The Baldwin County Sheriff’s Department, with help from several cities in the county, has developed an extensive School Resource Officer (SRO) program putting at least one officer in each of the county’s schools.
New technology will help provide those officers and the entire department with an innovative peek at the insides of those schools in the near future with 3D virtual mapping.
“We’ve used a lot of the schools for different training for simulated-gun training, SRO training and even trained law enforcement deputies in each of the schools,” Lt. Anthony Lowery said. “This is a different tool than that essentially. It gives us a bird’s eye view of each classroom, of each school. It goes further because we can see which way doors swing, how windows open. It gives us a 360 view of every room in the school. It gives the ability to essentially take the roof off of a school and look down into it.”
Getting each school mapped, however, will take some time, Lowery said. But at the schools charted so far, the SRO plays an essential part in the process.
“We want to try to do as many schools as possible,” Lowery said. “It all ties together. When they’ve been mapping schools, the school resource officers have been involved with that.”
Finding the time to map the schools is the biggest hurdle right now. The system is used in so many ways by deputies and other personnel, that getting to all the schools is going to take some time.
“As the forensic people get time, we want to keep adding schools to our database,” Lowery said. “The good thing about it is the way that it stores the media. It doesn’t take up a lot of space.”
As with the extensive SRO program throughout the county, Lowery said school officials have been very cooperative in helping with the mapping.
“The school board they’ve been really great about helping us get these things done and participating with us,” Lowery said. “They seem very much on board with us on this.”
The idea about the map came from the forensic staff who had watched other agencies using it. It has already come in handy in several cases.
“We’ve had it a little over a year and we’ve actually documented some crime scenes with it in cases that we’ve made,” Lowery said.
But the first stop before making the $70,000 purchase was with county prosecutors to make sure evidence gathered with the 3D mapping system would be helpful.
“We met with the district attorneys even before we purchased the product to look at it and make sure it was something they would want to use in court,” Lowery said. “In 2019, the expectation of jurors and what they expect to be put on in a courtroom is much greater and we kind of want to rise to that and that’s what this equipment does for us. It takes approximately a million measurements a second inside each room so you can see where it’s really valuable in a crime scene.”
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