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The Future of Laser Scanning for Public Safety and Forensics

Preserving crime and accident scenes, documenting and providing court-ready evidence, and ensuring every detail is captured, technology has changed how police, firefighters and other public safety professionals work. As the technology continues to advance, so does its use in this sector.

BK: Welcome to HxGN Radio. My name is Brian. Thank you for joining us. We have Ryan Rezzelle from Leica Geosystems and Detective Sergeant David Deleeuw of the Ocean County, New Jersey Sheriff’s Office. We’re going to be discussing the future of laser scanning and public safety and forensics. Thanks for joining us guys.

RR: Absolutely.

DD: Thanks for having us.

BK: Appreciate it. So, laser scanning or 3D high definition surveying has become a trusted resource for public safety and forensic applications, preserving crime and accident scenes, documenting and providing court ready evidence, and ensuring every detail is captured. This technology has changed how police, firefighters, and other public safety professionals work. As the technology continues to advance, so does its use in this sector. All right Ryan let’s get started here.

RR: Let’s do it.

BK: How is laser scanning used in public safety and forensics?

RR: Well, it’s a key tool, and it’s evolving through time. As the technology evolves, the user base is growing. I mean, I began as a laser scanner and in public safety in 2010, and it had been around in public safety since the 2000s. The user base is growing, because there is really no public safety application where it doesn’t fit in. We’re talking about going to a crime scene where a shooting has occurred and being able to deploy laser scanning and capturing every measurement that is relevant. The the old way was to take a tape measure and a piece of paper into a band measure and write down those measurements. Human measuring is fallible. By deploying these electronic methods, these instruments, these laser scanners, we’re able to capture the entire crime scene. we’re capturing it and stopping a moment in time, so we can go back at any point and look back at that crime scene. The concept is the same whether it’s a crime scene, a crash scene, or a fire scene. It’s all a type of crime scene that we’re using this equipment to deploy, so we can go back and look at that scene and find any measurement that’s relevant to help shape an investigation.

BK: OK.

RR: By scanning and documenting, we create the reality that was that crime scene, and we can then reconstruct the events surrounding that scene whether it was a crime or a crash and rebuild that event to determine what might have happened.

BK: Sure. Wow, that’s great. So, I mean you’ve pretty much already touched on this but are there any other benefits that public safety professionals are going to get from this technology?

RR: You know there’s active response where you have an event, you have a shooting, you have a crash, you have a fire where we take the technology out to document. But there’s a lot of pre event documentation that can happen also. I mean, unfortunately at this point in time we’re dealing with school shootings rather frequently in the United States, especially taking scanners out to scan schools, so that you have a map of a site.

So, first responders can have 3D actionable data when they’re responding to a crime scene to have a pre-as built status of a location where an event occurs if you have something like a school shooting. You know how this structure existed before that event occurred and then you can compare it to whatever it’s like after the event occurred. So, there are just a multitude of ways that we can find to apply this. But I think that that’s one that’s very relevant in our society today.

BK: Yeah absolutely. OK. Well David you know your unit uses the Leica Laser Scanners. Give us some examples of cases you’ve worked on recently with this tech?

DD: Yeah, absolutely. Ryan touched on a multitude of those. Primarily we are deploying our systems for homicide related investigations. You have officer involved shootings, fire scene, arson related investigations, and you know serious or fatal motor vehicle accident investigations. I would say primarily, it’s going to be on our homicide or death scene investigation or suspicious death. We’ve been very successful in deploying this technology not only in the field but also in the court.

BK: OK. Now how does it help you to do your job better?

DD:  Well we’re going out. I mean our sole main mission is to document and collect evidence, and we are able to deploy these applications and utilize this technology to digitally preserving the scene. I’m going in. I am going to photograph. I’m going to video graph. I’m going to take notes, but I’m able to introduce a piece of technology that is going to allow me to preserve the scene as it was when we arrived. Then it could be a couple of years later that this case goes to trial and a question may arise.

While we can’t get back into that scene. That scene has changed exponentially, you know. It may not even exist anymore, but because we went out and we laser scanned it. I can now go back in and something that was maybe not relevant then may be relevant now. Having the ability, and Ryan touched on it, having real, actionable data, so we can go in and we can ascertain information, that again, we didn’t realize previously was important.

BK: Sure. So, you’re be able to access stuff that you were able to capture?

DD: Absolutely.

BK: Like you said, years down the road. If it goes to that.

DD: Yeah, I always give the example of a fire scene. You have a fire scene, an arson investigation that seems gone. Right? That structure, that area, that environment is being eventually raised and demolished, so it can be rebuilt. I can’t go back to that fire scene. That’s it. It’s done. Especially, even after overhaul processes of the fire professionals that come in. In any case, I’m documenting that scene.

I have the ability to go back to it at any other point in time I want. One of the key things I really like is on an accident scene, I don’t even need the cars to be there. I can go out and document the scene wherever the cars were towed back to. I can go document the cars. Then with the tools and resources that Leica provides, I can introduce those vehicles back into the scene. So, you know we’re reducing time in the field drastically.

RR: Dave brought up a great point about protecting evidence. We can always look back at it. One of the key benefits of laser scanning is you go out and scan a crime scene and within minutes, you can be showing that in the command post at a major event. What used to happen was that the district attorney, the attorney assigned to the case, the lead detective, command staff, the coroner, and everybody wanted to parade through that scene.

Well hairs and fibers and trace evidence can be transferred between those people and the crime scene and contaminate the scene. We’re able to do a scan and show it to them near immediately. And it’s keeping that contamination to a minimum. It’s keeping the key personnel on site that need to be there. Laser scanning as a peripheral benefit is allowing us to protect the scenes better by providing real time actionable information.

BK: Interesting, and I’m sure the accuracy goes up significantly with laser scanning versus just?

RR: Wholeheartedly.

BK: OK.

DD: Ryan touched on it before. Hand measurements are fallible, and Ryan said it before, laser scan is beyond reproach. You know it’s science.

RR: We have quality tools that we have in our systems that verify the data is accurate when you’re in the field. Then we can demonstrate that when we’re creating our output. We use snapshots of our quality polls and things like that to verify quality aspects of the scene. It’s a pretty thorough process that truly gives us a court ready tool that allows us to testify to that information with with a strong level of confidence.

BK: That’s good.

RR: Repeatable, repeatable accuracy.

BK: Yeah, great. Now Leica just released the latest laser the RTC360.

RR: Yes.

BK: So, obviously there’s some special features there for the public safety sector. Tell us more about that.

RR: Well, it’s one of those I might start to weep kind of moments, out of how a joyous moment it is. We’re talking about a tool that’s scanning at two million points per second that’s unparalleled speed. It has just not been seen. By comparison, the scan station that we have right now is a million points per second. So, we’re talking about twice the speed and data capture. The imaging time has been dropped drastically from our scan station model. So, we’re looking at anywhere from, If you’re scanning only at about a half a minute if you’re doing a scan plus image at its highest resolution to about three to three and a half minutes per setup. So, the setup time at each position has been cut down.

Well one of the things that the RTC has is called VIS technology. This is a registration tool where the scanner has multiple sensors that are seeing everything around it. Actually as you move it from position to position, it’s using this VIS technology along with an internal IMU. So when I pick the scanner up, and I set it down in another location, it knows exactly where it’s moved relative to the previous location.

So, when it scans those scans are automatically registered together. Until now, we’ve had to use some process targets visual registration to put those together in software. That’s going away. Essentially. It puts them together automatically and then REG 360 our registration software, tightens them down to the survey grade area that we need these types of scans to be. It’s an amazing amazing tool. It’s going to expedite crime scene work, crash scene work, and anything that we’re doing in public safety and forensics so drastically. It’s going to improve our response time or speed on a project or time on target. It’s a game changer.

BK: That’s cool.

RR: Absolutely.

BK: I’m assuming you’re very excited about this David?

DD: Yeah, absolutely. This is definitely a jaw dropping new piece of technology that I as a law enforcement officer am eager to get my hands on. Because ultimately, we want to reduce the time on scene as much as possible. We want to reduce scene contamination. We don’t want to be introducing anything foreign into the scene. But I also want to be able to get my detectives into that scene, so they can do their job.

But we want to document that and make sure it’s documented thoroughly. The fact that this new piece of technology allows me to go in and cut my time in half if not more. You know we can go in and scan and it’s doing the post processing work for us. So, by the time I’m done, Ryan touched on it before, we can immediately provide this data in the command post so they can see it. I don’t have to worry about going back to the office and spending time putting everything together and then trying to push out deliverables. It’s done.

RR: Amazing point in time right now. You know Dave and I have been students of the survey world. We’ve been studying scanning for years and to be here at this moment. I mean, it’s truly a point on the map that we will always remember, and it’s great to be here that’s for sure.

DD: I’m very humbled to be part of this. You know. Public safety was like a very small entity, but they’re doing an exceptional job at recognizing our needs and our demands for doing our job better. Ryan is a key component of that. You know with his background and his knowledge and everything like that. So again, I’m very humbled to be part of this. You know, to be involved in this release in some capacity just being here. It’s very overwhelming.

BK: Yeah, I was going to say it’s great that you’re both working together on this, and that it is actually helping the public safety sector. That’s fantastic. I’m glad it’s doing that. Do you have any future desires with laser technology you’d like to see to help even?

DD: Yeah, you know, I think Leica is definitely leading the way and being very innovative. Always aiming for lighter smaller faster. It’s exactly the direction that they’re heading in. From the days when I started with the equipment to where I’m at now, Leica has done just that lighter, smaller, and faster. Now they’re incorporating your post processing work already in the field. So, your time on target is reduced exponentially. You can provide that data out instantly. It’s almost instantly, If you think about it. Then you can refine it as necessary.

For the upper echelon the command staff, they always want to see something. They want immediate. We’re a very progressive department in terms of technology, and we’ve moved forward with harnessing the ability of the cloud. I see great direction being provided from Leica as we move into this new technology front with cloud based computing, cloud services, new applications, new technology, and taking advantage of everything.

Then the big thing is everything talks to each other. You have one cohesive application platform where everything communicates with each other with a very diverse platform of applications that are available. So, you’re just you’re consistently refining it as the trends of forensic science and public safety emerge. It’s an ever evolving field, and Leica is definitely recognizing this and adapting accordingly.

BK: That’s great.

RR: Dave tells me what he wants all the time. Pass that right up to the uppers, and I’m like hey this is what we’ve got to get. Deleeuw wants it. We need it, and they’re like oh Deleeuw wants it. We’ll put it to the front of the line.

BK: So, I was going to say what are you looking for and what are you expecting? But you’re basically just funneling it in.

RR: I mean that’s really where it is. You know I have 16 years of crime scene investigation, and I was going to point out that Dave and I both have been in the Leica user family for many years. He started on an SS2 to myself on a C10, so when he said lighter, smaller, faster it’s because when you’re working crime scenes, when you work in crash scenes, it’s important that the equipment you have to use to do your job successfully is economically sized and efficient to deploy.

I mean you’re out there in harm’s way. I mean we’re out there at death scenes, at crash scenes, where traffic is going in the other lane of traffic. I mean, we want to reduce the time that officers and first responders and crime scene investigators, firefighters, fire investigators, and all of these folks spend in harm’s way. That really is kind of a goal. I don’t want to call it a secondary goal. It’s a goal of making everybody better at what they do through the technology that we’re able to give them.

I think that’s a key that we’re always going to keep in the forefront as we’re developing new solutions for people. We want to keep people safe. We want to keep our citizens safe by giving the people sworn to protect them tools to do it. We want to give those people that are sworn to protect the tools to be safe themselves.

BK: Absolutely. That’s great. Well you can always keep up to date on all the great new products and updates and everything that’s coming out over at Leica-geosystems.com. Check it out. Also if you want to know what’s going on in the public safety sector you can go to co.ocean.nj.us/ocsheriff. That’s a long one.

DD: You are not going to see much on the Ocean County Sheriff’s page, but for those that are listening and have any interest or any additional questions definitely look me up. I’m real easy to find online or contact me through Ryan here, and we’ll make sure that you get any questions answered.

You can find me on LinkedIn. I’m very prominent. I post frequently, and I’m happy to link in with anybody that’s listening. Message me questions. Find me out there. I’m always willing to engage. I’m on the laserscanningforum.com as OCSD163. I’m actively on there, as well. Just a real quick caveat. You know the question I’m always asked is “how long until you’re done with things”, and now I’m going to be able to be done, hopefully, before they’re even asking. I’ll be done.

RR: People are going to drop some jobs when they see how quick this is. It’s going to be an amazing time.

BK: I love it. Ryan, David thank you so much appreciate it.

DD: Yeah thanks a lot for having us appreciate it.

BK: All right. HxGNSPOTLIGHT.com for more episodes and information. Thank you all for listening. Have a great day.

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