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."
Accountability and credibility are two important benefits this chief says the BACS system provides. The kiosk computer keeps an electronic log of each weapon or other items stored in the rail and locker.
At any time, administrators can see who took what item and when. A complete history of any item is available, from date of acquisition to date of termination.
Remote access from anywhere on the network allows management to print reports in minutes, to answer questions of maintenance, possession, or any other issue that may arise with a piece of equipment.
BACS is a benefit to administrators, as well as line officers, says Dwyer. It makes everyone's job less complicated, more efficient, and gets officers where they need to be — on the streets.
More time and space
An added benefit of the BACS enables maintenance checks to be scheduled in advance, then send an e-mail to the system administrator at time of service.
Whether it's every 90 days, or 100 shifts, the system is customizable to an agency's already-established protocols.
The liability it provides is another large plus for agencies. "When you get into a situation where the courts are involved, the first thing a defense attorney is going to ask is for the history of that weapon," says Hoff. "All that is automatically logged by this system."
Space is a precious commodity in police storerooms. The BACS system organizes assets as well as lessens the space needed to store them. "It doesn't take up any more room than what we had before," says Dwyer. "It's very compact."
Hoff suggests agencies even keep the system right in their briefing rooms. A separate armory room is no longer needed, as each locker and rail is individually secured.
The company assists departments during the installation process, which includes marking all items with RFID chips, and also documenting each officer's fingerprints into the computer.
The Farmington Hills PD is a pilot for this patented system. LEID personnel worked with the agency's special supports division to explain the ins and outs prior to full activation.
"The big thing is we go in and help the department set up a strategy," says Hoff.
Currently, the day shift is 100-percent functional using the biometric equipment system. The afternoon and evening officers are being phased in as well. "We're finding it to be extremely beneficial in cutting down the need to have a superior disperse the equipment," says Dwyer.
Biometrics has made just another large step in lightening a police chief's workload, while offering a sense of security and accountability to his agency.
In an industry where time is never enough, he and his officers have gained a few more minutes.