Thomas Myers, Communication Strategist at VK Integrated Systems (VKIS), discusses how the company is marrying sensor technology and Team Awareness Kit (TAK) situational awareness software to improve the command and communication flow of law enforcement units.
Throughout history, from daring World War II Pathfinder units parachuting into Normandy, France, to high-stakes law enforcement scenarios such as the 1997 North Hollywood Shootout, situational awareness has consistently proven to be the critical element behind the success of every operation.
However, fast forward 78 years, and the gap in situational awareness has become painfully evident.
The Uvalde school shooting, which tragically claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers just one year ago on May 24, has starkly exposed the glaring flaws in the law enforcement response to an active shooter situation.
According to an investigation conducted by ABC News, responding Uvalde officers on the scene were marred by a severe lack of awareness and control. Command posts were not initially established, leaving responding officers without a central hub for coordination. Shockingly, crucial information about the shooter was practically non-existent. In an effort to expedite their response, some officers left their radios behind, inadvertently causing further delays in communication. Adding to the chaos, limited cell service, and faulty radios impeded the flow of vital information from 911 dispatchers to the officers on the ground.
In a decisive action, the incident commander on the scene, Pedro Arrendondo, mistakenly believed that the situation evolved into a barricaded gunman—this false assumption delayed officers from confronting the shooter for 77 minutes.
These failures are devastating, particularly given that the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District had provided active shooter training to law enforcement officers in the Uvalde area in March. The de facto standard across the board is to move towards the gunfire and eliminate the shooter, further shown in the manual provided for the officers:
“Officer’s first priority is to move in and confront the attacker. This may include bypassing the injured and not responding to cries for help from children.”
A few months later, in October 2022, the school district suspended its police force.
A New Paradigm for Situational Awareness
The VK Integrated Systems (VKIS) team is pushing the envelope, marrying sensor technology and Team Awareness Kit (TAK) situational awareness software to empower the command and communication flow of units in any critical situation. Using alerts and cursors, users can inform the entire network of the status of a problem with the ease of seconds.
Paired with their electronic buttstock, officers can easily discern the location, direction, and shots fired by engaged officers. This gives command-level awareness to all end users connected to the TAK server in the palm of their hands.
In the April 12th, 2022 Louisville Bank shooting, the first responding officer was pinned down by gunfire for 3 minutes while additional units were en route. By employing our TAK servers and electronic buttstocks, responding officers could access crucial information on their handheld devices, including the location of active officers, shot direction, and ongoing tactical communication.
This wealth of information is available even before reaching the active scene, enabling rapid response plans from en-route law enforcement units.
Furthermore, all data collected through the TAK server can be replayed with the Mapping After-action Review System (MARS), VKIS’s new after-action-review tool that flawlessly integrates into servers. This eliminates the need to interrogate officers about specific locations or the number of shots fired during highly-complex scenarios. All information regarding a scene can be viewed in video playback format, resulting in a concise understanding of the situations performed on the scene.
How Does It Work?
The VKIS electronic buttstock is a cutting-edge piece of technology that can be used with any six-position buffer tube. Its features include advanced electronics, such as GPS and an Inertial Measurement Unit, enabling motion analysis and transmitting crucial location information to responding officers. This includes the orientation of the rifle and shot tracking.
When paired with our End User Devices (EUD) and TAK servers, commanders can access essential data such as the location of responding officers, whether they have engaged a suspect, and the number and direction of shots fired at the scene.
Law enforcement constantly strives to enhance its response procedures, and integrating various systems can lead to significant improvements. By seamlessly implementing technology, agencies can access a wealth of information quickly and make informed decisions with ease.
VK Integrated Systems is at the forefront of cross-agency communications and creating more efficient law enforcement responses with their TAK server solutions and sensor innovation tools.
Together we can create a well-optimized police force that meets the standards of the people.