Spotlight Shines on Cutting Edge, Innovative Public Safety Technology

This year’s MACo Winter Conference was themed “Mission: Public Safety” and included many sessions focused on modern policing and how new technology can enhance communications, coordinated response, and public relations during response to routine emergencies and regional catastrophes.

At the Conference’s general session “The New Blue: Tools, Technology, and Transparency in Modern Policing” audience members heard from public and private sector public safety representatives  about exciting and new advancements in police technology, and changes that may be in store for the future of public safety.

John K. (Ken) Hasenei, State Interoperability Director for the Maryland State Police, kicked off the panel with a broad presentation on state and national trends in technology and interoperability. Hasenei began with an update on FirstNet, an initiative to connect emergency responders through a nationwide, high-speed, wireless, broadband network, and Maryland First, the state’s program for radio interoperability for first responders. Hasenei provided updates on the implementation of Maryland First and noted the success of the program in providing new communications capability and support during the unrest in Baltimore earlier this year. Hasenei also provided updates on body cameras and drones, the Regional Automated Pawn Information Database (RAPID) and Next Gen 911.

New Blue Panel from L to R: Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, Major Ken Hasanei, Jeff Gillan, Steve O'Dell, Ken Mallette
New Blue Panel from L to R: Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, Major Ken Hasanei, Jeff Gillan, Steve O’Dell, Ken Mallette

Next, Jeff Gillan, Senior Global Portfolio Analysis Manager at Airbus Communications, provided a more in depth look at the future of 911 technology.  Gillan provided an overview of Next Gen 911, which would create new and more integrated capabilities for 911. For example the ability for call centers to better interact with mobile devices, to receive automated crash notifications and information from biometric sensors. While full implementation of NextGen 911 remains in the a few years away, Gillan also discussed updates on Text to 911. The technology to allow wireless devices to text to call centers is available and being implemented in 288 counties in 32 states, including Maryland, as call centers update their technological capabilities. Gillian concluded with critical information for next steps in advancing and investing in 911 technology.

The panel’s third speaker was Steve O’Dell the Crime Lab Director for the Baltimore City Police Department.  O’Dell provided an exciting update on new technology in criminal forensics and crime scene investigations. He began by discussing some of the challenges he faced in the crime lab such as case backlogs from the shear amount of submissions from the various police investigations units to limits with the available technology. He then discussed the investments in technology the Department made to transform the city crime lab into one of the most advanced and efficient in the state. O’Dell highlighted a number of advanced forensic tech tools including crime scene laser scanners, shooting reconstruction software, latent fingerprint solutions, DNA analysis and integrated, information sharing apps. He noted that these technologies not only aid in police investigations but have a high return on investment in helping to keep communities safe. O’Dell stressed the importance of investment in technology and suggested a regional approach that could help maximize investment and efficiency across jurisdictions.

Finally, Ken Mallette, Senior Manager at Ernst & Young discussed cybercrimes and the importance of protection. Mallette’s presentation reinforced that the future of public safety will increasingly be dependent on computers and electronic technologies housed on cyber networks. Providing numerous high profile examples of cyber breaches, Mallette shared that the expanded cyber connections will lead to more and more breaches of security. As attacks become more sophisticated and as attackers turn to exploiting people in addition to the technology to cause large-scale destruction, more attention and resources needs to be spent on protecting these cybersystems. Mallette discussed the need to view the issue broadly and not as not just an IT problem—that it is important to invest in cyber security, and to build teams of cyber specialist and non-technical (analytic) staff that are integrated into the core of the business or organization with broad involvement and accountability at all levels. Mallette concluded by noting that while more work needs to be done Maryland according to a Pell center report, Maryland is number two in the nation for cyber security and was the first state to have a commission dedicated to cyber security and excellence.

The panel was moderated by Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary who represents District 14, Howard County, and serves on the House Judiciary Committee. It was held from 9:00 am – 10:15 am on Thursday, December 10, 2015 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge.