Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are also a component of GPS and the command post model. GIS is a technology used to view and analyze data from a geographic perspective. GIS links location to information (such as people to addresses, buildings to parcels or streets within a network) and layers that information to give the user a better understanding of how it all interrelates. The incident commander can choose what layers to combine based on purpose. For example, GIS can provide an information connection between a suspect to a particular apartment he may have secreted himself in.
The command post of the future
The overall vision of the ideal law enforcement command post will incorporate computer technology for commanders at various locations to provide real-time situational awareness and resource positions. In addition, commanders will have the ability to discuss tactical plans from various locations and the potential for resource distribution as the needs of the incident unfold. There will be the ability to view all the necessary information on computer screens at the command post or on a responder's PDA in the field.
Possible uses of GPS and the PDA for field officers include displaying a location's floor plan, the picture of a wanted suspect or a satellite view of a disaster scene. The advancements made by the military in this technology give law enforcement the opportunity to adapt tested systems and technologies to law enforcement needs.
Law enforcement will need to thoroughly evaluate what it requires and perhaps even court the military to determine what equipment is necessary to meet law enforcement needs. It is not beyond comprehension for law enforcement to acquire used equipment from the military as updated GPS systems are integrated in the future.
Currently, there are a number of companies which have GPS compatible software. One of these, Visionair, located in Castle Hayne, North Carolina, provides law enforcement with a number of software support system packages that can be built upon over time.
GPS implementation costs vary according to current support systems, number of units necessary, PDA or radio capability, and cost, service, maintenance, agency size and other factors. Clearly, implementation of a system in a small to moderate agency would cost less than implementation in an agency the size of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
A case study
The infamous, "North Hollywood Shooting," that occurred in Los Angeles on February 28, 1997, was one of the first situations where suspects had posssession of high-powered weapons, ballistic vests and a specific plan of escape. The shooting response, with the combined efforts of the Burbank Police Department, Los Angeles School Police Department, California Highway Patrol and the LAPD, resulted in the wounding of 12 police officers, eight civilians and the deaths of both bank robbers.
Implementing the GPS command post model in this situation, the incident commander at the scene would have had a computer with a real-time visual of the location, suspects and responding units. The commander would have been able to direct resources, anticipate hazards, see suspect movement, possible civilians and potential escape routes or vehicles.
Due to the size of Los Angeles, it is not always practical for the chief of police to respond to the scene in a timely manner. In this model, the chief would have viewed the scene from a system set up near his office. The incident commander and chief would have discussed strategy and options while being able to view the incident. At the same time, information would have been transmitted to field forces via a PDA to preserve air time and ensure suspects would not access the information.
In events of lesser or greater magnitude, the usefulness of accurate, shareable data will not only resolve incidents more quickly, it can save lives.
GPS is the future
From the smallest incident to the worst natural or man-made disaster, GPS technology will have the capability to efficiently and expeditiously track personnel resources, improve information to personnel involved, enhance communications between command personnel, aid in decision making, expedite tactical missions and create a safer environment for personnel involved in critical or major incidents.
This GPS-equipped model command post is not just a vision of the future for law enforcement; it is a reality and could be in a working command post in the very near future. The technology necessary to build an incident command post fulfilling the needs of a department, its officers and the community is here using GPS technology and various systems.