FARO laser scanner

The Rowlett City Council approved the purchase of a 3-D laser scanner for the Rowlett Police Department.

The FARO Laser Focus Scanner takes a full scan of an area and maps a three-dimensional rendering that will allow the police department to see each layer of the crime scene they are investigating.

Investigators can see from multiple views and get a full understanding of the crime scene by zooming in and out of key areas of focus and even looking inside vehicles. The average scene takes a minute and 40 seconds to completely scan and render.

“We have never had a piece of equipment like this before,” Police Chief Michael Godfrey said. “This piece of equipment will come in handy in a number of ways.”

Because it is a 360-degree view, it allows investigators to see from the viewpoint of officers, witnesses or suspects. It also preserves the scene, which allows investigators to view the crime scene without having to physically revisit it repeatedly. The police then do not need to close down a road, business or home for multiple days to investigate a crime scene like they had to do before.

The software also allows for the use of labels on the screen and measurements of angles of certain items like blood spatter. The software displays measurements of people and objects in relation to their environment and picks up on impressions made by people present on the scene and trajectory of projectiles like bullets.

When investigating motor vehicle crashes the scanner can also be rendered into video clips to show where people and vehicles moved from multiple angles leading up to and at the time of a crash.

“There is no gray area with this. It paints a picture like we’ve never seen before,” Godfrey said.

Before its approval, the police department used a total station, which only creates two-dimensional renderings of a scene. The Rowlett Police Department also relied on the Garland Police Department to use their FARO scanner.

Godfrey said the FARO scanner will help with investigations, testifying and liability. Rather than having multiple officers investigating a scene, the scanner requires one person to operate.

In addition to criminal investigations, the scanner will help first responders analyze crashes, investigate and/or prevent fires and assist in security for schools, government facilities and private contractors. The scanner will also allow juries to view the crime scene without having to set up mock crime scenes or dioramas that may be less accurate and time-consuming.

“We could also find uses in other city departments if we absolutely have to redesign or reconstruct an area,” Godfrey said.

The scanner will be funded through the police department’s commercial motor vehicle unit.

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