LEEDIR, a new law-enforcement tech product sponsored by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, was an hour away from holding their initial press conference on November 1, 2013, when the worst happened: A mass shooting at Los Angeles Airport. Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, was later taken into custody on charges of killing a TSA officer and injuring four other people.
For Sheriff Lee Baca and telecommunications entrepreneur George D. Crowley, Jr., it was bizarre timing: LEEDIR was designed specifically to help law enforcement sort through video from terrorist attacks, mass disasters, and street crime. As they were gearing up for their press conference, the Sheriff’s Department was putting their product into real-life use. The suspect was quickly apprehended by the FBI, but it was a hell of a day for a product launch. “As we were getting ready to deploy this platform, the suspect was caught,” Crowley said.
LEEDIR was developed by the Los Angeles County Sherriff department in collaboration with Crowley’s firm SendUs (a user video-management platform for clients like Ford, eBay, and Univision) and Amazon Web Services. Use of LEEDIR will be free for law enforcement during terror attacks, large criminal events, and natural disasters–but licensing the platform for the management of videos of ordinary crimes will eventually cost money. The platform is currently in soft launch, but will officially launch in January.
For the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, the idea for LEEDIR came after the Boston Marathon attacks; Baca wanted a way to give police departments and other law-enforcement authorities a collaboration platform with which to parse through crowdsourced investigation footage. Los Angeles-based SendUs was selected for the project and Amazon Web Services provides infrastructure for LEEDIR.
In the wake of a calamitous event, police departments or other law-enforcement agencies can activate LEEDIR by calling an 800 number and filling out a web form. LEEDIR “can be activated in a number of minutes,” Crowley said. Law enforcement and local media can then publicize a URL where citizen- and security-camera-shot video and photos of crimes can be uploaded by the public. LEEDIR transcodes those citizen-submitted photos and videos into readable formats, creates metadata databases, tags the photos and videos with values such as IP and email addresses, and organizes all that information in silos accessible to all law-enforcement agencies with jurisdiction. Law enforcement can use that information to contact eyewitnesses for additional information on the photos or videos they took. A big part of the project, Crowley told me, is to make sure multiple law-enforcement agencies can pool data together, instead of working in isolation from each other. At the moment, he said, “There’s an inability of agencies with different softwares to look at things at the same time.”
Crowley says that the disclosure of the upload URL is “kind of an Amber Alert” for law enforcement to make public during disasters. For SendUs and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office, it’s a canny business move–outside of a handful of federal and major metropolitan law-enforcement agencies, IT budgets are limited for many crimefighters. LEEDIR offers a way to offer emergency services for free and to market to police departments a citizen video-analysis platform to boot. For Crowley, who’s a veteran telecommunications entrepreneur, this no doubt holds an appeal.