A recent U. S. Park Police (USPP) Facebook post about a training class for its “new 3d forensic scanning equipment” demonstrates some forward progress by the department. What the post doesn’t tell you is not only is this scanning equipment “new,” it is the first 3d forensic scanning system the USPP has ever purchased. This technology is brand new to the USPP though law enforcement has used it for over a decade.
A May 4, 2012 Blog Post (Athena Information Solutions) stated, “With incidents of road rage and drunken driving steadily increasing, more than half the traffic and police authorities in the UK have chosen to spend their annual funding on buying state-of-the-art RIEGL VZ-400 laser scanner devices …” The post went on to say, “. . . the purchase of these scanners will allow . . . forces to collect quick and accurate evidence at collision sites, thereby reducing incidents of road closure and congestion on roads.” (Article Link)
The article quotes Gary Baldwin, a supervisor of a UK Forensic Collision Investigation Unit, who spoke about the need for the scanning technology, “This easy to use device will enable faster evidence collection, and the quality of data will enhance the product delivered to the Courts.” (Article Link) Supervisor Baldwin was right; since 2012, these units have become widely known for facilitating the collection of high-quality evidence and significantly decreasing the time required for evidence collection.
In a 2019 article in Forensic Science International: Reports, they wrote, “Within the past 15 years, 3D surface scanning technology has garnered attention from law enforcement units and has been used for certain investigations, such as traffic accidents, criminal assaults, and homicides.” (Article Link) This article also concluded that:
- 3D scanning technology benefits outweigh costs for crime scene investigation
- This equipment produces higher quality data than hand-drawn diagrams
- Scanning technologies create crash diagrams faster than conventional methods
- This gear reduces traffic delays caused by crash scene investigations
- There are known social and economic costs associated with every lane closure
These two articles establish that this equipment has been in regular use for over a decade.
When this gear is used in crash investigations, it reduces the time roads have to be closed. Closing streets is a risky business, and reducing the time they’re closed decreases the risk of injuries for everyone in the crash area. Anyone who has seen drivers making U-Turns over medians or speeding up the shoulder to evade a tie-up knows these risks. In addition, there are significant social and economic benefits gained by reducing the time roads are closed for investigations. (e.g., less stress, more time with family, fewer missed appointments, increased work productivity, etc.)
The USPP Executive Command Staff knew about the need for this equipment as USPP officers have pleaded with them to acquire this gear for approximately ten years. The USPP could have obtained this equipment in 2012, 2014, or perhaps even 2018, but they didn’t buy it until 2022. Every year the purchase was put off; it added to the time people spent in traffic jams because the lack of this equipment slowed the USPP’s investigations.
The National Park Service (NPS) is responsible for USPP officers not having this equipment much sooner. The NPS leaders deliberately underfund the USPP and have a long history of neglecting the service’s law enforcement mission. (Read this: ARTICLE)The NPS leaders handpick the leadership of the USPP. Unfortunately, their appalling record of funding NPS law enforcement operations is an impassable obstacle preventing their picks from achieving success. This problem was alluded to in an EENEWS.NET article about the pending retirement of Chief Smith when it stated, “The persistent U.S. Park Police leadership woes have heated up again . . .” (4/11/2022)
The price of this scanning equipment is nothing compared to the costs associated with road closures. The NPS either didn’t consider these costs or didn’t care about them because they weren’t deducted from their budget. The evidence is also conclusive that this equipment produces a far better work product that improves the ability of officers to conduct thorough investigations that stand up to scrutiny. However, thoroughness has never appeared to be a critical NPS concern when it comes to law enforcement operations. Sadly, this equipment is only one issue out of many neglected by the NPS that has destroyed the USPP’s ability to carry out its mission safely and effectively.
Congress must compel the NPS Bureaucrats to stop ignoring their law enforcement mission. The safety of visitors and some of the Nation’s most cherished cultural and natural resources depends on the NPS Bureaucrats adjusting their priorities.
Swift and effective responses to critical incidents are essential because they offer the best chance to mitigate damages. The NPS must face the reality that it is fruitless to spend billions preserving resources that have alarm systems that don’t alarm and are protected by a dangerously understaffed and poorly equipped response force. Lives and the work of many years can quickly be ruined by the acts of disturbed persons, thoughtless vandals, rioters, everyday criminals, and terrorists.
Here is the USPP Facebook Post: