working group and providing specialized communications technology assistance to law enforcement when needed.

     The Communications center has four focus areas: interoperable voice communications; personnel location, officer tracking for assistance; data and data communications; and alternative tools, such as cell phones.

     The center's coverage into interoperable voice communications involves establishing and managing a P25 pilot with practitioner agencies, as well as a software-defined radio pilot.

     Rick Mulvihill, deputy director of the Communications COE, anticipates software-defined radios will be coming out in the next couple years and, depending on how they're deployed, believes these will solve some interoperability issues.

     To further assist with voice and data interoperability, the center is hosting and managing the Computer Assisted Pre-Coordination Resource and Database system.

     The data and data communication focus includes trying to provide data communications over a wide area, connect all the information systems and back up these systems.

     "Certainly there's a lot of information that's stored in systems," Mulvihill says. "The question is how can we get that out to the end-user in a timely manner."

     Additionally, the center is looking at tools like cell phones and how they can be used in law enforcement and what their requirements are, including power, for example.

     The challenge with law enforcement communications is not a lack of equipment, says Brian Regli, CEO of Drakontas and director of the Communications COE.

     "We keep hearing that agencies have received federal funding and purchased a lot of equipment in the last five to six years," he says. "Sometimes that equipment is doing what it's supposed to be doing and sometimes it isn't. Part of that is because of funding gaps and capabilities that have not yet been identified. We know that law enforcement communications professionals are trying to enhance their planning capabilities ... trying to fill these gaps so their new radio system can achieve 100 percent interoperability. Some of that is a little bit more training, a little bit more capacity building, and the introduction of new technologies and the research and development the NIJ is doing. The problem is a lack of capacity, and that's what we're here to build."

     Mulvihill, former police chief in Absecon, New Jersey and former director of public safety in Atlantic County, New Jersey, says, "We're looking at all the technologies that are out there and we're trying to cultivate those that will best serve them in the future. We're looking at technologies that may not have been originally developed for public safety … to see if they have an application to public safety. Then we place those technologies in the hands of law enforcement practitioners and officers to see if it works the way it's proposed to work. We look at whether or not it brings some value that makes their jobs easier, or if it gives them more information at their fingertips when they are trying to make decisions on the street."


     International Biometric Group (IBG), in New York City, is receiving $2.95 million for the Sensors, Surveillance and Biometric COE to support OJP's law enforcement and corrections biometrics and surveillance technology projects. This center is managing a concealed weapons detection and through-the-wall surveillance technology test and evaluation program and an aviation pilot, with a particular focus on the needs of small and rural agencies.

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