STE Security Innovation Awards Bronze Medal: Busting the Bandwidth Bind

The LAPD overcomes technical issues with streaming video surveillance for investigations and large-scale events

We attempted to find funding for the Cobham equipment through grants and donations from charitable police foundations. At the 2010 Academy Awards, Cobham provided demo equipment for the mesh network, which was installed in the Hollywood area. Results with the Axis cameras were excellent and cemented the need for this equipment. 

Our supervisors began the tedious process of applying for grant monies from the Department of Homeland Security. In the early spring of 2010, the Unit was approved for the expenditure of said grant monies for the equipment, thanks in large part to the Academy Awards success and the need to supply quality video in similar large-scale situations.

That summer, the Los Angeles Lakers again won the NBA Championship and a victory parade was organized. We were asked to provide cameras based on the same ineffective cellular system from 2009 and knew that failure would be imminent; nevertheless, several cameras were installed along the parade route and, throughout the time leading up to the parade, worked satisfactorily. However, as anticipated, on the day of the parade, the cameras could only deliver a frame or two of video every 30 seconds because of the choked cellular network.

Command Post staff demanded to know what the problems were. After explaining the situation, we quickly gained departmental support for the acquisition of the mesh networking equipment, as everyone was desperate for a dependable, quality solution that would serve the city of Los Angeles effectively during these types of events. 

Even after receiving approval, the convoluted process through which grant money is spent almost caused us to lose our acquisition of the radio gear several times throughout the next year. Luckily, our supervision was in close contact with Cobham and other entities involved in the process and our luck held. A local Cobham vendor, Special Services Group, out of Central California, was instrumental in expediting the entire process and the equipment was eventually shipped in March 2011.

The IP radios were put to work immediately alongside the 720p and 1080p HDTV-quality AXIS P5534-E and AXIS Q6035-E PTZ Dome Network Cameras. Six of the 10 IP radios were mounted in powered L-Com NEMA rated weatherproof enclosures along with the Axis cameras. After learning the system the radios operated in, I was able to set up the network very quickly and with good results.


May Day Provides First Test, Royal Visit Seals the Deal

Our first deployment of the new mesh-based surveillance system was for the May Day rallies in 2011, which called for immigration reform and workers’ rights. The cameras were installed in the downtown area close to our headquarters, and everything worked very well, as physical distances between the radios were close.

Later that summer, we deployed the system for the visit of the Royal Couple, Prince William and Kate Middleton, and had some serious distance to cover without line of sight from the camera/radio locations back to our command post on the other side of downtown. The Tech Squad decided to mount one of the radios on the roof of the US Bank Tower (the tallest building west of the Mississippi River) to serve as a relay or hop site between the cameras/radios at the venues and our receive site at the command post. US Bank Tower officials gave us the green light for the install and the results were perfect—the tower’s support is still integral to the program today.

I personally took an additional IP radio and powered that unit in my car and drove to Signal Hill, Calif. — about 20 miles west of downtown L.A. — with good line of sight to the tower. I was actually able to acquire the network and the cameras around the venues for the Royal Visit at that distance. 

Because of the installation support from US Bank and the mesh rollout with Cobham, we have been off and running with the system, deploying it at numerous events with positive results — including the visit of the Chinese Vice President, May Day 2012, the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2012 and subsequent victory parade for the L.A. Kings.