Cover: Using Video Analytics and Sensor Fusion in Law Enforcement

Using Video Analytics and Sensor Fusion in Law Enforcement

Building a Research Agenda That Includes Business Cases, Privacy and Civil Rights Protections, and Needs for Innovation

Published Dec 28, 2018

by John S. Hollywood, Michael J. D. Vermeer, Dulani Woods, Sean E. Goodison, Brian A. Jackson

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Research Questions

  1. What are the core public safety applications for video analytics and sensor fusion?
  2. What are the specific video analytics and sensor fusion tasks needed to carry out those applications?
  3. What security, privacy, and civil rights protections are needed?
  4. What technology, policy, and educational needs for innovation are most important to address?

The diffusion of video technology means that law enforcement will increasingly have streaming video feeds from in-car and body-worn cameras that may be monitored to help protect the safety of officers and bystanders. The proliferation of internet-enabled digital video cameras and sensor devices (part of the Internet of Things) provides public safety agencies with a huge technological opportunity. The new but emerging fields of video analytics and sensor fusion offer potential for addressing these challenges. On July 12–13, 2017, on behalf of the National Institute of Justice and the Priority Criminal Justice Needs Initiative, the RAND Corporation, assisted by the Police Executive Research Forum, held a workshop examining these issues. The workshop participants constructed business cases for the use of these tools in law enforcement, identified key innovation needs with respect to their application, explored the types of behavior and objects such tools would be designed to detect, and identified key civil rights and civil liberties protections required for their use. The results were brought together into a research roadmap for this topical area regarding application of these technologies in policing.

Key Findings

Video analytics and sensor fusion are extremely promising technologies for improving public safety

  • There are 22 high-priority needs for innovation to enhance the effectiveness and security of video analytics and sensor fusion (VA/SF) for law enforcement.
  • VA/SF could be of great benefit in detecting crimes in progress and investigating crimes and incidents.
  • VA/SF could support law enforcement by monitoring officer performance and protecting officers' health and safety.
  • The risks of VA/SF technologies are significant, with security, privacy, and civil rights protections needed if these technologies are not to be misused or abused.
  • While VA/SF technologies are indeed promising for supporting public safety, they have a long way to go before reaching their full potential.


  • Use of VA/SF technologies must be passive, not active.
  • Implementing VA/SF technologies should start with improving capabilities to reliably detect baseline entities, activities, and events, and then adopt more sophisticated capabilities over time.
  • Purposes for which these tools may and may not be used must be clearly defined by their implementing communities consistent with applicable law and policy.
  • Implementation should start with basic model policy development and education, and over time include studying the use of technology to expedite policy and legal compliance.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and conducted by the Justice Policy Program within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.

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