Despite Debate Over Police Budgets, There’s Opportunity for Vendors -- Here’s What Law Enforcement is Buying

In some jurisdictions, relations between police and the public continues to be evaluated and a topic for debate. Many local politicians around the country have responded by more closely assessing law-enforcement procurement and other budgets.

As an analyst, with over a decade of closely studying procurement and purchasing from the law enforcement industry, I share this with all who seek to provide products, services, and solutions to law enforcers: I am seeing consistent activity over a variety of solicitations, bids, RFPs for law enforcement tools. Right now, for the very large part, nobody is slapping the cuffs on most crime-fighting department’s budgets.

There is good news to report. Most law-enforcement units remain well-funded and are continuing to make purchases. In this report, I take a look at what police are buying, based on my analysis of bid/RFP solicitations from law enforcement over the past year.

Body Worn Cameras

The role of body worn cameras (BWCs) in law enforcement has never been more important. Police officers, sheriff’s deputies, school safety officers, and even building entryway security screeners wear them to provide a trustworthy audio-visual record of their interactions with the public.

BWCs can make it clear in high-definition pictures and sound whether law enforcement officers acted correctly in the heat of dealing with an emergency. At the opposite end of the spectrum, BWCs can demonstrate whether procedures were followed during the routine course of gathering crime-scene evidence.

Accordingly, growing numbers of local governments see BWCs as a good investment because the devices support law enforcers in their work and increase the transparency of police interactions with the public.

For these reasons approximately seven years ago, appropriations for BWC purchases began soaring. This surge in demand was described in a 2015 article I wrote: “Local Law Enforcement Agencies Grappling With the Purchase of Body Worn Cameras”. A year later, I updated that report and furthered my analysis of what governments hoped to achieve by mass-outfitting their law-enforcement officers with BWCs (the title of that piece was “Surge in Body Worn Camera Requests from Law Enforcement and Governments”).

Although the initial rush to acquire BWCs for department-wide deployment has since subsided, there remains steady demand for the technology. The reason is that early adopters and those who shortly followed after them want to replace aging models with the latest and greatest BWC offerings.

Also, there are still quite a few governments that have never acquired BWC technology but are desirous of doing so now. Indeed, these first-timers together with governments looking to replace or upgrade their BWCs are responsible for announcing over 100 relevant bids/RFPs just this year.

Sample Active Bids for Body Worn Cameras

Strong Interest Seen in Other Products

BWCs are not the only items for which there has been a clamor among local law-enforcement agencies. On their purchase radar—and, as a result, on ours here at BidPrime—are products, services, and solutions that include:

    ● Surveillance technology

    ● Drones

    ● Gunshot detectors

    ● Facial-recognition systems

    ● Automated license-plate readers

We are seeing significant solicitations activity in each of those categories.

Surveillance technology

Law enforcers can’t be everywhere at once—they lack the personnel to put an officer on every street corner to keep tabs on things. To overcome this problem, many departments install video cameras on lampposts and on building exteriors at locations where police eyes are needed.

The installed cameras provide a round-the-clock view of nearby activity. Feeds from those cameras are monitored in real time back at police headquarters or reviewed and analyzed later from searchable recordings (to conserve the amount of tape or disc space required for storing police video, many surveillance systems now feature motion detectors which only start the recording process when there is activity within view).

Some surveillance systems allow police to hear what people in proximity to the camera are saying—and in some cases to let officers address them in the event it becomes necessary to warn of imminent dangers or issue commands.

Sample Active Bids for Surveillance Cameras


A drone—as you probably know—is a remote-controlled aircraft, miniaturized or full-size, that carries a video camera or some other payload.

Law enforcers use small, camera-equipped drones for eye-in-the-sky surveillance and investigations in situations where a regular helicopter or plane with a pilot and crew aboard is for whatever reason a poor choice. In addition to video capability, drones can be equipped with sensors to detect explosives, drugs, and infrared heat signatures (typically of people in hiding).

Police are enthusiastic about drones because learning to fly them is relatively easy, they cost a fraction of full-size aircraft, they penetrate tight airspaces, are highly maneuverable, and—possibly most important—are whisper quiet (which renders them difficult to detect in certain scenarios, thereby helping police preserve their element of surprise ahead of a raid, for example).

Sample Active Bids for Drones

Gunshot Detectors

Use of gunshot-detection systems is way up these days (a fact underscored by Gary Brantley, chief information officer of the City of Atlanta, who was a guest not long ago on “The Big Bid Theory” podcast in which he talked about implementation of gunshot-detection technology in the Georgia capital).

Gunshot detectors employ acoustic sensing technology capable of recognizing the sound of a firearm being discharged (and distinguish it from the sound of, say, a car’s exhaust backfiring or of kids setting off firecrackers; some brands can even discern the type and caliber of gun involved in the incident.

To work properly, a gunshot-detection system requires deployment of an array of sensors (some visible, others concealed) throughout a neighborhood or an entire municipality. When a shot is fired, the sensor nearest to it will hear the sound before any others do; the system notes which sensor was first to detect the retort and performs a calculation based on how long it took each of the other sensors in the array to hear that same shot in order to pinpoint the location of the weapon discharge. This enables dispatchers to send one or more squad cars racing to the scene within seconds after the shot is fired.

Facial Recognition Software

Facial-recognition software works hand-in-glove with surveillance cameras. When a person’s face is seen by the camera, the software converts the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, brow, jawline, cheekbones, and other face characteristics into data points which it compares to data points of faces on file.

For example, as an individual comes into view of the camera, the facial-recognition software will scan all public-sector databases to which it has access—driver’s license images, mugshots, FBI most-wanted lists, and so forth. A match between the face seen by the camera and one on file enables the system to very quickly establish that individual’s identity.

If the system has been instructed to be on the lookout for a specific individual, it will alert authorities within seconds of that person showing up on camera. In some instances, facial-recognition systems are being combined with biometric solutions (chiefly, fingerprints or iris maps).

Automated License-Plate Readers

Automated license-plate readers (ALPRs) capture computer-readable images of vehicle tags. Law-enforcement officers use these during traffic stops to determine whether the car they’ve pulled over is stolen or if it was recently utilized for a criminal purpose.

In 2015, we published an extensively researched report on ALPR technology, titled “Where is Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) Use Exploding?”. Today, forms of this technology are being used all over. I expect that trend will continue.

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Here at BidPrime, we produce detailed, historical reviews of bid/RFP requests. We refer to the data tool as a Market Analysis (MA).

If you would like to receive a MA about any of the technologies discussed in this report, please call us at 888.808.5356 or visit BidPrime.

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