Sunday, October 30, 2016

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! Be Safe!

It's that time of the year again, please be safe and keep an eye out for trick or treaters!

For today's blog entry, I thought I would introduce you to a police technology you may not have heard of - a police radar system. Now this is not the radar you think it is, the radar used for traffic posts to get the speed of a vehicle. This radar is a handheld system that can allow officers to basically see through walls to check if someone is inside. Click the link below to see a video about how this impressive technology works:

Here are a couple of photos of what the Range-R looks like:

This can be a great tool for officer safety, especially when attempting to serve a high risk felony warrant. However, there are also privacy concerns with the use of this tool. There is a story that discussed this in this USA Today article. What are your thoughts on this technology? 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Virtual Desk Officer

The Virtual Desk Officer

If you've ever had to go to the police station to ask a question, pick up a copy of a report, or file a complaint, chances are that you had to wait in line. Most times, there will be a desk officer there to assist you, or perhaps the desk sergeant. However, if they are tied up assisting on an arrest or have to be called out on an emergency, you would have no choice but to wait until someone is available to assist you. What if there was another way, other than a human officer, to assist you? Enter the "Virtual Desk Officer", a computer kiosk that can help out with those non-emergency requests. Allow my new assistant, the "Technology Cat", to elaborate further on the topic. For those of you wondering, he was created for free using Voki, available at His friend the squirrel was also included free of charge. Click on the link below the photo to hear more about this topic.

Now that you know a bit about "Virtual Desk Officers", I'd like to show you some photos of what the kiosks look like.

As you can see, the kiosks com in all shapes and sizes, and can free up a desk officer from non-emergency requests. Departments can customize what the kiosk can do. In Hamilton, NJ they decided that citizens utilizing the kiosk can:

File a Report
Register your Alarm (Home/Business)
House Watch
Request Records (OPRA)
Contact an Officer / Detective
Police Tip Line
Police Complaints/Commendations
Municipal Ordinances
Pay Local Taxes
Pay Traffic Tickets
Access the Town Website

The kiosk can help out desk officers during high-traffic hours or when the front desk is closed. A great feature is that the software can be completely customized for every department's specific needs. However, many people might be uncomfortable using a kiosk and would prefer interacting with a human police officer.

What are your thoughts on a "Virtual Desk Officer"?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Send in the Clowns!

So the last post dealt with Scary New Police Technology. This post will discuss the scary clowns that are being reported throughout the country - and at URI. First, let me put your mind at ease - we have not discovered any evidence of evil clowns overtaking our campus. However, each year, this internet hoax is resurrected and causes panic to some. How is this related to police technology you ask? Don't worry, we'll get there soon...

Earlier this week URI Police received several calls about people dressed in clown costumes lurking in various areas around the Kingston Campus. Officers responded and were unable to locate any of the suspected clowns. However, this did not stop some students from posting their fears on the web.

Sorry if I scared you with the above clown, but in my research for this blog entry I stumbled upon him - if I had to see it, I figured you should too!

Back to the case, now this is where it gets interesting. Dispatch receives several calls from both concerned students and concerned parents that photos of the URI Clown are all over social media. As supervisor of dispatch, I am notified immediately and I begin to scour social media to see if I can get a glimpse of the elusive URI Clown and help to solve this mystery. I have the most success on Twitter, and a search of "uri clown sightings" found many interesting posts, but not clown pics. Some of the posts I found are below, and I apologize for the colorful language in some of the posts - I just report them like I see them! No names have been changed to protect the innocent - these were public posts with no reasonable expectation of privacy.

Oh boy, no need to get nasty, Jake! Well, you get the idea. I spent some time looking around the web and different social media outlets, and I did not find anything that could solve the URI Clown caper. But I was just one guy, with one computer, poking around the web doing the best I could. What if there was some police technology to assist me in my search???

I'm glad you asked! There is something to help out in just these types of situations (and several others). The product is called Social Sentinel.

On their website SOCIAL SENTINEL, the company explains how:

"The Social Sentinel® service aggregates data via key phrases, hashtags, geofences, our proprietary Local+™ algorithm, and other unique methods of working with meta-data in real-time to help officials identify and mitigate threats, reduce crime, and bring actionable intelligence to evolving situations."

Interestingly enough, URI Police recently had a demo of the software and we were all very impressed with the technology. Basically, Social Sentinel has partnered up with various social media companies, and is able to search specific items that the police enter as key words in their search. In addition to the key word "clown", the police could also have the software key in on other phrases that relate to school violence, drugs, or other potential crimes. 

Check out their website, and let me know if you think a product like Social Sentinel could benefit public safety. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

ALPRs - Scary New Police Technology?

Scary New Police Technology

There's a headline that will get your attention! With all the new technology available, it can be a bit scary. The video is about the Automatic License Plate Recognition units (ALPRs) that are becoming more popular. These tools automate what an officer used to have to do manually, and can run so many more vehicles than an officer could.

I'm not so sure the technology is "scary," but it does make you wonder what happens when all of that data is placed into a database and stored. There are privacy issues that arise, but on the other hand, a shared database could possibly help a law enforcement agency to locate a dangerous criminal or terrorist. There will need to be strict regulation on the data collected to ensure that our privacy is protected. The ACLU has a web page called "You Are Being Tracked" that discusses some of these issues:

These ALPRs are becoming more common, so I thought I would show you some photos of what the systems look like. In your travels, keep your eyes out for the cruisers with the ALPR technology.

So... What are your thoughts on ALPR? Scary? Not Scary? Invasion of privacy? Let me know your thoughts, and thanks for visiting my blog!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Enough about technology for now... Brangelina is no more!

Image result for brangelina

Apparently, not everyone is unhappy about this story. 

Well, back to police technology - There was a recent segment on ABC 6 Providence about the use of body cameras in the Providence Police Department. Check it out:

We have tried out a demonstration unit here for the University of Rhode Island Police. Feedback has been pretty positive to this point. However, there will still be privacy concerns to deal with, policies to be written, and issues with storing all of the video.

What are your thoughts on the use of body cams by police?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Allow myself to introduce... myself

Paul Ricci's Blog - Introduction

Welcome to my blog!

I'm excited to share some police technology history and hopefully we can learn about new technologies that can be used in policing. A little bit about myself...

I am a retired Captain from the North Providence, RI police department. Hired in 1992, I was interested in becoming a police officer because my father was also a police officer. As a child, I saw how exciting the job can be, and could see how an officer could help people in the community. During my career, I was able to be involved in the many technological advances that have taken place in the profession. After nearly 21 years in law enforcement, I was able to see the progression from all paper based systems to the modern, nearly paperless systems in use today.

In 1992, there were no "computers" as we now know them in use in the police department. However, there were "dummy" terminals connected to a mainframe system. This was called the Wang System, and I have a couple of images for your viewing pleasure:

These beautiful systems were essentially digital filing systems that replaced the old file cards that were used to track the police reports, suspects, stolen articles, or other police information. Actually, they did not replace the file cards because we still kept the old file cards in use for when these dummy terminals failed. As I recall, the Wang system was down quite a bit, I realized why it was called a dummy terminal!

In this blog, I plan on discussing how we progressed from these unreliable systems to the systems in use today. In addition, I'll discuss emerging technologies that police will use to make their jobs easier to help keep us safe. Finally, I'll include some interesting tidbits as to how I went from having essentially no computer knowledge to managing the entire police network.