Baltimore PD uses GPS app to track its officers

Field Force Manager can help in crowd control, emergencies

The courts have put limits on police use of Global Positioning System devices to track suspects, but there’s no law against police tracking themselves. In fact, the Baltimore Police Department seems to see advantages in it.

The department is using Xora’s Field Force Manager, an application that runs on the Verizon Wireless BlackBerry Curve, to keep track of where officers are, according to Xora.

The company pitches Field Force Manager to companies as a way to manage time cards, mileage and employees in the field, but law enforcement can also use it for incident response.

Baltimore police wanted officers to spend more time out of their cars and in the community without losing touch with dispatching centers. Field Force Manager provides location information on each officer’s whereabouts, which is helpful for activities such as crowd control and directing the response to an emergency, the company said.

Police use of GPS devices has been a topic of debate among law enforcement and privacy groups. 

In August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that police need a warrant to track a suspect for an extended period of time, reported Spencer Hsu in the Washington Post. That ruling went against circuit court rulings in New York and California that allowed GPS tracking of vehicles, Hsu wrote. Courts in other states have also issued conflicting rulings.

A key issue is whether placing a tracking device on a vehicle violates Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Some courts have said no, others yes. The Supreme Court is expected to decide the issue.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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