A vast array of law enforcement product vendors greeted attendees at the 2022 International Association of Police Chiefs conference in Dallas. Row after row of patrol vehicles, hardware and software technology solutions, training tools and all types of duty gear, as well as department recruiters and professional association representatives, competed for the attention of the thousands of law enforcement leaders in attendance. Booths as small as a dinner table and bigger than a small-town police station showcased solutions to the challenges facing law enforcement today.
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Not knowing how best to summarize a trip through the gigantic exhibit hall, here are three lists of three from IACP 2022.
1. Recruitment and retention
With no challenge looming larger than the need to retain high-performing officers and bring in more high-quality applicants, departments must leave no stone unturned when considering initiatives or products to improve staffing. In signage and conversation, vendors sought to make direct and indirect connections to how their offering will help departments with recruitment and retention.
To attract tech-savvy Gen Z to law enforcement, software developers and hardware manufacturers are introducing consumer technology trends into public safety. For example, Incident Management from Motorola Solutions leverages a vehicle’s built-in video display and Apple CarPlay technology to perform all the same functions as a mobile data terminal or computer. Officers can view maps to navigate to incidents, mark themselves on-scene, transmit information to other responding officers, and seamlessly continue to input data input and receive information on a smartphone app when they leave their patrol vehicle.
When pay and benefits at neighboring agencies are close, applicants who already have their pick of employers might be influenced by a department’s commitment to new technology, officer wellness programs and opportunities for professional development. One emerging differentiator is departments across the country that are already putting electric vehicles into service, a trend that is sure to accelerate in the years ahead. IACP attendees were able to see and sit in the Ford F-150 Lightning Pro pickup and Ford Mach-E crossover SUV, both outfitted for law enforcement patrol.
Women currently make up only 12% of all police officers in the United States. The 30×30 initiative invites departments to pledge that 30% of their police officer recruits will be women by 2030 or sooner. More than 225 departments have already joined 30×30 and taken the first step to report their recruitment data. Participating departments take “a series of no- and low-cost actions to improve the representation of women in all ranks.” Departments of all sizes, including the Savanah (Ga.) Police Department and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, have joined 30×30.
2. Force multipliers
Though retention and recruitment are the top challenges facing nearly every law enforcement agency in the country, many departments are also reporting an increase in violent crime, mental health crisis responses and opioid overdoses. Here are some products helping police have a greater impact with a smaller number of officers.
Virtual reality training
“More training” is a lesson learned from incidents large and small, but with training officers being moved to patrol or reduced budgets for continuing officer education, maintaining training levels, let alone increasing hours spent training, is nearly impossible. A number of vendors like WRAP Technologies, InVeris Training Solutions, Axon and Street Smarts VR are offering virtual reality training that is realistic, portable, effective and affordable.
License plate readers
LPR or automatic license plate reader technology was abundant at IACP. ALPR, whether in a patrol vehicle, on a trailer, or mounted on a pole, puts more eyes in the field 24/7. An increasing number of LPRs, like the ELSAG Street Sentry are solar-powered. LPR technology can read license plates on fast-moving vehicles, traveling on traffic-congested roads, with increasing accuracy supported by artificial intelligence. Matching plates with vehicles, warrants, or wanted suspects can be rapidly communicated to dispatch and give officers close to real-time intelligence about vehicles of interest in their jurisdiction.
Vital signs monitoring
As several IACP presentations about excited delirium syndrome or profoundly agitated subjects made it clear, patrol officers and corrections officers are being asked to monitor suspects who are potentially medically unstable and under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The Custody Protect sensor is a reusable, easily secured and low-cost device for remotely monitoring a suspect’s heart rate during arrest, transport and detention. The monitor’s data continuously transfers to an app with high and low alerts. Vital signs, especially when trending over time, give the officers objective information about a suspect’s health that can help inform decisions to contact EMS for additional patient assessment and treatment.
3. Time, distance and shielding
The hazardous materials response concept of time, distance and shielding is applicable to any environment where officer safety might be at risk. Increasing one or more can help officers identify and mitigate risks for hostages, innocent bystanders, themselves and suspects. Here are three groups of products on display at IACP to increase officer safety.
It seemed like every aisle at IACP had at least one vendor showcasing a different type of ballistic shield. Attendees saw small shields, big shields, tall shields, short shields, wide shields, narrow shields, rigid shields and foldable shields. They could learn about shields for patrol officers and tactical officers, as well as shields that could be used by teachers as they evacuate children from a school building.
Communicating with a barricaded suspect is a persistent problem for patrol officers and tactical teams. Throwable phones need to be durable enough to reach the suspect, able to survive abuse from the suspect or environment, and reusable to reduce department costs. The BRINC Ball can be thrown, lowered on a parachute cord, or rolled to a suspect and used just like a cell phone to have a two-way conversation with the suspect and hostages.
The Bounce Imaging camera puts a camera inside a ball that can be thrown, lowered, or rolled, giving tactical operators and incident commanders 360-degree video from inside the scene.
A drone is another option for getting inside a structure and providing high-quality video to officers outside the hot zone.
An officer may want to increase the time and distance between them and a threat, but often an officer may also want to decrease the time and distance. Several electric bike manufacturers showcased rugged, fat-tired, electric bikes to IACP attendees. Recon Power Bikes help officers patrol a larger area, respond faster and arrive less fatigued. With pedal assist or throttled electric motors, bike-mounted patrol officers can quickly close the gap between them and a suspect and still have the breath and energy to take the suspect into custody. The price difference between a conventional bike and an electric bike is so narrow that any department considering a bike purchase should make sure to test ride the increasing number of electric bikes made for law enforcement.
NEXT: Follow Police1’s IACP coverage here.