Davenport Police Unveil New Mapping Technology


By Liz Blood

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — Local law enforcement agencies hope modern data-collecting technology unveiled this week will reduce the time officers spend mapping a crime scene.

Officers presented their newest piece of machinery — a three-dimensional laser scanner from Faro Technologies — they said will turn a four-hour mapping job into just less than an hour of work and may reduce overtime.

"You see the video games kids play these days," Davenport Police Cpl. Kris Mayer said. "Look at the 3D environments they move around in. This is like that, only this isn't a video game, it's reality."

A grant from the Scott County Regional Authority paid 98 percent of the $71,000 to buy the equipment and train officers and civilian personnel. Officers from Davenport, Bettendorf and the Scott County Sheriff's Office will be allowed to use the unit to virtually reconstruct accidents and crime scenes.

The scanner uses mirrors and laser technology to enable investigators to collect data points to record a scale, 3D virtual rendering of a major incident scene. The data can then be viewed on a computer and used for forensic analysis, scene walk-throughs and presentation as evidence in court.

Under the old method of laying out crime scenes, physical evidence could be limited only to what is seen in a photograph shot at the time of the incident by a crime scene technician.

The FBI and large departments such as Chicago, as well as the private sector, already use 3D mapping technology. Davenport is among the few smaller cities in the nation — and the only community in Iowa — to acquire the 3D laser scanner.

"We're way past the point where all you need is a notepad and billy club to be a cop," Davenport Police Chief Frank Donchez said.

Since acquiring the scanner in August, police have put it to use for two suspicious death investigations, a shooting death investigation, a serious injury crash and a fatality crash, Mayer said. Data from the scans have been used only for analysis so far and haven't yet been used in court, he said.

Scott County Attorney Mike Walton sees the benefit of the 3D technology.

"Any time we can bring a crime scene into a courtroom more accurately and vividly, it helps our finding of fact," Walton said. "The days of using an easel and a pad of paper have changed."

Walton said the use of the technology in court still must require foundation through witness testimony to determine its accuracy.

"It's the next wave in the forensics world," Mayer said.

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