Law Enforcement Technology

  • Law enforcementChanges to Pentagon equipment transfers to local police not likely

    Some lawmakers and their constituents are calling for restrictions on the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which transfers excess military equipment to law-enforcement agencies through the Defense Logistics AgencyLaw Enforcement Support Office. Congressional insiders say, however, that little will be done in the short-term.

  • CrimeDrawing lessons from “perfect heists” for national security

    In 2003, the unthinkable happened at Belgium’s Antwerp Diamond Center. Thieves broke into its reputedly impenetrable vault and made off with hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of diamonds, gold, cash and other valuables. The Antwerp Diamond Center theft and other sophisticated, high-value heists show that motivated criminals can find ways to overcome every obstacle between them and their targets. Can the Energy and Defense departments, responsible for analyzing, designing, and implementing complex systems to protect vital national security assets, learn from security failures in the banking, art, and jewelry worlds?

  • ForensicsBullets database to help match bullets, cartridge cases to specific firearms

    Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology are working to improve ballistics matching methods with assistance from the Prince George’s County, Maryland, Police Department Crime Laboratory. Their work together will contribute to a collection of topographic data from thousands of fired bullets and cartridge cases. The collection, which they ultimately plan to issue as an open research database, will improve the scientific basis of forensic techniques used to match bullets and cartridge cases to specific firearms.

  • Law enforcementLawmakers reconsider transfer of military gear to local police

    Federal officials are considering placing restrictions on the 1990 Department of Defense Excess Property (1033) Program which authorized the Pentagon to give surplus military equipment to local law enforcement units to fight the war on drugs. The program was later explained as also heling in the fight against terrorism. Though violent crime nationwide is at its lowest levels in decades, the transfers of military equipment to police forces have surged.

  • GunsSmart-gun design met with suspicion by gun rights advocates

    Ernst Mauch, a mainstay of the weapons industry and a long-term gunmaker at Heckler & Koch, has recently upset gun rights advocates, who used to praise his work, with his new computer-assisted smart gun design. The new gun incorporates twenty-first century computing and intelligence features to eliminate the potential for danger in the wrong hands: it will only operate if the owner is wearing a special wrist watch.

  • Law enforcementThe militarization of local police

    The killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year old African American by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri, and the use by the Ferguson police of armored personnel carriers, machine-guns on tripods, stun grenades, and other military gear in a heavy-handed effort to disperse demonstrators protesting the killing, raised anew the question of the adoption of military equipment by local police departments. Critics say that more and more police departments now resemble military units, and that military gear is used in cases where it should not – as was the case in a small Florida town in 2010, when officers in SWAT gear drew out their guns on raids on barbershops that mostly led to charges of “barbering without a license.”

  • ExplosivesTool helps investigators connect bomb fragments to bomb makers

    Authorities with the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the Canadian military, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), and law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom have adopted a crowdsourcing system called DFuze to help agencies in twenty-five countries connect bomb fragments to bomb makers or individuals who could be connected to a specific bomb.The technology allows users to share bomb images and data to assist pending investigations.

  • DronesUsing drones in law enforcement work

    Using unmanned flight systems for domestic surveillance can provide emergency responders information during fires, earthquakes, storms, and man-made disasters, said John Hill, director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.He said that the general public is open to the use of unmanned systems when informed about their use.

  • Digital forensicsCloud computing poses technical challenges for digital crime-fighters

    The ultimate in distributed computing, cloud computing is revolutionizing how digital data is stored, processed, and transmitted. It enables convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources, including servers, storage, and applications. The characteristics that make this new technology so attractive also create challenges for forensic investigators who must track down evidence in the ever-changing, elastic, on-demand, self-provisioning cloud computing environments.

  • SurveillanceNSA, FBI monitored e-mails of prominent Muslim American leaders, attorneys

    The NSA and FBI monitored the e-mails of prominent Muslim American leaders and attorneys, including the head of the largest American Muslim civil rights group, The Intercept reported yesterday. Critics of the surveillance programs of the NSA and other government agencies said the revelations proved their contention that these programs should be more closely monitored. The critics say that in order to obtain FISA court approval for the surveillance, the government alleged that these activists were agents of foreign powers. The critics also note that the monitoring of lawyers’ e-mails raises concerns that some of the information collected may be protected by the attorney-client privilege, which the intelligence agencies are bound to respect.

  • Law-enforcement technologySupreme Court cites NIST guidelines in ruling on cell phone searches

    As digital technology transforms twenty-first century life, questions about privacy rights abound. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on one such question in late June: if you are arrested, can the police search your cell phone without first obtaining a warrant? No, according to the 25 June 2014 ruling in Riley v. California. “Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans ‘the privacies of life,’ … The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority.

  • Law-enforcement technologyLicense plate readers still to reach their full potential

    Systems which automatically read automobile license plates have the potential to save police investigative time and increase safety, but law enforcement officials must address issues related to staffing, compatibility and privacy before the technology can reach its full potential, according to a new study. Addressing these issues will require a clear understanding of the current and potential value of the systems to criminal justice agencies.

  • SurveillanceNSA shelved collection program which could have prevented 9/11 attacks: Critics

    Fourteen years ago the NSA research unit developed a collection program called Thin Thread which, its authors say, could have detected the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and prevented it. Critics of the program agreed it was a good program, but that it picked up more Americans than the other systemsthen being considered, and was thus deemed too invasive of Americans’ privacy. In the fall of 2000 General Michael Hayden, then-director of the NSA, decided against the program largely because of the legal implications.

  • CybercrimeLeaked documents reveal law enforcement hacking methods

    Through the sourcing of a leaked documents cache from the Italian firm Hacking Team, members of the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab have revealed the methods of law-enforcement hackers. While much of Snowden’s revelations concerned broad international surveillance, documents from Hacking Team reveal more specific methods such as the actual techniques for tapping phones and computers to operate as eavesdropping devices.

  • PrivacyPrivacy advocates worried about new Senate cybersecurity bill

    Privacy groups are concerned that a new Senate cybersecurity bill could give the NSA unrestricted access to personal information of Americans. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), a counterpart to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) which passed the House in 2013, would create a “gaping loophole in existing privacy law,” several privacy advocacy groups wrote in a letter to lawmakers.