State police, universities work to increase safety

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Capital News Service
LANSING – The State Police is working with several universities on research and training programs such as criminal identification technology, traffic safety and homicide investigation.
For example, through one project, State Police would be able to match a suspect’s name, hometown and criminal history from its database to a sketch provided by a witness or even the position of a suspect’s tattoo.
Anil Jain, a professor in Michigan State University’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering, said the recognition system is able to match fingerprints, images and videos from a low-quality camera, DNA and tattoos.

“This has not been done before,” he said. “We would not able to design it without cooperating with the State Police.”
Jain said the State Police advises his team and provides records of physical characteristics for the database.
“We’ve been working with the State Police for the past five years,” Jain said. “Having access to its database provides us data to design our identification system.”
As a result, the State Police has the first state biometric division in the nation, according to director Kriste Etue.
“MSU is our largest higher education partner,” said Shanon Banner, the department’s public affairs officer. “Sometimes we only share data and resources and sometimes we apply for grants together.”
Banner said the department and MSU are building another program called Smart Policing.
“Our Smart Policing contract with MSU is for research,” Banner said. “MSU’s responsibility is to collect and analyze data and to help us train personnel on how to best use evidence-based practices in their daily work.”
She said the two-year contract is approximately $200,000 and ultimately the project will benefit the public.
“Crime-fighting efforts will be more scientific, and hopefully effective and efficient, being that they will be driven by data,” Banner said.
MSU is not the only academic partner the State Police has.
The Office of Highway Safety Planning has cooperative research projects with the University of Michigan and Wayne State and Western Michigan universities.
Their cooperation model is different from the one with MSU.
“Those universities we work with do research for our office,” said Anne Readett, communications section chief at Highway Safety Plans. “We request the research subject and we put out a proposal to the public.
Readett said her office doesn’t do its own research because “traffic observations cannot be done in a short time” and “it’s important to get information from a third party to avoid bias.”
“For example, for seatbelt research, people could say there may be a bias for them if we produce it.”
The U of M Transportation Research Institute is doing a number of projects with the agency, including maintaining a traffic crash website that calculates first-hand data, according to Readett.
“We have been working with the University of Michigan for more than 19 years,” Readett said. “We have been cooperating with Wayne State for a long time in several programs.”
She also said engineering professors at Western Michigan started working with her office in May to develop over time traffic enforcement performance standards. That program will help the office make annual determinations on grant funding.
At Wayne State, engineering professor Peter Savolainen said one program monitors road fatalities in southeast Michigan.
“The program has been run since 2004 and we have provided systems for 10 metropolitan areas in the state,” Savolainen said. “Among them, Wayne County has the worst traffic status.”
Savolainen said his department also does research related to motorcycle safety and seatbelt safety.
Banner of the State Police said her agency benefits from cooperating with universities because “their research institutes have specialized scientists and experts we are looking for.”
According to Banner, training is another area of cooperation.
“Their criminal justice departments and education departments help us train our law enforcement officers and other employees.”
They include training for executive leadership, supervisors and homicide investigators, Banner said.

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