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History of Police Technology

Note: Figures, charts, forms, and tables are not included on this webpage. A complete history of police technology, including graphs, etc., can be obtained at this Website.

The Evolution and Development of Police Technology

A Technical Report prepared for The National Committee on Criminal Justice Technology National Institute of Justice Technology National Institute of Justice

555 13th Street, NW
3rd Floor, West Tower
Washington, DC 20004

July 1, 1998

This project was supported under Grant 95-IJ-CX-K001(S-3) from the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Table Of Contents

Executive Summary
----Part One: The History and the Emerging Federal Role
----The Political Era
----The Professional Model Era
----Technology and the Nationalization of Crime
----Crime Commission Findings
----The Advent and Lessons of 911
----The Computerization of American Policing
----Computers and Community Policing
----The Early Efforts of the National Institute of Justice
--Part Two: The NIJ's Role and Obstacles to Progress
----Obstacles to Progress
----Liability Concerns
----Operating Assumptions
----The NIJ's Approach
--Part Three: The Future of Police Technology
----Funding for Police Technology
----Fulfillment of Current Efforts
----Criminal Use of High Technology
--Part Four: Federal Efforts
----Coordinating Federal Efforts
----Funding an Adequate Technology Budget
National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Centers Regional Offices
Police Technology Timeline

Return to Table of Contents

Executive Summary

This report provides a detailed look at police technology. It is meant to help readers as they consider the evolution and future development of police technology and the role of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in fostering that development. It was prepared with a diverse audience in mind, all of whom have a stake in ensuring that the police are equipped to do their job safely and efficiently:

The job is exacting. The police are asked to control crime, maintain order, and provide an intricate array of services, from responding to emergency 911 calls to regulating the flow of traffic. On occasion, they must perform remarkable feats of criminal investigation, quell rowdy crowds and violent offenders, and put their lives on the line. Much of the time, police resources are limited. It is estimated that the workload crime imposes on the police has increased fivefold since 1960. Their resources have not kept pace with their workload.

The Police and Technology

To do their job, police frequently have looked to technology for enhancing their effectiveness. The advent of fingerprinting in the 1900s and of crime laboratories in the 1920s greatly augmented the police capacity to solve crimes. The introduction of the two-way radio and the widespread use of the automobile in the 1930s multiplied police productivity in responding to incidents.

But, as noted in this report, progress in technology for the police has often been slow and uneven. A quotation from the President's Crime Commission in 1967 illustrates how the police at times have lagged behind other sectors in reaping the benefits of technology:

--The police, with crime laboratories and radio networks, made early use of technology, but most police departments could have been equipped 30 or 40 years ago as well as they are today.

The Crime Commission was established in the 1960s in response to rapidly rising crime rates and urban disorders. The Commission advocated federal government funding for state and local criminal justice agencies to support their efforts. It called for what soon became the 911 system for fielding emergency calls and recommended that agencies acquire computers to automate their functions. But even with the start-up help of hundreds of millions of dollars in early federal assistance, computerization came slowly. Only in recent years have many agencies found the use of information technologies significantly helpful. Examples include fingerprinting databases, computerized crime mapping, and records management systems doing everything from inventorying property and cataloging evidence to calculating solvability factors.

Police Technology and the National Institute of Justice

Many police technologies are drawn and adapted from the commercial marketplace. Cars, radios, computers, and firearms are examples. But this report notes that the police have vital needs for special technologies for which there is no easily available source. Examples are devices to use less-than-lethal force in controlling unruly persons, to stop fleeing vehicles, and to detect concealed weapons and contraband in nonintrusive ways.

Private sector technology developers and manufacturers are reluctant to meet many special technology needs of the police. The fragmentation of the American police market, which numbers more than 17,000 agencies, makes selling to the police a time-consuming and expensive proposition. Liability issues are also a concern: Will the manufacturer be protected if its product is used in a way that injures officers or citizens?

The job of fulfilling special technology needs for state and local law enforcement belongs to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the criminal justice research arm of the U. S. Department of Justice. NIJ's Office of Science and Technology fosters technology research and development when it otherwise will not occur.

To determine technology requirements, the Office of Science and Technology regularly surveys the police through its Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Advisory Council (LECTAC), which is comprised of top law enforcement officials from throughout the country. It also develops voluntary product standards, compliance and testing processes, and it disseminates a wide range of information on criminal justice technology. The vehicle for much of this activity is the NIJ-sponsored National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC), a network of national, regional, and special purpose offices.

For the first 20 years after the federal government began supporting local criminal justice agencies, NIJ's role in technology was limited. Its most notable accomplishments were the development of soft body armor for the police and establishment and dissemination of performance standards for police equipment. Beginning in the 1990s, however, the Administration and Congress recognized increased needs for technology and began funding NIJ to meet them. A current example is a five-year project to improve the quality and availability of DNA technology to local and state law enforcement. A second example is funding to detect concealed weapons and contraband. Often in cooperation with other federal agencies such as the Departments of Defense and Energy, NIJ sponsors scores of efforts to develop new technologies.

Observations for Policymakers

The purpose of this report is to inform. However, in preparing it, observations were formed that may be useful to federal policymakers. One set of observations suggests ways to coordinate federal technology development efforts for avoiding fragmentation and duplication of effort and ensuring certain systems are compatible. On the basis of its mission and partnerships with other federal agencies, NIJ seems well suited to play a coordinating role in these efforts.

A second observation is that the coordination of technology development, as well as the emphasis on its importance, would be better served by the appointment of a science and technology adviser to the Attorney General and a senior law enforcement official to the Technology Policy Board of the White House Office of Science and Technology. Here, again, it would appear that NIJ could provide excellent support in this endeavor.

Other observations address ways of encouraging industry to manufacture and market technologies developed under NIJ's aegis; of strengthening compliance with product standards; and of encouraging the federal government to help police agencies acquire new technologies through such means as buying consortiums, low-interest loans, and distribution of surplus equipment. A final observation addresses the issue of inadequate funding to support technology development for state and local police and of the necessity to provide a stable budget as a matter of highest national priority.

Through this report and these observations, we hope to accelerate the process by which the police finally become full beneficiaries of our eras continuing technological revolution, thereby enhancing their vital work in the nation's fight against crime. Our citizens deserve nothing less.

Vice Admiral E. A. Burkhalter, Jr., USN (Ret.)

Chairman, National Committee on Criminal Justice Technology

President, Seaskate, Inc., Washington, D. C.

Return to Table of Contents

The Evolution and Development of Police Technology


"Those were desperate times for policemen in a hostile country with unpaved streets and uneven sidewalks, sometimes miles from the police station, with little prospects of assistance in case of need.... It took nerve to be a policeman in those days." So reported Chief Francis O'Neill of the Chicago Police Department in 1903. Then came technological progress with the "invention of the patrol wagon and signal service (which have) effected a revolution in police methods (O'Neill, 1976)." In 1909, Chief J.H. Haager of Louisville, Kentucky, was "proud to say that the police department of Louisville is in such a line of progress that we feel ourselves beyond the utility of the horse, and can now boast of three power-driven vehicles (Haager, 1976)."

This report is about American policing in the line of technological progress. It goes from a time in the last century when, in Chief O'Neill's words, "the introduction of electricity as a means of communication between stations was the first notable advance in the improvement of police methods" to today's high-tech frontiers.

The report is divided into four sections, and includes a time line that charts the course of police technology.

Part One reviews the history of police technology, the formation and growth of federal assistance for its development, and the early accomplishments of the National Institute of Justice.

Part Two examines in considerable detail current and prospective police technologies as they are used in performing key functions: safeguarding life, protecting citizens, solving crimes, communicating with citizens and police colleagues, traffic enforcement, and managing the police agency, particularly in terms of the growing use of information technologies.

Part Three deals with policy issues and practical matters and the National Institute of Justice's role in addressing them, and briefly looks to the future of police technology.

Part Four offers observations which federal policymakers may wish to consider in seeking to foster development and adoption of new technologies for the police.

A series of appendices is provided to document developments in police technology.

Return to Table of Contents

Part One: History and the Emerging Federal Role

The Political Era

Scholars divide the history of U. S. policing into three eras. The first, from 1840 to about 1920, is called the Political Era, so named because of the cozy, mutually beneficial ties police and politicians had in many urban areas. During this era, the police came to be armed with two forms of technology -- the gun and the nightstick -- that, with some modernizing, they continue to use today when called upon to use force. Whatever technological progress the police have made since the second half of the 19th century, they still rely to a considerable extent on basic tools available 100 years ago to protect innocent life and themselves.

Technological advances included the use in the late 1870s of the telegraph and telephone, installation of police callboxes, development and adoption in the 1880s of the Bertillon system of criminal identification, and the development and use at the turn of the century of fingerprinting systems to assist in criminal investigations.

The Professional Model Era

Historians call the period from 1920 to 1970 the Professional Model Era. Reformers sought to rid government of undesirable political influences and create what they deemed professional police departments. Technology, according to one scholar of the era," helped emphasize discipline, equal enforcement of the law, and centralized decision making," hallmarks of the Professional Model of policing.

August Vollmer, considered the foremost champion of the Professional Model, was also a champion of police technology. Vollmer pioneered the use of the polygraph and fingerprint and handwriting classification systems. The crime laboratory he started in the Berkeley, California, Police Department was the model and training ground for the nation. In 1932, the FBI inaugurated its own laboratory which eventually became recognized as the most comprehensive and technologically advanced forensic laboratory in the world. The 1930s saw the widespread police adoption of the automobile and the introduction of two-way radios.

Technology and the Nationalization of Crime

There were other technological innovations reaching into the next two decades. For example, radar was introduced to traffic law enforcement in the late 1940s. In the 1960s--120 years after the inception of the modern era of policing--the federal government for the first time launched a concerted effort to foster the development and use of new technologies for the police.

That effort had its roots in the 1964 presidential campaign when Republican candidate Barry Goldwater made crime a national political issue for the first time. Goldwater lost the election to incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson, but Johnson took two steps to assuage the nation's concerns about street disorders and crime rates, which had doubled between 1940 and 1965. First, he appointed the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice to examine the problem. In 1967, the Crime Commission produced a 308-page report that offered more than 200 recommendations, 11 dealing with police technology.

Johnson's other step was to begin the flow, a trickle at first, of what eventually became billions of dollars in direct and indirect assistance to local and state law enforcement. Never before had the federal government taken on the job of providing massive assistance to state and local criminal justice agencies. The federal government became committed to addressing the problem of crime in America's streets and neighborhoods. Hundreds of millions of dollars went to fostering police use of existing and new technologies.

Crime Commission Findings

The President's Crime Commission found that the nation's criminal justice system suffered from a significant science and technology gap. The commission reported: The President's Crime Commission found that the nation's criminal justice system suffered from a significant science and technology gap. The commission reported:

--The scientific and technological revolution that has so radically changed most of American society during the past few decades has had surprisingly little impact on the criminal justice system.

Of the police specifically, the commission observed:

--The police, with crime laboratories and radio networks, made early use of technology, but most police departments could have been equipped 30 or 40 years ago as well as they are today.


--Of all criminal justice agencies, the police traditionally have had the closest ties to science and technology, but they have called on scientific resources primarily to help in the solution of specific serious crimes, rather than for assistance in solving general problems of policing.

Overall, the commission's science and technology task force reported that many technological devices existed, either in prototype or on the market to help criminal justice agencies. Others deserved basic development and warranted further exploration. "But for many reasons, even available devices have only slowly been incorporated into criminal justice operations," the task force said in a statement that still has relevance today. "Procurement funds have been scarce, industry has only limited incentive to conduct basic development for an uncertain and fragmented market, and criminal justice agencies have very few technically trained people on their staffs."

Perhaps the most far-reaching recommendations dealt with computerization and what came to be known as 911.

The Advent and Lessons of 911

The commission called for establishment of a single telephone number, eventually available nationwide, that Americans could use to call the police. At first, AT&T personnel balked. They cited several reasons including problems involving boundaries of dialing areas and police jurisdictions, according to Dr. Alfred Blumstein, who headed the commission's science and technology task force. But then there was a change of heart, Blumstein said. AT&T decided to launch 911 as the single police and fire emergency telephone number, thus getting rid of dialing zero, the costly and personnel-intensive procedure that was then in use for summoning emergency help. "They were peddling a new product which was 911 and it was going to be automated and they were clearly ahead," Blumstein said.

AT&T announced creation of 911 in January 1968. Within a few years, 911 systems were established in many urban areas. Within ten years, police chiefs of large departments were beginning to complain that ever-increasing 911-generated calls for service were starting to distort and even overwhelm the balanced deployment of police resources. In a study of U.S. policing in the mid-1980s, two scholars wrote, "In many cities the 911 system with its promise of emergency response has become a tyrannical burden." Nevertheless, by the mid-1990s, police departments employing 95 percent of the nation's police officers had 911 systems.

The 911 experience incorporates two recurring themes in the history of police technology. The first is that when private industry can forecast an assured profit, it quickly provides the police with a technology created or adapted to their needs. The dilemma is that there are relatively few instances where industry can anticipate a fairly immediate and steady profit stream by providing a new technology to the police.

The second theme is, as in other areas of life, new technologies for the police can bring new problems. The rules of unintended consequences apply. The 911 system has become essential to summon emergency police, fire, and medical services. It also created new headaches for many administrators of large urban police departments.[1]

The Computerization of American Policing

The President's Crime Commission encouraged the computerization of American policing. The essential ingredient needed to spur this effort was money. Federal funding was soon on its way through a large, long-term subsidy program managed by the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA).

The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 created LEAA in, as one commentator noted, "an environment of social turbulence. Crime rates were climbing, the incidence of drug abuse was on the rise, riots and disorders were becoming commonplace, and America's political leaders were targets for assassination attempts."

In this climate, LEAA sought to spur the computerization of policing. The big push started in the early 1970s. It is uncertain how much LEAA spent on police computerization, but police agencies began to acquire computers. However, many departments with access to computers in the 1970s and even into the 1980s seemed reluctant to use them for more than routine tasks. Why were many police agencies not making more effective use of computers? Leading police chiefs blamed the complexities of the new technology, the cautious, conservative nature of many police officers, and citizens' "fear of Big Brother." Lack of funds for computer training and equipment maintenance also played a part.

A leading police computer consultant of the day had another answer: Computer manufacturers lacked great interest in the police market. "Despite what they may say to the contrary, they don't really view law enforcement as an important money-maker and have been reluctant, for this reason, to invest in development of new application software or specialized hardware ...," he said, adding: "After all, there are only 17,000 law enforcement agencies in the entire country. This is paltry when you compare it to the 100,000 hospitals, 500,000 hotels, or millions of individual businesses there are."

As we will see in Part Two, perhaps the most recurring fact cited in deliberations about the difficulties of interesting private manufacturers, and in developing and marketing new police technologies, is that there are 17,000 agencies, each with its own budget and technical specifications for many products including computers. The police market, fragmented among so many agencies, is too cost-inefficient and complicated to reach; the police market, with only 17,000 scattered components, is too small to pursue when there are much larger and potentially remunerative markets to exploit.

After 13 years and the expenditure of about $7.5 billion on all of its efforts, LEAA was formally abolished in 1982. Robert F. Diegelman, who was acting director of a smaller, successor agency to LEAA, summed up the views of many when he wrote that the "LEAA program ran afoul of unrealistic expectations, wasteful use of funds, mounting red tape, and uncertain direction." But he observed that LEAA had registered significant achievements such as educating and training thousands of criminal justice personnel, implementing new and worthwhile projects, and developing new skills and capacities for criminal justice analysis, planning, and coordination.

Despite LEAA's absence, police departments continued to invest in computers and eventually apply them to more sophisticated tasks. In this they were helped by a useful LEAA legacy, software developed under a series of grants.

By the 1990s, a Bureau of Justice Statistics survey provided conclusive evidence that the use of computers was growing and police agencies were using them for increasingly diverse purposes. For example, a 1996 analysis of survey data reported:

--Two thirds of local police departments were using computers in 1993, compared to half in 1990.

--Departments using computers employed 95 percent of all local police officers in 1993.

The more crucial point, the data showed, was that many police agencies were using computers not just for routine record keeping, but also for relatively sophisticated functions such as criminal investigations, crime analysis, budgeting, and manpower allocation.

One of the most important computer-based innovations in American policing during the past 30 years was the advent of the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), administered by the FBI. NCIC is a central computerized index of fugitives, stolen property, and missing persons. Beginning in the late 1960s, this system was in many instances the first practical application of computer technology used by American police agencies. NCIC demonstrated that the diffuse organization of American law enforcement could be tied together in a centralized system used by all agencies in a common effort to improve service and functionality.

Computers were essential in the development of Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS). Unfortunately, AFIS has been developed in a piecemeal manner. Systems may be regional, covering several states, or they can be statewide, or they may encompass only a city and a few surrounding municipalities. The obvious disadvantage to a fragmented national AFIS network is that roving criminals can still escape detection because one state may not have access to another state's AFIS system.

The development of 911 and the computerization of policing are two instances demonstrating that the federal government can affect the development and adoption of technologies benefiting the police. The President's Crime Commission called for establishment of a program which quickly became the 911 system. The same commission urged the computerization of policing, and a flood of federal money in the 1970s soon flowed to police departments for that purpose. Some of the money doubtless went for police computers not used productively or not used at all. But federal cheerleading and money for computers -- and the federally funded development of some useful police software -- undoubtedly helped accelerate police computerization.

Computers and Community Policing

The introduction of computers into policing corresponds roughly to the beginning of the third and current era in American policing, what one scholar calls the Community Policing Era beginning about 1970. Lee P. Brown, formerly the chief police executive of New York City, Houston, and Atlanta, has suggested that computers are essential to community policing. Brown has written:

--The use of high-technology equipment and applications is essential to the efficient practice of community policing. Without high technology, officers would find it difficult to provide the level and quality of services the community deserves. Computer-aided dispatching, computers in patrol cars, automated fingerprinting systems, and online offense-reporting systems are but a few examples of the pervasiveness of technology in agencies that practice community policing.

Dennis E. Nowicki, chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina, Police Department, is building a $10 million "knowledge-based community-oriented policing system" for his department. The computer system will focus "on the needs of the problem-solving officer in the streets," he has said. "We're designing our system not as a management information system but as an information system to support problem solving."

Nowicki exemplifies a class of current police chiefs with faith in computer technology as crucial to successful police work. "My vision is that when an officer comes through the academy, we give him his weapon, we give him his radio, and we give him his laptop computer."

William Bratton, the former New York City police commissioner, has said that computers have provided police with important technological advances. Computer mapping to pinpoint crime was a notable element in what a growing number of criminologists have concluded was Bratton's successful crime-fighting effort in New York City.

Dr. Alfred Blumstein, who, as noted, was director of the Crime Commission's science and technology task force, joined in agreement about the place of computers in the realm of police technology. The statement of the Crime Commission was recalled for him: "The scientific and technological revolution that has so radically changed most of American society during the past few decades has had surprisingly little impact on the criminal justice system."

Was this still true? No, said Blumstein, technology is "finally starting to take hold and the dominant transformation has been the one in computing. So much of the criminal justice system can be seen as an information-processing system -- dealing with information about events, about individuals. We are starting to see, still in a surprisingly limited way, the diffusion of that (computer) technology so that even fairly small police departments today have at least their own computers."

Blumstein added, however, that police officers on the beat still require new technologies to assist them directly. He cited the need for advances in such areas as less-than-lethal technology, concealed weapons detection, and ways to stop fleeing vehicles.

The Early Efforts of the National Institute of Justice

The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration paid for big ticket technology items such as computers, software, and crime laboratories, but the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), an agency for many years under the LEAA umbrella [2], was the designated federal source of research and development in law enforcement technology. In its review of its first 25 years, the Institute made special note of two accomplishments in technology -- the development of lightweight body armor and support for DNA analysis to improve evidence used in investigating crimes.

But for many of those 25 years, technology research and development seemingly took a back seat to other NIJ activities. For example, a 1977 report of the National Research Council labeled NIJ's technology R&D efforts an abandoned child.

The "abandoned child" assertion may have been an overstatement. Stepchild may have been more accurate. The fact is that, for much of NIJ's first 20 years, efforts in technology research and development were to a considerable degree a one-person effort, that person being Lester Shubin, a chemist.

Shubin played a pivotal role in the serendipitous origins of soft body armor for police. A colleague at the U. S. Army Land Warfare Laboratory told Shubin that DuPont had a new fabric, Kevlar, "stronger than steel, lighter than nylon," to replace steel belting for tires. "I asked him if the fabric would do just as well to stop bullets," Shubin recalls. "He didn't know, so we folded some up and shot at it and the bullets bounced off."

The successful firing range experiment led in 1972 to an Institute-sponsored project in which the Land Warfare Laboratory used Kevlar in a new, lightweight, flexible, and protective body armor. It also led to the creation of a new industry, an instance where a federally initiated technology for law enforcement moved rapidly into the commercial marketplace. To date, the soft body armor introduced by the Institute is credited with saving the lives of more than 2,000 police officers, a savings estimated in terms of survivors' benefits and other costs to total more than $2 billion.

The Institute began its support of developing DNA technology in 1986 as the technology's potential value to crime solvers became increasingly evident. That support is much expanded in the form of a current five-year, $40 million program.

Another important NIJ contribution to policing was the establishment in 1971 of a national program of standards for police equipment. No such program existed before, Shubin noted; "Nobody knew, for example, how strong a pair of handcuffs should be." The standards were voluntary. "We had no regulatory power," he said.

By 1975, the Institute's Law Enforcement Standards Laboratory had completed performance standards for:

By the mid-1980s, NIJ created two mechanisms for advancement of its work in testing equipment and setting standards. It established the Technology Assessment Program Information Center to pick laboratories for testing equipment, supervising the testing process, and publishing reports of test results. It also established the Technology Assessment Program Advisory Council, a large advisory body of senior local, state, and federal law enforcement officials. Both the center and the council are predecessor operations to current programs described in Part Two.

In the almost 30 years since the Crime Commission's report, other technological advancements have also helped the police. Portable radios have been made lighter, more powerful, and easier to use. Police are now using cellular phones in many agencies.

An important technological advance benefiting the police in their daily work has been the development of pepper spray as a force alternative. Although it has proved notably useful, the police need other force alternatives. Steven Bishop, former chief of police of Kansas City, Missouri, makes the point that policing overall has been shortchanged in the slow development of technology for protecting street officers.

For all the advances in the past 30 years, there are still obstacles to the development of police technology. These obstacles and what is being done to overcome them are addressed in Part Two, which follows.

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Part Two: The NIJs Role and Obstacles to Progress

As we have seen, in the late 1960s the federal government began to assume responsibility for fostering the development, availability, and adoption of new technologies to help local and state police. Part Two of the report discusses (1) how the government is fulfilling that responsibility through the National Institute of Justice and its Office of Science and Technology (OST) and (2) the obstacles to their progress.

The mandate of the National Institute of Justice, the criminal justice research and development arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, is to improve and strengthen the nation's system of justice with primary emphasis on local and state agencies. In recent years Congress, with strong bipartisan support, has awarded NIJ significantly increased funding to speed progress in police technology. The expanded funding, through the 1994 Crime Bill and other measures, is federal recognition of the important role technology can play in helping the police in their work.

The purpose of NIJ's Office of Science and Technology is defined by it name. It is the focal point for advancing criminal justice technology. Through OST, the National Institute of Justice has developed voluntary standards, tested new equipment, and disseminated information on technologies. The newly increased funding has intensified NIJ's efforts to (1) understand policing's overall operations and its specific technological requirements; (2) encourage research and development of successful technologies; and (3) overcome obstacles slowing or derailing technological progress. The final goal is to move the best new technologies from the laboratory and from other agencies to the marketplace and the law enforcement consumer.

Obstacles to Progress

Fragmentation of local policing is the source of many of the obstacles to technological application. It is the price that many believe is required if the nation is to have local control of law enforcement. About 570,000 police officers serve in 17,000 agencies, 90 percent of which have 24 or fewer officers. Local and state police handle 95 percent of the nation's crime.

Fragmentation makes policing an often hard-to-reach, hard-to-sell, and, thereby, an unrewarding market for potential developers and manufacturers of new technologies, products, and services. Getting a product and product information to the police market can be expensive.

Fragmentation means most police departments have small budgets and make small buys of equipment. Almost all police agencies spend most of their budgets on personnel and have relatively little left over for equipment purchases. Thus, the local and state law enforcement market have scant available funds to support research and development.

Fragmentation means equipment acquisition is usually on a department-by-department basis; there is little pooled purchasing.

Fragmentation means awareness and information about valuable new technologies seep into the core expertise of police departments at markedly different rates. Some departments are state of the art in technological matters; some lag years behind.

Fragmentation means neighboring police agencies buy incompatible technologies -- notably in communications equipment -- which undermine their ability to serve a common area. The inability of several adjoining police departments to communicate because of incompatible radio equipment and frequencies is commonplace.

Fragmentation means almost all police agencies are too small to have on staff or on call experts who can provide objective evaluations of proffered technologies. Policing has its share of rueful tales of expensive technologies, notably computer systems, purchased in the glow of a salesman's pitch and without a thorough examination of whether the technology could deliver what was promised.

Fragmentation means no one has the authority to establish standards for law enforcement technology and equipment. The police on their own have developed no national organization for this purpose. Criminal justice has no national regulatory agency. Crime laboratories are not required to undergo accreditation.

Liability Concerns

Another brake on progress involves liability concerns and questions of public and police acceptance associated with some existing and proposed law enforcement technologies.

"The whole issue of liability is a sobering issue," said Dr. Eric Wenaas, president and CEO of JAYCOR, a leading manufacturer of police products. "You can't underscore the importance of liability to any manufacturer of these products."

Some examples of liability concerns:

Wenaas is chair of the Justice/Industry Committee on Law Enforcement Technology for Law Enforcement which in late 1996 issued a report, "Impediments to Developing and Marketing New Technologies for Law Enforcement." In bullet form, the report listed these impediments. A sampling:

--Impediments to Market Development. Diversity and independence of markets; split acquisition authority; lack of standards, specifications, and test procedures; high development costs in relation to sales volume; lack of funds for product acquisition.

--Impediments to Product Standards and Testing. Cost and complexity of effectiveness and safety tests to assure valid results in larger populations; difficulty of performance tests on humans.

--Legislative and Judicial Awareness. Liability inhibits development of nonlethal and other emerging technologies; lack of funding deters investment in rising market; potentially invasive technologies may be ruled illegal, thereby discouraging investments; partial funding by government may impair propriety rights.

Liability Concerns

In its efforts to deal with obstacles and further the development and use of new technologies, NIJ operates from several underlying assumptions. The first is that the Institute learn from and avoid earlier mistakes. The flood of federal funding for state and local law enforcement in the 1960s and 1970s was accompanied at times by unrealistic expectations and a top-down, Washington-knows-best viewpoint.

In their presentations and public statements, NIJ officials avoid unrealistic claims. They note that technological progress holds great promise for law enforcement. But they include a caveat: Technology cannot make up for poor judgment, compensate for inadequate or nonexistent training, substitute for poor officer screening and selection processes, replace competent leadership, or usurp the basic skills and street smarts of seasoned police officers.

What technology can do is enhance productivity in matters ranging from preventing and solving crimes to regulating traffic. It can also provide the tools which make law enforcement safer for both citizens and the police, and increase the effectiveness of police management.

To determine law enforcement's needs and to get successful new technologies out to the nation's police agencies, NIJ works closely with state and local departments, as well as a number of advisory panels whose members have expertise in everything from patrol techniques to liability issues. One purpose is to let the grassroots of American policing, and not just Washington, set priorities for the development and implementation of technologies. The goal is federal support, but local direction. Heeding the directives of local and state agencies, NIJ's priorities currently include research and development in the areas of less-than-lethal technologies, forensic science including DNA, information technology, new communications and surveillance devices, and weapons and explosives detection.

A second assumption is that NIJ does not have to develop its own research and development capacity to foster progress. NIJ believes the capacity exists in the remarkable technology infrastructure of national laboratories and government-funded nonprofit corporations which U.S. taxpayers already support. These are the technology-creating facilities which helped win the Cold War and are seedbeds of innovation for government and the private sector. For example, Aerospace Corporation, NIJ's partner in its Western regional center, provides systems engineering and integration for more than 70 U.S. space programs.

NIJ also has cooperative agreements with the Departments of Defense and Energy. The agreement with the Department of Defense (DOD) is the result of a 1994 memorandum of understanding between the Justice Department and DOD. The purpose is to share and develop jointly technologies applicable to both policing and military undertakings other than war. The interagency activity is managed on a daily basis by a Joint Program Steering Group consisting of personnel from NIJ and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Joint programs involve research and development in such matters as concealed weapons and explosives detection, biomedical and information technologies, sniper and mortar detection, and improved body armor. Funding to support this research is essential in bringing these technologies to maturity in support of law enforcement needs.

A third assumption is that the job of fostering research, development, and adoption of new technologies is unpredictable and frustration can be the norm. The job inevitably carries with it some false starts, often slow progress, and unfulfilled expectations that can test the patience of the law enforcement community as well as NIJ and collaborating organizations.

NIJ's response is to attempt, when possible, experimenting with several different approaches to a problem, whether the problem is detecting concealed weapons, stopping fleeing vehicles or subduing dangerous persons. The belief is: Keep plugging away in consultation with technology developers, providers, and police users and successfultechnologies as well as new equipment will emerge.

The most difficult part of this process is probably commercialization -- the manufacture of products and new technological devices once they have been developed, tested, and deemed workable and useful. One police chief has formulated a checklist for police products brought to market. They must be necessary, practical, inexpensive, require a minimum of training, and be sturdy yet inexpensive to repair. Checklists like this can inhibit even the most adventuresome manufacturers.

A final assumption is that there is no single pathway through the web of impediments to technological progress for policing. NIJ has attempted to develop an agile approach, examined below, providing an array of ways to get its job done.

NIJs Approach

To achieve its ends, NIJ (1) continuously seeks to determine the technology needs of law enforcement; (2) sponsors research and development to meet those needs; (3) develops voluntary standards along with compliance and testing processes; and (4) disseminates essential information about existing and developing police equipment and technologies.

1. Determining Needs

NIJ depends on several practitioners' panels and joint government committees for advice on technology and development of new technologies. The largest is the Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Advisory Council (LECTAC) which directly advises NIJ's system of National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Centers (NLECTC). The council consists of leaders, experts, and practitioners in law enforcement agencies at all levels of government and in professional associations. The council plays a significant role in setting priorities for technology development, helping to launch new technologies, cautioning against inappropriate ones, identifying serious equipment problems, and enhancing law enforcement understanding of issues and advances in technology.

Another important advisory panel is the Less Than Lethal (LTL) Technology and Policy Assessment Executive Panel and its associated body, the Less Than Lethal Liability Task Group. The LTL panel is made up of state and local law enforcement, elected officials, and current as well as former high-ranking federal government officials. It reviews technology needs, developments, and innovations from a national perspective and makes regular recommendations to NIJ. The panel also advises the law enforcement community on ways of developing government and national support in fulfilling an aggressive technology agenda while ensuring that law enforcement needs are being fulfilled.

As noted, liability questions and civil lawsuits can play a significant role in limiting the use of certain current technologies and influencing the development of future ones. The liability task force assesses civil liability issues associated with technologies in various stages of research, development, and use. The task force has examined the liability aspects of such technologies as pepper spray, chemical darts, sticky foam, aqueous foam, smart guns, projectable nets, disabling strobe lights, projectable bean bags, microwave devices to disable automobiles, weapons detection devices, thermal imaging and forward-looking infrared devices (FLIR), and rear seat airbag restraints.

2. Research and Development

In terms of research and development, NIJ seeks out law enforcement technology projects, advocates and funds their development, and encourages the transfer of successful technologies to industry for introduction into the marketplace. It also supports ways to enhance the use of established technologies, such as DNA, and assesses technologies caught in controversy, such as pepper spray. NIJ often works cooperatively, leveraging its relatively modest funding through additional contributions and expertise of national laboratories and federal agencies.

In setting its research and development agenda, NIJ is guided closely by what the Law Enforcement and Corrections Advisory Council reports to the NLECTC system. LECTAC's top police priorities, restated as recently as January 1997, include development of technologies to detect concealed weapons and contraband in a nonintrusive way; to incapacitate unruly persons through less-than-lethal means; to stop fleeing vehicles; and to enhance DNA testing.

These priorities as well as some others set by LECTAC can be met only through special research and development. Many technologies the police use were developed for general commercial purposes. Automobiles, radios, computers, and firearms are earlier noted examples. The police, or manufacturers serving the police market, adapted these and other widely available commercial technologies to police needs. But the commercial marketplace does not readily provide easy-to-adapt technologies to meet many priorities set by LECTAC. NIJ's research and development program seeks to respond to vital police technology requirements that otherwise would go unfulfilled. Additional research dollars are essential in meeting these goals.

Here is some of what NIJ is doing to meet special police needs.

Concealed Weapons Detection

Illegally concealed weapons are a threat to both law enforcement and the general public. Existing weapons detection systems, usually metal detectors, have a limited range and high false-alarm rates. They are obtrusive, hard to move, and easy to circumvent. In addition, non-metallic knives and stabbing implements, as well as handguns that have a low-metal content are very difficult to detect.

The NIJ, through its system of National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Centers, is exploring a number of options to develop a safe, affordable, inconspicuous system to detect metallic or non-metallic weapons at a distance of up to 30 feet.

Several types of technologies are being explored by the NLECTC in Rome, New York.

NIJ is also exploring other approaches that would move these technologies further along:

Less-Than-Lethal Incapacitation

Examples of cooperative arrangements NIJ has established to develop technologies for less-than-lethal incapacitation include the following.

Technologies to Stop Fleeing Vehicles

For several years, NIJ has funded the development of technologies to stop fleeing vehicles. Here are some envisioned for development in the next three to five years.

In addition, NIJ supports two other efforts related to vehicle-stopping technologies. One is a laboratory evaluation of five proposed electric or electromagnetic vehicle stopping technologies. The goal is to develop prototype stopping devices. The evaluation is being conducted jointly by the U.S. Army's Army Research Lab and NIJ.

The other project is the NIJ-funded Pursuit Management Task Force which seeks to define police practice and the role of technology in high-speed fleeing vehicle pursuits. The task force includes senior law enforcement officials from local, state, regional, and federal agencies.

DNA Testing

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the basic hereditary material found in all living cells. It has a distinctive pattern for each individual, giving instructions for eye color, hair color, height, bone structure. DNA analysis is among the most powerful investigative tools in law enforcement today. Performed correctly, it is impartial and infallible.

One five-year NIJ project costing $40 million seeks to increase DNA testing through funding improvements in the laboratories of state and local law enforcement agencies. A second five-year NIJ project seeks to help secure impartial and infallible DNA analysis in a timely, cost-effective way. Project goals are to reduce dramatically the cost of DNA tests, from $700 a test to less than $10; to reduce test times from hours to minutes; to increase the reliability and legal credibility of DNA testing; and to develop standard reference materials for population database genetics.

NIJ has helped foster the early use of DNA in the criminal justice arena. For example, when DNA analysis was first used in courts, available statistics were based on a small sampling of the population. Defense attorneys demanded proof that the techniques were valid and could be applicable to all racial and ethnic groups. Under an NIJ grant, a population geneticist in Texas built a data base by collecting DNA samples from about 70 populations around the world, and developed analytical methods to test the data. The information was used to develop standards for computing match probabilities.

Another example is NIJ funding of National Academy of Science examinations of DNA testing and resulting publications. In 1996, the National Academy of Sciences announced that there is no longer any reason to question the reliability of DNA evidence.

3-4. Voluntary Standards and Dissemination

Voluntary standards and dissemination are two of several functions that come under the umbrella of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC), a network of hub, regional, and specialized offices that the Office of Science and Technology uses as a national governance and management structure.

In a time of rapidly advancing technologies, NLECTC serves as a one-stop technology education, assessment, and referral source for the nation's law enforcement agencies. NLECTC consists of a national hub in Rockville, Maryland; regional centers in New York, South Carolina, Colorado, and California; and three specialized offices: the Border Research and Technology Center (BRTC) in California; the Office of Law Enforcement Technology Commercialization (OLETC) in West Virginia; the Office of Law Enforcement Standards (OLES) in Maryland; and the National Center for Forensic Science in Orlando, Florida.

NLECTC's hub is in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C., and has several functions.


The Maryland office is the nation's collection agent and repository of information about law enforcement and corrections technology. It publishes and distributes a large collection of reports on diverse matters, such as body armor, pepper spray, patrol car tire tests, metallic handcuffs, and DNA profiling. It also publishes TechBeat, a periodical covering the latest developments in police technology. It created and manages JUSTNET, NLECTC's site on the World Wide Web.

Voluntary Standards

The Maryland office and the Office of Law Enforcement Standards jointly perform NIJ's work of developing standards and testing police equipment. OLES develops the measurement methods and voluntary national performance standards for equipment and technology used by criminal justice practitioners. Areas of research and standard-setting include clothing, communications systems, emergency equipment, investigative aids, protective equipment, security systems, vehicles, weapons, and analytical techniques and standard reference materials used by forensic scientists. OLES is housed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, whose resources it uses. It works closely with NLECTC's national center to conduct tests and guarantee the quality and performance of equipment used by law enforcement and corrections officers.


The Maryland office staffs and coordinates the work of the Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Advisory Council. Four regional NLECTC centers each serve law enforcement and corrections agencies in nine or more states. Each office (1) has a specialized technology focus; (2) may provide on a case-by-case basis expert assistance to police agencies within its region and nationwide; (3) disseminates information to the law enforcement agencies in its area; and (4) uses an advisory council of state and local law enforcement and corrections personnel and officials to ensure the center's relevance and effectiveness.

Technology Focus. Each center's technology focus makes it responsible for encouraging research and development within specific areas of law enforcement and corrections as well as providing test beds for experimentation and evaluation. An example is the Southeast regional center, which is testing at a local Navy brig an eight-kilobyte electronic "smart" card for prisoners. The card, which includes a photo identification and a bar code, contains a prisoner's criminal record and medical information, and may be used to allow or deny access to certain brig areas.

Expert Assistance. This makes available to police agencies throughout the nation expertise specific to its regional center. An example is the assistance the Western regional center, expert in forensic imagery, has provided to police departments from California to Delaware in enhancing the quality of video tapes capturing crimes in progress on security cameras and cameras installed in bank ATM machines.

Information Dissemination. Each center helps the agencies in its area to obtain information on current and emerging technologies. For example, the centers can provide manufacturer and product information to local agencies.

Advisory Councils. These regional councils provide feedback from the grassroots about law enforcement's technology needs and problems, then help disseminate information about technological responses to those needs.

The Office of Law Enforcement Technology Commercialization (OLETC) encourages the commercial development and manufacture of promising, innovative technologies. It offers support and information about the intricacies of commercialization to law enforcement agencies and criminal justice organizations, as well as the research, product development, and manufacturing communities. OLETC is a joint project sponsored by NIJ, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Technology Transfer Center. The Border Research and Technology Center in San Diego has the special mission of fostering technologies which provide improved capabilities in border surveillance, security, and identification. The center works closely with the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Border Patrol, and local law enforcement agencies concerned with border problems. The National Center for Forensic Science in Orlando, Florida, focuses on research and training in the area of arson and explosives.

Discussion of the future of technology in any arena can quickly turn to speculation about dramatic breakthroughs on the outer edges of high tech and the engineering of dazzling devices to solve problems. Policing likely will have its share of as-yet-unanticipated technological breakthroughs in the next century. But for now, technology's future benefits for policing depend to a considerable degree on practical and near-term matters. One such matter is the availability of funding to pay for current and new technologies. Another is the outcome of several current efforts by the National Institute of Justice and the FBI. A third is the police response to the use of high technology by some criminals.

Part Three: The Future of Police Technology

Funding for Police Technology

Technological advances are useful only if police agencies can afford them. That point is made in the results of a survey issued in 1996 by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). The PERF survey found, "In their efforts to improve the patrol function and maximize the impact of community policing programs, police nationwide are acquiring new technology designed to decrease response time and speed information dissemination." But the PERF survey also found that 83 percent of survey "respondents listed the high cost of acquiring these technologies as the primary deterrent in their past efforts to become better equipped." Other factors: "Twenty-five percent of respondents noted lack of information about available products as a significant factor. A smaller percentage of respondents also mentioned the complexity of the technologies and the need for more support from management as obstacles to new acquisitions."

A case study included in the Forum's survey report illustrates how an agency benefits when it can afford to upgrade information technology. The Forum survey sampled 600 police agencies and had a 35 percent response rate. The case study summary says:

--Ten years ago, the Pinellas County (Florida) Sheriff's Office was working with an antiquated system of reporting, with four separate databases operating simultaneously and each serving limited purposes. As in most other police departments nationwide, police officers and detectives were bogged down with administrative detail and report writing, which cut down on their time on the streets.

--Today, the department is a model of efficiency. All four databases have been consolidated into one major network, and average report times have been cut from 35 to 40 minutes to ten minutes, essentially deploying officers from behind their desks to the communities where they are needed most. The office is nearly paper-free, operating on an intra-office e-mail system and the Augmented Criminal Investigative Support System (ACISS) database, which contains almost all relevant case information dating back ten years.

Fulfillment of Current Efforts

Several efforts to improve the use of existing police technologies and foster the development and availability of new ones are underway.

The National Institute of Justice has assumed several formidable tasks in attempting to encourage police technology. The tasks include (1) surmounting impediments to progress such as the fragmentation of American policing and liability concerns; (2) harnessing the resources of the national laboratories and other federally funded facilities to the advancement of police technology; and (3) speeding innovation from the laboratory to the police marketplace, perhaps the most difficult of the three tasks. To the extent that NIJ succeeds, it will help to transform the future of police technology. The successful fulfillment of specific NIJ projects is also important. Two examples:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking to make two indispensable contributions to American law enforcement. It is upgrading the National Crime Information Center in a project called NCIC 2000 and attempting to remedy the fragmented state of the nation's Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS) through its IAFIS project. The projects are being undertaken in conjunction with each other.

NCIC 2000 is designed to increase the speed and capacity of the current NCIC system which allows officers to check the NCIC database for wants and warrant information on detained subjects. If the officer gets a "hit," probable cause is established for further action. NCIC 2000 seeks to add sophisticated computer technology, thereby increasing the capacity of the existing system and enabling officers to transmit graphic images such as fingerprints and mug shots.

While NCIC 2000 is to have a database of single fingerprints of wanted persons, the International Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) is slated to be a huge database of tenprint cards (cards with prints of all ten fingers). As of 1996, the bureau processed anywhere from 40,000 fingerprints a day to upward of 80,000 on unusually heavy days. Plans are that IAFIS be able to process at least 60,000 per day.

The difference between the two systems is that the images in the NCIC database are not a true and total fingerprint. When printed out, the image is not identical to an inked print; the computerized version has less definition and requires filtering so it doesn't falsely identify and reject possible matches. The technology, in layman's terms known as "one-to-one" matching, is a matter of identification verification. It compares one print to one record for a simple "match" or "no match" response.

In contrast, IAFIS technology is designed to use "one-to-many" matching, which requires that the computer extract minutiae from the print and compare it to all records in the database. One of the most important uses of IAFIS is to be the ability to search unknown fingerprints, including those obtained at crime scenes, in a national database of significant offenders. This capability, when added to enhanced DNA capabilities, criminal profiling, and tracking of serial offenders through the FBI'S VICAP program, is designed to improve significantly the identification, apprehension, and prosecution of career criminals.

Law enforcement agencies will not need sophisticated computer technology to access either NCIC 2000 or IAFIS. Varying levels of participation will be available, depending on the level of technological expertise and the equipment available at the agency.

If fully realized, the two projects one day will provide a completely integrated system that can transmit textual information, single fingerprints, and mug shots and that can process tenprint cards. Law enforcement technology will be significantly advanced.

The FBI also has its Drugfire program. In place since 1992, Drugfire has kept track of cartridge casings retrieved from more than 3,700 shootings in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. Investigators can access the database to compare spent ammunition found at crime scenes and link fired cartridge casings or projectiles to other crimes.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) has its own program. The ATF's Integrated Ballistics Identification System does the same work as Drugfire, comparing thousands of rounds in seconds. It has been successful in linking a number of shootings to one weapon or suspect. Both programs are currently being implemented in cities throughout the country. Unlike the fragmented state of AFIS, it is hoped that investigators will be able to access either database in the near future.

In an effort to streamline the booking process, the Drug Enforcement Agency developed and implemented the Joint Automated Booking Station, which uses computer technology to reduce booking time from 75 minutes to 15.

Criminal Use of High Technology

High technology such as computerization and wireless communications is transforming the ways of some criminals. For example, the Forum study reports that domestic and international "drug trafficking organizations routinely surpass the communications capabilities of law enforcement. Street-level dealers and kingpins have access to the best communications technologies.... E-mail, the Internet, and cellular communications have made illegal transactions more and more difficult to trace." The development of police technology in the next century will be keyed in part to attempting to keep up with criminal use of technology.

Our intention for this report is to inform. There is no list of firm recommendations for action in the report. However, we have articulated and categorized some observations for federal policy makers seeking to spur development of successful law enforcement technologies that enhance crime-fighting efforts.

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Part Four: Federal Efforts

Coordinating Federal Efforts

Many federal agencies sponsor law enforcement technology projects. Most federal law enforcement agencies -- among them, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Customs, Secret Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms -- have technology development budgets. These budgets are generally used to meet specific agency requirements.

Additionally, other federal agencies have significant programs in security technology. Notable examples are the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy's nuclear security programs. Both agencies have produced and are working on programs with law enforcement applications. Similarly, the Federal Aviation Administration has invested in developing explosives detection technology, a law enforcement priority, and is now working with NIJ.

Amidst all these efforts, fragmentation and duplication of effort will likely occur. Systems may be developed that are incompatible with each other. Thus, federal policy makers may wish to consider designating a coordinating point for law enforcement technology programs. If a specific technology development program is required to meet multiple requirements, one agency could be tasked with leading the development effort. That agency could be required to obtain and provide an overview of all of federal government programs within a law enforcement technology area. It could encourage collaboration and help ensure that proposed technologies meet interoperability standards, thereby reducing the recurring problem of incompatible systems within law enforcement.

It is our observation that the National Institute of Justice is well suited to coordinate, when needed, federal efforts in the development of law enforcement technology . We base this observation on these factors:


As this report notes, the agency in recent years has made considerable progress in supporting federal, state, and local law enforcement in technology development. It has learned how to coordinate activities benefiting law enforcement across government and agency boundaries.


NIJ has established a reputation as an objective source of information, assessment, and development. It champions science in projects such as those it sponsors to foster and enhance DNA technology and other forensic advances.

Single Mission

The agency has no investigative or other law enforcement role; its only products are research, development, dissemination, and coordination of efforts to improve criminal justice.

Established Partnerships

Within the federal arena, NIJ has created successful partnerships with the Departments of Defense and Energy and the National Air and Space Administration for adapting already existing technologies to meet law enforcement needs. It has worked with the Deputy Attorney General's office to establish the Justice Technology Coordination Council to encourage cooperation and reduce duplication among federal agencies.

Another means of coordinating federal efforts to develop law enforcement technology would be the appointment of a science and technology adviser by the Attorney General. The adviser would chair a coordinating council to track law enforcement technology development programs within the federal government. The adviser and council would have no fiscal or operational authority, but would help reduce duplication of effort, increase cooperation, and seek adequate resources for needed technology programs.

The Attorney General's appointment of a science and technology adviser would emphasize the importance of developing law enforcement technology. Consideration should also be given to appointing a senior law enforcement official to the Technology Policy Board of the White House Office of Science and Technology. The board currently does not address law enforcement technology matters in its deliberations.

Encouraging Industry

Among the obstacles to progress in the development and adoption of new technologies are the consequences of fragmentation of local policing as well as liability concerns, particularly on the part of manufacturers. There are measures which could encourage industry to serve the police market with new products, including:

Strengthening Standards

NIJ enforces product standards through a generally successful voluntary compliance program. Although voluntary compliance is preferred, NIJ has no means for investigation and enforcement if a technology provider is in consistent noncompliance with established standards. Because police technologies are critical tools in maintaining officer and public safety, inadequate or faulty equipment can cause injury and death.

Thus, policy makers may want to consider adding an enforcement element to NIJ's standards setting authority with the objective of providing NIJ with clear, firm authority to develop and enforce a standards program.

Helping the Police Acquire Technology

As previously noted, police spend most of their budgets on personnel and standard equipment and have little left over to buy new technologies. There are several options that policy makers could explore as a means to help state and local police acquire new equipment. These options include:

Funding an Adequate Technology Budget

Although funding for NIJ's Office of Science and Technology has increased significantly in recent years, it is still inadequate to address the level of research and technology development necessary for bringing much needed technologies to near-term fruition in supporting the requirements of our nation's law enforcement agencies. Much of the NIJ/OST budget has been earmarked for specific projects that are often not the high priority technologies identified by local and state law enforcement.

In spite of these restrictions, NIJ has done a remarkable job in establishing a technology development infrastructure to support its police consumers. But as youth violence increases, organized crime proliferates, criminals increasingly show less respect for police authority, and criminals become more capable in combating police weaponry and tactics, it is essential that funding be made more immediately available for developing timely technologies to support police agencies.

Through LECTAC and other forums, police officials have consistently identified vital technology needs, including (1) detecting concealed weapons; (2) stopping fleeing felons; and (3) new devices for using less-than-lethal force. A fourth critical requirement, DNA laboratory and database improvements, will require additional funding in coming years beyond the current level of effort.

In addition, each of the NIJ/OST regional technology centers have now matured and developed a list of technology initiatives that should be funded to support their regional concerns. Without adequate funding, the centers, and their important advisory councils, will not be able to realize the next level of community support and outreach so essential to continued regional law enforcement acceptance.

In conclusion, we must not forget that public safety remains the nation's NUMBER ONE priority. Providing stabilized funding for technology development to support law enforcement must be given the highest priority if the cause of public safety is to be served. Of equal high priority should be the careful consideration of the policy changes, as noted above, which can further improve the effectiveness of federal support for law enforcement.

Helping the Police Acquire Technology

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The National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Centers Regional Offices

In October 1994, the National Institute of Justice inaugurated the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC) as a central information collection and dissemination operation for the nation's law enforcement agencies. A national office was opened in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Rockville, Maryland. Since then, NIJ has created five regional NLECTC offices. Four of them serve police and corrections agencies in specific states. Following is information on each office.

Northeast Region: Serves Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Location: Rome, New York. Partnership: The Rome Laboratory which is the Air Force Super Laboratory for command, control, communications, computers and intelligence research and development.

Technology emphasis: Concealed weapons detection, covert tracking and tagging, advanced database design, and voice identification.

Southeast Region: Serves Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia.

Location: Charleston, South Carolina.

Partnership: Navy In-Service Engineering-East, a U.S. Navy facility.

Technology emphasis: Corrections and surplus U.S. government property for redistribution to law enforcement, corrections, and other criminal justice agencies. The office seeks to facilitate identification, development, manufacture, and adoption of new products and technologies specifically meant for corrections.

Rocky Mountain Region: Serves Colorado, Kansas, Montana, New Mexico, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.

Location: Denver, Colorado.

Partnership: Denver Research Institute, Denver University, and the Sandia National Laboratories.

Emphasis: Command, control, and communications, interoperability, explosives' detection and disablement, and ballistics.

Western Region: Serves Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.

Location: El Segundo, California.

Partnership: Aerospace Corporation, a federally funded research and development center of the U. S. Air Force.

Technology emphasis: Forensic analysis, imaging technologies, and technologies to prevent high-speed vehicle pursuits.

The Border Research and Technology Center is located in San Diego, California. The center's special mission is to advance technologies that provide improved capabilities in border surveillance, security, and identification. It coordinates its efforts closely with the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Border Patrol, and local law enforcement agencies concerned with border matters.

The Office of Law Enforcement Technology Commercialization (OLETC) fosters commercial development and manufacture of promising, innovative technologies. It operates by providing technology commercialization and support and technology transfer information to law enforcement and other criminal justice organizations and the manufacturing and technology communities. OLETC is a joint project sponsored by NIJ, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Technology Transfer Center, and is located at Wheeling Jesuit College in Wheeling, West Virginia.

The National Center for Forensic Science is located at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. This center focuses on research and training in the area of arson and explosives. Its goals include the development of a restricted-access electronic library for forensic and law enforcement professionals; support for the development of standard protocols for the collection and analysis of fire and explosion debris; supplemental training via the Internet, and through distance education and professional seminars; fundamental research to scientifically validate evidence collection and analysis procedures.

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Police Technology Timeline

Police Technology Timeline

The first multi-shot pistol, introduced by Samuel Colt, goes into mass production. The weapon is adopted by the Texas Rangers and, thereafter, by police agencies nationwide.

San Francisco is the site of one of the earliest uses of systematic photography for criminal identification.

The use of the telegraph by police and fire departments begins in Albany, New York in 1877.

The telephone comes into use in police precinct houses in Washington, D.C.

Chicago is the first U.S. city to adopt the Bertillon system of identification. Alphonse Bertillon, a French criminologist, applies techniques of human body measurement used in anthropological classification to the identification of criminals. His system remains in vogue in North America and Europe until it is replaced at the turn of the century by the fingerprint method of identification.

Scotland Yard adopts a fingerprint classification system devised by Sir Edward Richard Henry. Subsequent fingerprint classification systems are generally extensions of Henry's system.

Edmund Locard establishes the first police crime laboratory in Lyon, France.

The Los Angeles Police Department establishes the first police crime laboratory in the United States.

The use of the teletype is inaugurated by the Pennsylvania State Police.

Detroit police begin using the one-way radio.

Boston Police begin using the two-way radio.

American police begin the widespread use of the automobile.

The prototype of the present-day polygraph is developed.

The FBI inaugurates its crime laboratory which, over the years, comes to be world renowned.

Radar is introduced to traffic law enforcement.

The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) meets for the first time.

The New Orleans Police Department installs an electronic data processing machine, possibly the first department in the country to do so. The machine is not a computer, but a vacuum-tube operated calculator with a punch-card sorter and collator. It summarizes arrests and warrants.

A former marine invents the side-handle baton, a baton with a handle attached at a 90-degree angle near the gripping end. Its versatility and effectiveness eventually make the side-handle baton standard issue in many U.S. police agencies.

The first computer-assisted dispatching system is installed in the St. Louis police department.

The National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, a message-switching facility linking all state police computers except Hawaii, comes into being.

The President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice concludes that the "police, with crime laboratories and radio networks, made early use of technology, but most police departments could have been equipped 30 or 40 years ago as well as they are today."

The FBI inaugurates the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the first national law enforcement computing center. NCIC is a computerized national filing system on wanted persons and stolen vehicles, weapons, and other items of value. One observer notes NCIC was "the first contact most smaller departments had with computers."

AT&T announces it will establish a special number -- 911 -- for emergency calls to the police, fire and other emergency services. Within several years, 911 systems are in widespread use in large urban areas.

Beginning in the late 1960s, there are many attempts to develop riot control technologies and use-of-force alternatives to the police service revolver and baton. Tried and abandoned or not widely adopted are wooden, rubber and plastic bullets; dart guns adapted from the veterinarian's tranquilizer gun that inject a drug when fired; an electrified water jet; a baton that carries a 6,000-volt shock; chemicals that make streets extremely slippery; strobe lights that cause giddiness, fainting and nausea; and the stun gun that, when pressed to the body, delivers a 50,000-volt shock that disables its victim for several minutes. One of the few technologies to successfully emerge is the TASER which shoots two wire-controlled, tiny darts into its victim or the victim's clothes and delivers a 50,000-volt shock. By 1985, police in every state have used the TASER, but its popularity is restricted owing to its limited range and limitations in affecting the drug- and alcohol-intoxicated. Some agencies adopt bean bag rounds for crowd control purposes.

The large-scale computerization of U.S. police departments begins. Major computer-based applications in the 1970s include computer-assisted dispatch (CAD), management information systems, centralized call collection using three-digit phone numbers (911), and centralized integrated dispatching of police, fire, and medical services for large metropolitan areas.

The National Institute of Justice initiates a project that leads to the development of lightweight, flexible, and comfortable protective body armor for the police. The body armor is made from Kevlar, a fabric originally developed to replace steel belting for radial tires. The soft body armor introduced by the Institute is credited with saving the lives of more than 2,000 police officers since its inception into the law enforcement community.

The National Institute of Justice funds the Newton, Massachusetts, Police Department to assess the suitability of six models of night vision devices for law enforcement use. The study leads to the widespread use of night vision gear by today's police agencies.

Rockwell International installs the first fingerprint reader at the FBI. In 1979, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police implements the first actual automatic fingerprint identification system (AFIS).

Police departments begin implementing "enhanced" 911, which allows dispatchers to see on their computer screens the addresses and telephone numbers from which 911 emergency calls originated.

Pepper spray, widely used by the police as a force alternative, is first developed. Pepper spray is Oleoresin Capsicum (OC), which is synthesized from capsaicin, a colorless, crystalline, bitter compound present in hot peppers.

More than 90 percent of U.S. police departments serving a population of 50,000 or more are using computers. Many are using them for such relatively sophisticated applications as criminal investigations, budgeting, dispatch, and manpower allocation.

Departments in New York, Chicago, and elsewhere increasingly use sophisticated computer programs to map and analyze crime patterns.

The National Academy of Sciences announces that there is no longer any reason to question the reliability of DNA evidence.

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