Along the similar thought process of “you can’t please everyone all the time,” one technology may not solve today’s law enforcement officer’s problems all the time. As the days and years change so must products, however new innovations aren’t that easy to come by – barring that “perfect idea” drawn on that napkin.
The officer’s job requires having the right tools for the job – these range from the highest of high-tech to the why didn’t I think of that simple, all helping him return home night after night.
Under the Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate (DHS S&T), the First Responder Technologies (R-Tech) division makes sure these solutions do solve the issues they advertise to answer. From its initial newsletter published April 2008, R-Tech exists “as an effort to connect first responders to technologies which will make their jobs easier, more efficient, and safer.” The Science & Technology Directorate has been designed to counter threats to the homeland, both by evolutionary improvements to current capabilities and development of revolutionary, new capabilities as well as develop standards to ensure a consistency through products.
Running for almost three years, R-Tech works alongside with TechSolutions, two FEMA programs called the Responder Knowledge Base (RKB) and the System Assessment and Validation for Emergency Responders (SAVER) program and other programs within DHS S&T.
According to its Web site, www.firstresponder.gov, R-Tech’s mission looks to “provide a portal that enables federal, state, local and tribal first responders to easily access and leverage federal Web services, information on resources, products, standards, testing and evaluation, and best practices in a collaborative environment.
Jose Vazquez, Director of R-Tech, ran a similar program that provided advanced technology solutions to sailors and marines while in the navy. “It’s not so much about doing science and technology development but research and development,” he says. Adding that he sees his job as integrating a couple of technologies together - taking existing technology and enhancing it or taking a solution and pushing it just one more step forward.
Representing the law enforcement officer to the Science & Technology Directorate, Jim Grove, Regional Director of the Interagency and First Responder Programs division, served as a military officer/ medical service corps officer. Afterwards, Grove continued to work with first responders, specifically law enforcement. “It’s really trying to make those guys that have their boots on the ground successful everyday; that’s why I really come to work, if I can make a difference then that’s what it’s all about,” he says.
According to its Web site TechSolutions, www.techsolutions.dhs.gov, “was established by the DHS’ Science & Technology Directorate to provide information, resources and technology solutions that address mission capability gaps identified by the emergency response community.” The program fields solutions that meet 80 percent of the operational requirement within a 12 month to 15 month time frame – a period Vazquez calls “the short term.”
“By providing people better tools and equipment we can save lives and minimize losses – to get ahead of any potential problems so that we can minimize the risk and hopefully prevent it so that we don’t even have to have that threat occur,” adds Vazquez.
The process begins by defining a “capability gap.” This occurs when a task at hand can be aided by currently not available technology or existing tools do not provide a fully effective solution for the problem. In short, whenever an officer thinks “If I only had a widget that would …” that widget comes into question. The program helps the officer define what is it that they really need to accomplish that they can’t or wish they could do better. Ideas can be submitted to TechSolutions at its Web site, limiting eligibility to first responders only.