LIVE PD is the future of law enforcement

by SHERIFF LEON LOTT July 26, 2017

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LIVE PD, the popular television series produced by A&E, has been an eye-opener in more ways than one; not only for the national, perhaps international, viewing audience; but for the six participating law-enforcement agencies of which my own Richland County Sheriff's Dept. (RCSD) is one. In fact, we are one of two such agencies in South Carolina: The other being the Greenville County Sheriff's Office in the Upstate.

As we've previously discussed, LIVE PD is just that. It's live, with A&E camera crews accompanying our deputies on patrol and documenting the action or inaction as it may occur on the streets and neighborhoods of Columbia, the capital city of S.C., and greater Richland County; unfolding and airing in real time on national TV.

LIVE PD is everything from routine patrols, domestic disputes, drug raids and countergang activities to high-speed chases, pursuits on foot, and physically struggling with those suspects who mistakenly choose to fight rather than submit to officers' instructions, which is exactly what the nation witnessed on July 8 when one of our deputies - RCSD Senior Deputy Chris Mastrianni - found himself locked in what might best be described as a very dangerous wrestling match in which the suspect was aggressively resisting arrest.

At one point the suspect even used a baby as a human shield, and all of this following a high-speed pursuit and rollover crash. Fortunately for all involved, Mastrianni quickly got the upper hand and pinned the suspect to the ground before other responding-deputies arrived to assist.

This incident speaks to three points:

1. The criticality of good training enabling the officer to perform instinctively and in the right way. You perform how you train. When something happens, a deputy often doesn't have time to think. He or she can only react to the situation based on training and the skills acquired through training (which is precisely what Mastrianni did).

2. The transparency of law-enforcement operations in 2017 (not only because of LIVE PD, but due to the proliferation of cell-phone video cameras; a technology which almost everyone possesses these days).

3. The absolute transparency of any and all law-enforcement operations in the future.

Ten years from now, LIVE PD will be the norm. Everything deputies and police officers do in all likelihood will be streamed live, and the public will have access to it. Real-time televised operations will be something all law-enforcement agencies will be involved in at some level. We don't yet know how, in what way, or how it will be managed or directed. But it's coming.

Ten years ago, there were body cameras. But who would have imagined that in 2017 we would have body cameras on every deputy? Additionally, bodycams today are fitted with special features in which they automatically engage if the patrol car's blue lights are switched on. The bodycams engage whenever a taser is pulled. And as of this month, whenever a deputy pulls his or her weapon (handgun), the bodycam will automatically engage. Morever, when one deputy's bodycam engages, all of the bodycams worn by fellow officers' in that deputy's immediate radius will engage.

We are removing the human element from engaging the bodycam. The bodycam now engages as automatically and unconsciously as breathing depending on the situation and what weapon the deputy reaches for.

Ten years ago, who would have imagined that surveillance cameras would be located throughout - and basically cover - the entire county or city? There is virtually no place today within this county alone where a suspect cannot be videotaped or otherwise photographed in the commission of a crime. This type of photographic surveillance is also key in any counterterrorism operations and intelligence-gathering activity. And it serves as a level of deterrence against any potential criminal activity. 

Who would have imagined that unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) with cameras and infrared technology would be part of our inventory if we needed to deploy them?

The technology we employ today is not simply moving at a relative speed. It is improving exponentially, and we in law enforcement have to move, adapt and operate within the parameters of that technology in order to remain effective and continue to build on that ever-vital community trust.

Fortunately for us, because our men and women in the RCSD are so well-trained for any and all situations and scenarios, new technologies and ever-increasing public transparency - as well as programs like LIVE PD - are simply reinforcing that ever-vital community trust.

Rumors and hearsay are for the first-time taking a backseat to the truth. The public sees the professionalism in how we operate. The public sees how much we care about all of the citizens we interact with on a daily (and nightly) basis. And for the first time, the public is witnessing in real time how the bad guys will often try to manipulate and twist the truth for their own aims.

The public is virtually experiencing the difficulty of our work. And they are seeing how routine patrols can - in a split second - escalate from what some might describe as "abject boredom" to 100-miles-an-hour and a life-and-death struggle.

This is the transparent reality of our operations in 2017, and this transparent reality is the future of policing, nationwide.

Leon Lott _ thumb 2016Leon Lott is the sheriff of Richland County, S.C., one of the largest law-enforcement agencies in that state. In 2010, Lott traveled to Erbil, Iraq - at the invitation of the Iraqi government - to assist in the establishment of, planning for, and training at the first-ever Iraqi female police academy.


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