Creating a 5G-Connected Law Enforcement Fleet

June 18, 2024
Partnerships are being forged between tech companies and police and law enforcement agencies to help officers leverage technology while on patrol.

For officers, patrol vehicles have become more than just a way to get around during their shift. As technology continues to advance, their cruisers have morphed into mobile offices. Instead of spending precious hours in the station delivering information recorded by body-worn cameras and in-car video systems, they can now upload that data from the road. But how can these officers securely connect to a network no matter where they are?

This article appeared in the May/June issue of OFFICER Magazine. Click Here to subscribe to OFFICER Magazine.

During a session at Axon Week in Miami Beach, representatives from Cradlepoint, Verizon and Axon, along with Lt. John Chapman from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office in Florida, spoke about the importance of 5G for law enforcement fleets and what is being done to move the technology forward in the future.

Moving 5G forward

James Weaver, Vice President of Product Marketing at Cradlepoint, spoke to the audience about how quickly cell phones advanced from 3G to 4G LTE technology in just a matter of years and how 5G is now starting to become more commonplace in parts of the country, creating the ability for things like “network slicing” where a carrier can take a piece of their network and make it completely dedicated to an agency.

“You can imagine if there is a disaster in a certain area, the ability to slice off bandwidth and give it to certain groups of people would be fantastic, and could be paramount during something like that,” he says. “We’ve got the building blocks ready to go and can now start thinking about ways we can take this to the next level.”

Bryan Schromky, Associate Director of 5G Public Sector for Verizon, said that what the industry is now seeing is the framework to build off of. “Now that you have ubiquitous coverage, you have devices and what we’re seeing is a greater proliferation of 5G devices. If I poll the room here, regardless of carrier, you probably have a 5G device. For Verizon customers, you’re using 40% more data than you just did two years ago. The reason being is because you have 5G device, but more importantly you’re finally getting access to 5G coverage.”

Planning ahead

When the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office first considered updating its fleet with new in-car video systems, it started with an executive committee. “We were fortunate enough that Sheriff (Ric) Bradshaw wanted to make sure that we had the latest and greatest equipment,” Chapman says. “One of the big things we wanted to try to make sure is that we weren’t just solving a bodycam issue or an in-car issue; that it was across the board with making sure we had a full system that worked from one edge of our deployment, all the way through to making sure that we had the evidence.”

The agency decided to partner with Axon to meet its needs and made future needs a priority. “We wanted to make sure that (the equipment) didn’t just suit today’s needs, but as the technology continues to evolve, we wanted to make sure we were prepared.”

To that end, 5G was one of the features the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office was focused on. “Our county is this about the size of Rhode Island,” Chapman notes. “It’s one of the largest county sheriff’s offices east of the Mississippi. One of the things we wanted to make sure of was that we had adequate coverage from one end of the county to the other. We have farmland and cane fields out to the west, all the way into the densely populated areas.”

While not all of the areas of the county have 5G coverage, some do, and the agency foresees that reach to continue to expand. “We wanted to make sure that we had the equipment that allowed us to leverage those areas that did have it, and as it continues to grow that we are ready and capable to continue to grow with the solution that we got from Axon.”

The agency purchased the Axon Fleet 3 camera system with a 1700 Series router with a Cradlepoint MC400 Modem with 5G and dual SIM capabilities. It outfitted all of its marked patrol vehicles, rolling out close to 1,200 in-car video systems.

The executive committee didn’t want to have patrol deputies sitting in the district office waiting for their videos to offload or have to pay overtime when a deputy has to stay on the clock at the end of their shift. “As soon as the recordings stop, their bodycam videos are offloading through the car as well as the in-car video and it allows for quicker access to the videos.”

The upgraded technology also allows the agency to be able to live stream video. Currently it is only used in emergencies. “It is leveraged for when we have an officer not answering the radio, a critical incident, an officer down or some type of active shooter or active aggressive deadly behavior type of incident,” says Chapman.

Securing data

Tony Ardueser, a Consulting Sales Engineer with Cradlepoint, says that making sure data is secure should be a focal point for any agency. “When we’re talking about the Axon Fleet 3 system, all of that connectivity back to and everything is extremely secure. But there’s other data. You have other data, there’s other communications out there,” he says. “You have to ensure you’re protecting that data.”

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office’s IT staff went above and beyond when it came to planning for data security and cybersecurity prior to deployment, according to Chapman. He said that his agency met with representatives from both Cradlepoint and Axon ahead of time and held planning meetings with the IT unit, radio services and install groups.

“Those meetings worked out all of those questions. How are we ensuring that the data that is captured in here is secure? That we’re not hosting things out or not putting out data that other people can then try to latch onto as we’re driving around, because the cars are moving,” he says. “All of those questions could get answered ahead of time.”

He cautioned that agencies shouldn’t wait until the last minute to create connections both internally and with vendors. “Make sure you have those connections,” he stresses. “It has to be everybody working together, no matter what component it is. It’s not just the bodycam or the in-car or the modem. All of those things are linked together.”

About the Author

Paul Peluso | Editor

Paul Peluso is the Managing Editor of OFFICER Magazine and has been with the Officer Media Group since 2006. He began as an Associate Editor, writing and editing content for Previously, Paul worked as a reporter for several newspapers in the suburbs of Baltimore, MD.

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