There are numerous risks law enforcement officers face when protecting their communities. The profession takes courage. Many times, officers are problem-solving alone on calls for service. There is a heightened need to focus on officer safety in moments like this, as they can be high-risk and unpredictable.
Why is officer safety important?
According to The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, “the occupational fatality rate for law enforcement is three to five times greater than the national average for the working population.” This alarming statistic means that the average officer is more likely to lose their life due to their law enforcement profession. In some cases, the loss of life can be prevented by reducing response times and enhancing overall situational awareness.
How can law enforcement agencies reduce response time and enhance situational awareness?
There are measures in place and traditional ways to aid in officer safety, such as regular check-ins with one’s agency, wearing protective gear such as body armor and avoiding complacency/overlooking routine protocol. These steps provide increased safety for an officer, although we see it is not enough. We are in an age where technology provides an added layer of officer safety and real-time situational awareness, allowing for more informed decision-making during mission-critical moments.
Through the Polaris platform (formerly AVaiLWeb) and the EOS camera (formerly BodyWorn), the Utility team has created a way to aid in officer safety through the Officer Down feature. Suppose an officer has become prone in the field and needs backup. In that case, the deputy’s body-worn camera starts an automatic recording, alerts all nearby officers, and sends a call-for-help message to Polaris (formerly AVaiLWeb) that includes the officer’s GPS coordinates. Therefore, removing the officer’s burden to call for backup on their own reduces the response time while allowing help to arrive before it is too late.
Due to this feature, St. Louis County Police Department was quickly alerted and rapidly responded to aid one of their officers during a medical emergency. This incident provided testament to their agency that the Officer Down feature is an integral part of ensuring their officers’ safety. Read more about this story here on Police1 Magazine.
Is it essential to have an officer safety protocol aided by technology?
Yes. The benefits outweigh the costs. To have the ability to know precisely where an officer is with the simple click of a button can save lives. The advancement of technology has allowed us to cover more considerable distances and reach greater heights. The implementation of Utility’s BodyWorn (now EOS by Utility) goes beyond that of a body camera. It provides access to a digital evidence management system that creates situational awareness, a critical foundation for successful decision-making in a high-risk profession such as law enforcement.
Utility often works with customer/partner agencies to develop new technology enhancements. This officer down feature was one suggested by Chief Hedley of Lilburn PD in Georgia.