PPL Gains Importance for Law Enforcement
Wednesday, December 02, 2009 | Comments
Personnel precision location (PPL) is an increasingly important technology to enhance officer safety and improve response, according to the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Center (NLECTC).
“Deployment of PPL will allow dispatch personnel to obtain more accurate location information of deputies during field operations and have on-demand independent access to deputy location information,” said Peter Small, PPL program manager in a recent webinar on the topic.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) is currently evaluating PPL technology in an operational law enforcement environment. With the help of the NLECTC Communications Technologies (COE), the LASD is working in a public/private partnership with 3SI Security Systems to test PPL technology. Continued research, and in some cases federal regulations, will create a competitive market place for PPL technology, according to Alan Kaplan, chief technology officer (CTO) for Drakontas, which provides specialized communications technology assistance to NLECTC. “However, I foresee that interoperability will be a significant issue as PPL becomes adopted by various agencies,” said Kaplan.
PPL technology is important to law enforcement and corrections because the nature of the work is inherently dangerous, resulting in the need to determine location and status of personnel, Kaplan said. “PPL supports routine management of personnel and assets and conveys the precise location of personnel when emergency assistance is required.”
PPL technology can be applied for patrol operational issues, tactical operations and institutional operations, Small said.
Patrol operations. Patrol operations include E9-1-1 calls, calls for service and officer-initiated activity. Often officers don’t notify dispatch of activity or provide detailed location information; they also change location without notifying dispatch or updating their location. It’s necessary to locate an officer indoors or outdoors within jurisdictional limits with a level of accuracy of 10 meters or less.           
Tactical operations. Tactical operations include E9-1-1 calls, call for service or officer-initiated activity that requires a specialized response or a pre-planned event such as execution of a high-risk search warrant. Tactical operations require high-level accuracy because officers operate in close proximity in dangerous situations.
Institutional operations. Corrections personnel are frequently in close contact with inmates in a confined area. Requirements include being able to locate many officers indoors within one or more buildings and surrounding open spaces with a high level of accuracy.
There are four major layers to PPL technology. The first is the application layer, which includes what to do with location data/requirements for an operational scenario, who needs to be located, how the data is represented, and security and accountability. The second layer is computation or how the location data is computed. There are five computation approaches, Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), local infrastructure positioning systems, dead reckoning and inertial navigation systems, building-based positioning systems, and hybrid systems. The third layer is network, which is how location data is transmitted in a PPL system. The last layer is the platform, or the device that hosts the location technology.
NLECTC is a program of the Department of Justice (DOJ) National Institute of Justice’s (NIJ) Office of Science and Technology. One of the NLECTC Communications Technologies COE projects for 2009 is position/location technologies in support of law-enforcement agencies. The COE offers support, research findings and technological expertise to help state and local law enforcement, corrections and other criminal justice personnel perform their duties more safely and efficiently.
For more information on PPL technology for firefighters, click here.

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