IPO Corner: High-Tech Cops

Last month, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, officers with the Tulsa Police Department suited up with exciting new virtual reality training technologies designed to make training officers easier, faster, and safer. The department is one of many across the country leaning into virtual reality training platforms. These platforms get officers safely into realistic scenarios in the virtual world, so they know exactly how to handle whatever comes their way in the real one.

In these training sessions, officers don the appropriate garb, are buddied with a fellow officer, and together they run through all sorts of different drills… all designed to safely keep pace with our evolving threat landscape. And that’s our theme for today, the evolution of policing technologies. We’re talking all about some of the new ways technology is helping our boys in blue protect and serve.

Smart Cars And Better Gear

Training isn’t the only place we’re seeing a ramp-up in technology in policing, it can be seen in the vehicles and hardware our boys are working with as well. In New York, the NYPD recently caused chatter with information about their newest fleet of vehicles, slated to roll out in 2024. Vehicles are expected to have helpful additions, such as QR codes for the public, and a 360° camera system so officers can safely monitor crowds from inside.

Not only that, the cars will feature all-electric engines… as we’re seeing departments across the country also begin going greener. From departments in Portland, Oregon, where new vehicles will have enhanced lighting and sirens and atomic clock radio synchronization, to Tupelo, Mississippi, where vehicle upgrades include camera upgrades and new license plate readers… policing is increasingly getting more high-tech.

Some changes will be in the weapons that officers carry, and we have companies coming into the space with some fantastic ideas about what those new things might be… one such company is Lassen Peak, out of Bellevue, Washington. Lassen Peak is a new company which specializes in helping in the detection of dangerous concealed objects. In late 2022, they completed Series A financing rounds totaling over 16 million.

But Lassen Peak isn’t just another company, they are working on a first-of-its-kind, fully integrated, handheld radar system. This is a big deal, as one of the biggest threats to officers is to their bodily safety in close proximity to potentially dangerous persons. We’re primarily talking about the infamous pat-down here… because this is where things that can go wrong, tend to.

Currently, scanners are large, clunky, don’t transport easily… and aren’t helpful to officers working in most places… but that’ll change. Lassen’s has skin in the game too, with leadership consisting of impressive folks in law enforcement, such as ACLU General Counsel, President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, President of the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, and several others.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t bring up biometrics in this conversation, although we’ll only do it briefly… but we want to, because Biden has recently been pestering congress to establish clearer rules for biometric data as it relates to policing. It’s important because biometrics is more and more a tool of preference in policing, and it’s pushing us to have important conversations around data in the space.

This is a good thing, it means places to look for opportunities… and problems that have gone unaddressed, will finally get worked out. Then, we can get back to the business of figuring out how biometrics will transform policing, and where we need to be looking for our gems there. Namely, Biden wants to see limits on what can be collected and shared, and fixes for things like racial bias in algorithms.

Biometrics in policing isn’t going away, and is actively being explored by institutions like the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), which is an independent research institute that studies the intersection of technological and public policy. Since we know we’ll need to be more reliant on biometrics in policing moving forward, we need to make sure we’re establishing best practices to carry us through. Come back next week, we’ll have more from depths of the IPO world.