Biometrics Bolsters Equipment Accountability

It's a tough day on the job when a critical piece of equipment goes missing.

It's a tough day on the job for a police chief when a critical piece of equipment goes missing. Most likely, the officer who had it last left it in his car, locker and perhaps went on vacation, or just off-duty. Either way, the time and effort it takes to find the item could be better spent on many other things.

In response to this problem, biometrics has found its way into the storerooms of police departments as a tool for efficient equipment security and management. Fingerprints are no longer merely for catching crooks.

Developed by retired police Lt. Rick Crigger, the Biometric Access Control System (BACS) individually secures items in lockers or gun racks, and allows officers access to them through a touchscreen kiosk.

"Like any other department, there's always been misplaced equipment," says Chief Bill Dwyer, Farmington Hills (Michigan) Police Department. "This system has turned that around completely."

Nuts and bolts
BACS, available from LEID Products, operates wirelessly through Bluetooth technology to secure all weapons, radios, computers, and any other items in the company's SmartRail or SmartCPU.

Designed specifically for the BACS system, these storage centers maximize space and minimize the need for traditional equipment management methods.

SmartRail secures long weapons. It is a steel-constructed rack that requires only a secure attachment to a wall or floor, along with a 120-volt AC input.

The SmartCPU stores items such as stun guns, night vision goggles, portable testing devices, radios, handguns, ammunition, computers, etc. in individual lockers. It is manufactured of rugged steel and requires the same as the rail format, an attachment to the floor or wall and 120-volt input.

Both the rail and locker systems are protected with a wireless three-tier security verification that includes data encryption.

They also contain photoelectric sensors in each rail spot for verification of the items being stored there. A key override is available.

The IDStation, a PC-based kiosk, allows officers to check in and out all items stored in the SmartRail or SmartCPU. It can wirelessly transmit information to 50 weapon racks or storage lockers, a total of 400 weapons and 700 individual lockers. Each item being stored is marked with an RFID chip, whose information is then linked wirelessly to the kiosk.

At the beginning of a shift, an officer walks up to the IDStation, verifies his identity through a fingerprint reader, then selects the items he wants to use.

"Officers can check things out themselves," says Sam Hoff, sales and business manager for LEID Products. "They sign everything out with a fingerprint, and they can't lose that."

At the end of the shift, the officer performs the same routine and checks in the items he took possession of earlier.

Just a minute
In Farmington Hills, the police department employs 120 sworn officers. At three shifts a day, 20 to 30 people could be checking equipment out or in at the same time.

Dwyer explains an officer needs an AR-15 or shotgun, TASER, prep radio and AED each and every time they start a shift. "You can imagine the time it would take to still have somebody check that equipment out for them and check it back in later," he says.

This biometric, wireless system, takes just a minute of an officer's day, leaving time for other, more pressing matters.

"Right now, a lot of departments keep handwritten logs," says Hoff. "And you know how officers are with handwritten logs," he adds jokingly.

With the BACS system, illegible handwritten logs are a thing of the past and Dwyer says this system is the path down which technology is taking law enforcement agencies, something they should be looking forward to.

"This streamlines the whole system," he adds. "It's cut down any concerns that management would have as far as loss of equipment or displacement. And, it identifies if the equipment is not replaced, who the officer is that checked it out."

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