Continuing its mission to upgrade its tech, Winfield’s Police Department recently acquired a three-in-one solution that will act as officers’ body cameras and on-duty phones, as well as the wireless hotspot in their patrol cars.
The department is now equipped with several Android smartphones loaded with extra functionality, provided by software company Visual Labs.
Chief Bill Burleson saw a demo for the software at the Missouri Police Chief’s Association meeting in December, where he met with Visual Labs owner Alexander Popof.
“I’m kind a tech guy, and it just seemed really, really interesting,” Burleson said.
The Android devices, which Popof called “body worn computers” (BWCs), will do a variety of things beyond the body camera basics of recording police interactions with the public and uploading those files to cloud storage. The BWCs also provide the real-time GPS coordinates of officers, which puts a ton of information at Burelson’s fingertips regarding his officers’ movements and patrol routes.
“The chief there would know exactly where all his officers were, and not just where their patrol vehicle is – some cars have GPS units in them – but this has the GPS in the device, so if one of his officers got in a foot pursuit, somehow got into trouble, they would know exactly where the officer is,” Popof said. “Then because of the connectivity, not only could he see on a map where the person is, he could actually turn on the camera remotely and get a live video and audio feed.”
Visual Labs has a web portal that clients can access that provides a large number of metrics regarding officer location, where police officers have traveled over time and even gives the police chief the ability to select specific streets to see how much time patrols are spending in certain areas. From there, Burleson said he can select any period of time, and the software will draw lines on a map of the city showing the exact routes his officers have been driving.
For the officers, it provides a level of safety, Burleson said, and for him it’s a great management and analytics tool.
For example, Burleson said recently he heard concerns from a citizen that they hadn’t seen patrols going down Eighth Street by the schools. By interacting with a map on the web portal, he can target that area specifically, gather the data and display all the metrics associated with officers in that region.
“We spent a total approximate time of 10 hours and 51 minutes in that area from March 1 to today [March 17], and our average amount of time per visit is six minutes and one second,” Burleson said. “It shows that we’re there at the beginning of school and we’re there after school, just when they want us to be…it shows any videos that were taken, any photos that were taken and any audio recordings that were taken from that area, within that [time frame].”
Burleson said he’d been looking into getting his officers body cameras for a while; cameras provide safety for officers, and also holds them accountable to the public.
“I love it,” Winfield Officer Tom Moore said about the BWC. “The thing about it is that it protects your department, it protects your officers.” In addition to the new BWCs, but unrelated to them, Winfield also acquired a rapid ID device, which lets police officers get positive IDs on individuals while out on the road. The device just hooks up to the patrol car’s computer, and will provide any information that the system has on a subject right there on the spot. Burleson said he got that device through a grant; normally a rapid ID device runs close to $2,000.
Burleson said that the goal is to make Winfield’s police as technologically advanced as is possible.