Latent fingerprinting, ballistics testing and identification, SWAT vehicles, and access to the department’s surveillance room characterized “Media Day” at the Jackson Police Department on Tuesday.
As part of JPD’s Public Safety Week, which began on Sept. 25, local media partners were taken on a private tour of the technology and resources the department utilizes.
Stephanie Graham, JPD Public Information Officer, led the tour, commencing with a presentation on the citizen-oriented resources to track and report crime, like Atlas One, a free, real-time app that alerts users of public safety incidents nearby. The alert is based on a user’s geographic relativity, while the alerts are classified as minor, moderate, severe or extreme.
“Citizens have an option to send messages, so if there’s something going on that doesn’t require a call to 911, they can use the messaging function to let us know or give us a tip,” Graham said.
With an entire wall lined with monitors, JPD’s surveillance room allows officers to view live footage from more than 100 cameras across the city. Though camera locations extend throughout Jackson, many are concentrated in high-crime areas, street intersections where vehicle accidents happen most often, and schools.
Also in the room is a dedicated monitor to Shot Spotter, a gun-detection software that indicates when and where shots were fired.
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Lieutenant Brien Turner explained that the department uses retired officers to sit behind the desk and monitor the real-time footage and has the ability to see the scene of a crime before responding officers can.
“A lot of this is a deterrent and for us to be able to see what’s going on before we get there,” he said.
Adding that the department is encouraging businesses to purchase a camera for their location and allow JPD access, schools are a particular point of encouragement for enhanced surveillance.
“We hope eventually we’ll be able to bring the schools on board with this so we can have access to their interior cameras as well, not just out exterior cameras that we have there,” Turner said.
Sergeant Kelly Schrotberger of the department’s Firearms Unit walked media partners through the process by which guns are test-fired and how the bullets from such tests are then inputted into the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN).
When either guns or cartridge casings from a crime scene are submitted into evidence, Schrotberger begins testing. After cartridge cases are removed from the water tank in which they are test-fired in, he places them in a machine that snaps a photograph of the back of the casing where the firing pin strikes the cartridge and uploads it to NIBIN.
“There are millions and millions of these photos from around the country,” he said.
The algorithm will choose a select few photos that it best believes match the uploaded picture. Those photos are then sent to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) in Huntsville, Alabama where they will narrow the photos down further and provide the requesting agency with a lead.
When sent back to Schrotberger, he will forensically examine the casing under a microscope if the lead is in fact a perfect match.
“Sometimes I’ll get them and I’m inconclusive,” he said. “If it’s not enough, I’m not going to change anybody’s life. So if it’s not enough that I’m 100%, then I’m inconclusive on it.”
If an officer takes fingerprints from a crime scene, those prints will inevitably end up in Next Generation Index. A Federal Bureau of Investigation database, NGI is a national system used for fingerprint identification and filing.
Once a copy of a 10-print sheet is uploaded to the system, a list of potential candidates whose prints might match the uploaded files, will appear.
Director of Evidence and Forensic Services Aimee Oxley says it is then her responsibility to go through those candidates with a fine-tooth comb to compare their prints to the original where she will examine the overall shape, quality, and clarity of the prints.
Between Memphis and Nashville, JPD is the only department to have both a latent lab and fingerprint examiner.