Navigating the influx of security data

Baltimore Police Lt. Samuel Hood III discusses how the city leverages technology for public safety

LET: You talk about the swiftness with which people saw suspicious activity in Boston, and were able to use video to make an arrest. What else did you take away from the event?

Hood: In Boston, they were able to identify who the suspects were and get that information out to the media because it was a global event. In Maryland we had those pictures up along the main interstates within hours after they were released. So now, your perimeter has extended to several states. [The suspects’] pictures were up across the U.S. on electric billboards. We wouldn’t have been able to do that without video, or without the electronics we have today.
Because of technology’s complexities, jurisdictional boundaries are ceasing to exist. Originally when I started as a police officer I’d see a picture, make a photo lineup of six pictures, and then have someone identify who that person was. And then I’d have to go down and print that information and put it on flyers trying to identify a missing child or a suspect. Now within seconds we can take [the image] right off the video, connect it to who the victim was, and send it out to every car and every person in that perimeter, within minutes.

Think about that. That’s also increasing the trust between the community and law enforcement, because we’re more proficient about how we’re doing it. And there’s no confusion about who we’re actually looking for.

LET: You’re improving the transparency between community and law enforcement.

Hood: Absolutely. The transparency, I think is ideal. That’s the best way to say it. Look at the [successful end] to the Boston bombing—individuals are taking video all the time, and now they need repository of where to send that back. You know that data contains the XY coordinates of where the picture was taken, so you can start putting out a map of where this picture was taken and at what time. Now you have a timeline in which to reconstruct that environment; you know exactly where to look for those surrounding pictures, and at what time and on what day.

That helps you tremendously when you’re putting a scene back together.
As for transparency, it was a community member—a citizen—who took the picture. That’s the way the public/private partnership is really developing.

I really thought transparency was key in Boston, along with interoperability. From Federal down to local they were making sure there was one message, and that they were organized and verifying information before they put it out. They did a good job of explaining through the media what was actually transpiring, because they were doing a door-by-door search. To do a search like that in that large of an area is very labor-intensive. So it was good they explained to the community where they were and what they were doing.

LET: To what extent do you think social media assisted in that?

Hood: Social media was huge; video right now is your foremost communication. Before it was radio. Now with video you’re seeing real-time situational awareness; you have real-time information. And with the mobility of social media or Twitter, you [can] confirm your information coming in.

You’re reducing what you have to do, but you now have a standard of proficiency that you never had before because you have an executive looking at it through the eyes of their subordinate, and they can actually identify what someone’s doing. It’s safer for the public, it’s safer for the first responder, and it’s more proficient.

You know as well as I do, it used to be whatever officer first got there, or first responder (just like a reporter), the product you’re going to get depends on their level of expertise. With video you can actually have a level of proficiency that was never there before.

LET: How does that change the job of the officer on patrol, all the information that comes easily, quickly and directly to his or her mobile device? Does it make operations more streamlined or increase the workload?