Law Enforcement Archives - Page 2 of 3 -
March 3rd, 2016 by AmSJ Staff

[su_heading size=”30″ margin=”0″]Somebody’s Watching Me[/su_heading]

[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]T[/su_dropcap]echnology gives us instant access to information. If something happens such as a car accident, riot or tornado, for example, we can see it instantly through the power of digital recording and the Internet. If we need an answer to any question, we can type it into Google and within milliseconds have one – right or wrong. The public holds the same expectation now for interactions between law enforcement and the public.

What are the first two questions asked after a police shooting? Was the officer wearing a body camera, and where’s the video? The public want transparency and answers.

The idea of officers wearing body cameras has been a topic that law enforcement agencies have been investigating for years, and some of the biggest policy makers in the business have now weighed in, including the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), as well as the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and a presidential task force with their policy recommendations.

Body Camera Rules Are Out

The race for the best body camera is on, and so are the regulations that will govern these little devices and how they are used. (REVEAL MEDIA)

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In a perfect world, a police shooting would be captured from multiple angles and all of the questions surrounding the event would be answered. But this just isn’t possible. The difficult part is that body cameras, or more appropriately titled body-worn cameras (BWC), will not provide everything either.

BWCs are a natural technological progression for law enforcement, but at best the camera will only capture whatever is directly in front of the officer minus any obstructions such as outstretched arms in the firing position or another officer.

The camera cannot capture subtle nuances. Officers tend to develop a sixth sense through their experiences, and the camera cannot see what they are sensing or what is happening beside or behind them. Simply put, the BWC is a tool – just another piece to a very complicated puzzle. The biggest hurdle for law enforcement is managing the public’s expectations.

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The technology involved with BWCs is advancing quickly. The Safariland Group, a respected and well-known law-enforcement products company, has a line of BWCs and has developed new software which allows BWC video to be redacted. This means the video blurs the faces of bystanders or other objects captured in the footage. The software is made by VIEVU, which uses an advanced algorithm for this process. The software is available to departments that use VIEVU’s solution cloud-hosted evidence system.

Microsoft has partnered with VIEVU in developing this new cloud technology, and the CEO is a former Seattle police officer.

Body Camera intelligence

The advanced software, such as the algorithm created by VIEVU, automatically redacts people’s faces and other objects from the video.

PHOTO Redaction

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Budgets are finite, and many cities, counties and states have seen discretionary budgets drastically reduced in recent years. These reductions are across the board and include law enforcement. The costs associated with body cameras are not insignificant, and in fact can be staggering. The initial purchase price of a body camera is close to $1,000 per unit. Money must also be budgeted for the replacement of these cameras over time.

Data storage is the biggest cost and only grows as time goes on. A department with 107 sworn officers including detectives and administrative types can expect to pay $70,000 per year for an off-site data-storage solution. If the department elects to host their own storage, the cost could be less, but then they assume all of the liability for security and data backup.

Many departments are opting for cloud-based storage, which puts the security and backup in the hands of the vendor.

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This is a big concern for the officers and administrators. Questions regarding when it’s appropriate to video are proving to be tough. Some departments have a policy where the camera is turned on for every callout regardless of its nature. This may prove to be problematic when dealing with sensitive issues. It may also be problematic if the responding officers find that no crime has been committed but the call was still a private matter. Situations might include: calls where citizens are deceased; sexual assaults; or child-related incidents.

There is also the question of the officer’s privacy. This has been raised by multiple unions representing officers. The fear, they say, is that supervisors will use the video to discipline officers who may be speaking ill of management.

Body camera policies for cops

Body cameras, like this VIEVU, can be a great solution for recording what is happening, but these devices cannot see and sense all the activity happening around the officer. (SAFARILAND GROUP)

There is also the fear that an officer who is a whistle-blower can be tracked and punished by using video from the camera. The unions contend that officers have some expectation of privacy while on duty and while speaking with their coworkers.

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It isn’t practical for a patrol officer to run their body camera every minute of every shift. Deciding on when a BWC should be turned on is up to each agency, but is also heavily influenced by state law. Some states have laws that require consent from anyone being recorded. These laws provide an obstacle that must be overcome through legislation, thus delaying implementation.

Here are just a few of the many policy recommendations from the IACP:

Officers shall activate the BWC to record all contacts with citizens in the performance of official duties;

Whenever possible, officers should inform individuals that they are being recorded. In locations where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a residence, they may decline to be recorded unless the recording is being made in pursuant to an arrest such as while searching the residence or the individuals;

The BWC shall remain activated until the event is completed in order to ensure the integrity of the recording, unless the contact moves into an area restricted by this policy;

If an officer fails to activate the BWC, fails to record the entire contact or interrupts the recording, the officer shall document why a recording was not made, interrupted or terminated;

Civilians shall not be allowed to review the recordings at the scene;

Officers shall not edit, alter, erase, duplicate, copy, share or otherwise distribute in any manner BWC recordings;

Officers are encouraged to inform their supervisor of any recordings that may be of value for training purposes;

  If an officer is suspected of wrongdoing or involved in an officer-involved shooting or other serious use-of-force, the department reserves the right to limit or restrict an officer from viewing the video file.

BWC recordings are not a replacement for written reports.

Here are some of the recommended restrictions of using BWCs:

Encounters with undercover officers or confidential informants;

When on break or otherwise engaged in personal activities;

In any location where individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a restroom or locker room.

Body camera policies for cops are out

Body cameras come in many different styles as demonstrated by TASER International’s Axon glass-mounted camera. The high priority for law enforcement is determining when a body camera should be on or off. Sensitive situations such as sexual assaults or those dealing with children may not be appropriate for the public viewing. (TASER INTERNATIONAL)

The IACP isn’t the only group to publish their research and recommendations. The BJA has created a national body-worn camera toolkit for law enforcement agencies to use. This toolkit is free to departments and includes research, costs and other important information.

The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing included a section on body cameras in their report released in May 2015 too.

The resources are there for departments to design policies and procedures. Many questions still remain unanswered, but will be answered in time as situations and cases arise. The important point in all this is that technology is a tool that can be leveraged in law enforcement. But it is just that – a tool. It isn’t an answer to every problem or situation. ASJ

Body camera rules for cops

Not only is the privacy of the public in question, so is personal space of the officer themselves. These decisions have an impact on when the camera should be on or off. (SAFARILAND GROUP)

Posted in Law Enforcement Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

October 15th, 2015 by AmSJ Staff

[su_heading size=”27″ margin=”0″]How Officer Reyes Is Protecting Those With Autism[/su_heading]

Story by Troy Taysom • Photographs by Laurie Reyes

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• Autism Spectrum – Autism is not a single disorder, but a spectrum of closely related disorders with a shared core of symptoms. Every individual on the autism spectrum has problems to some degree with social skills, empathy, communication and flexible behavior.
• Intellectual Development Disability – A disability characterized by limitations with intellectual functioning and difficulties with a variety of everyday social and practical skills.[/su_note]

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]P[/su_dropcap]olice officers deal with a variety of people and problems daily. Some of the problems are self-inflicted, others are the result of genetics and some simply have unknown origins. Misidentifying a problem is an all too common occurrence in law enforcement. A person approached by officers may suffer from mental illness, a genetic disorder like autism or even a disease like Alzheimer’s, which renders them incapable of following simple commands.

These types of encounters have had really bad outcomes in the past. An officer may mistake a person with autism for a noncompliant individual, or a person with mental illness for a drug abuser. What many people don’t realize is that these individuals are less than capable of following commands because of their disorder, not because they are defiant or high. This shift in thinking is saving lives, careers and creating a cohesive bond between cops and citizens.

Laurie Reyes of the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) in Maryland, is the leading advocate for this paradigm shift. To understand Reyes one must first be able to comprehend selflessness, dogged determination and unconditional love. If these concepts don’t register, then stop reading, because you will never understand her. If, however, you know what it’s like to fight uphill battles, deal with heartache without quitting and love those who are misunderstood and ostracized, then you will love Reyes and her story.

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Officer Laurie Reyes of the Montgomery County, Md., Police Department with husband Tarik.

Since the age of five, Reyes knew she wanted to be a cop and nothing less would do. She loved everything about cops; the cars, the lights, etc. And helping those in need was programmed into her DNA. She never wavered from her goal of becoming an officer, and after completing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Maryland, Reyes was hired by the MCPD.

Reyes spent seven years in the patrol division before being assigned to special operations. Her job with within this department was to oversee Project Lifesaver. Project Lifesaver is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose stated purpose is “(t)o provide timely responses to save lives and reduce potential injury for adults and children who wander due to Alzheimer’s, autism, and other related conditions or disorders.”

Officer Reyes has been working to integrate this project into the MCPD for the past 10 years. The program provides tracking bracelets for adults and children who are predisposed to wander or elope, due to cognitive disorders. The bracelets are trackable by air up to a couple miles away. While a wonderful tool for caregivers and police, the bracelets don’t address perhaps the most serious issue and that is an officer’s interaction with people suffering from a cognitive disorder.

Cognitive disorders are not mental illnesses. The autism spectrum, while it affects the brain, is not a mental illness like depression, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder. Because of this officers need to understand how to identify and, more importantly, approach and interact with a someone who has autism. This is where Reyes comes in.

Reyes has worked tirelessly to create a program that teaches officers to recognize autism and understand the intricacies of interacting with these people. The normal procedures for dealing with a citizen will not work with a person with autism. In fact, standard practices could potentially escalate a situation. This can be confusing not only to the citizen, but for the officer as well.

Fortunately, Reyes has spent countless hours studying and learning about autism, and its potential effects and manifestations.  Speaking with her, I found that she is well versed in the subject and its unique challenges.  My wife works in special education and I have learned a great deal from her about those who suffer from cognitive disorders, especially autism, and she helped me put together questions for this interview.  It was extremely helpful to have an assistant who helped me understand Reye’s answers.

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Officer Reyes designed T-shirts and bracelets for people and children with autism so they can be readily identified.

Children with autism have what Jake Edwards, a young man with autism – more about him in a moment – calls his “super powers.” These powers tend to be heightened senses, especially hearing and touch. Many autistic people are sensitive to loud noises such as music, crying babies, yelling and sudden loud sounds. These can trigger the child to act out in an attempt to stop the noise, and at times the actions can be violent. They are also very sensitive to touch, both being touched and needed something to hold. Simply touching a child with autism may also lead them to be violent, but on the other hand, they can be calmed when given an item such as soft toy, a string of beads or a textured ball to hold. This need for holding or touching an object is called sensory.

Reyes understands all of these issues and has started training the officers of the MCPD to approach situations in a different manner. She wants the officers to think, “Could this be autism? Would a bag of skittles work better than going hands on?” Give simple commands, in a calm voice, and allow the person time to process what is being asked. At no time, however, is officer safety to be compromised, but children with autism respond differently, and this difference must be accounted for.

It isn’t just the police that Reyes works with; she is also involved with the parents and primary caregivers, and helps them get identity bracelets (different from the tracking bracelets), which help officers immediately identify a person with autism. With the help of their parents, children are encouraged to approach police officers in public and show them their bracelet.

Reyes has also had bright yellow T-shirts made that she gives to caregivers and parents. These shirts identify the child as having autism and says, “If I’m alone call 911.” It also has the MCPD badge on the back with the same admonishment. These shirts have helped dozens of children who eloped and were later found by citizens. They are only given to the children that are prone to eloping, are nonverbal and a danger to themselves. Many of them are resistant to wearing the bracelet because of their sensory issues.

This job has given Reyes some of the highest highs and lowest lows that one can experience in police work. She told me of a young man whom she had worked with when he lived in Montgomery County. The boy had autism and was nonverbal. The conditions he lived in were deplorable. Reyes lost contact with him when he moved to a neighboring county, but some months later officers from the MCPD found him. They identified his bracelet, called Reyes and said, “Hey, we have one of your kids down here.” The scene was horrific; the young boy was carrying a bedpost to which he was chained and locked. He had somehow broken the bedpost away from the rest of the bed and walked several miles back to Montgomery County.

Reyes told me, “This crushed me to the core.” I could hear the sadness and anger in her voice as she relayed the story. She still keeps and shows officers the dog leash and padlock used to hold him, but she says, “Jake Edwards makes it all worth it.” Who is Jake Edwards? According to her, “Jake will change the world.”

PHOTO 3B laurieandJakeAutismnightout2015_3-min

Chief J. Thomas Manger, Officer Reyes, Jake Edwards and Jake’s mom Jenn Lynn celebrate Jake’s public speech.

Jake is a young man with autism. He is a vocal, self-advocate who was recently named the ambassador for Autism Night Out in Montgomery County. At this year’s event Jake gave a speech in front of a crowd of hundreds of people. The speech, which can be found on YouTube, was moving. So moving, in fact, that it brought 38-year law enforcement veteran Chief J. Thomas Manger of the MCPD, to tears. Very few in attendance had a dry eye when Jake was finished speaking. Do yourself a favor and watch the speech – you’ll be a better person for it.

Jake’s vibrant personality, along with his indominatable spirit, makes him the perfect person to represent those with autism. Reyes’ plan is for Jake to speak directly to recruits in the police academy, giving them a chance to speak and deal with a person who has autism in a safe, controlled environment. Education is really the key when it comes to understanding these people.

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Jake Edwards, who has autism, giving his speech during the MCPD’s Autism Night Out.

Reyes will be the first to tell you that she does not, and could not, do this alone. Caregivers, like Jake’s mother, Jenn Lynn, are Reyes’s number one supporters. She is also supported by her colleagues like, Officer Tara Wimmer and Paula Aulestia, an amazing volunteer who works closely with Officer Jason Huggins, a search and rescue unit coordinator, as well as all of the officers that belong to this specialized group.

Officer Reyes was quick to point out that her husband Tarik and their sons have been supportive of her career in law enforcement too, especially her work with Project Lifesaver. Her parents, Roger and Dee Nelson, actively support Autism Night Out, passing out pizza and greeting everyone with their infectious smiles. The approach: get everyone involved and the kids become the winners.

PHOTO 6 lauriesparents_2-min

Laurie Reyes’ parents Roger and Dee Nelson during an Autism Night Out event.

Simply put, Reyes’s job is to save lives. She works assiduously to make sure that all officers’ interactions with people who have intellectual developmental disabilities are safe and nonviolent. Thirty years ago people with autism were hidden away and forgotten by society; today they are living productive lives. This dramatic turn of events would not be possible without people like Reyes and all of the dedicated, loyal caregivers and educators who work with these children and adults on a daily basis.

Chief Manger of the MCPD told me, “Officers like Laurie Reyes are the heart and soul of our police department. Her work in the community has made us better at what we do. Among everything she has done, putting on the police department’s Autism Night Out event is amazing, and one of my favorite nights of the year!”

It’s not just the chief who admires Reyes. Jenn Lynn said, “Officer Reyes means a future for our children. I’m less scared about my child’s independence, knowing Officer Reyes is leading our county and the country in autism education for all officers. Her heart is gold, and her efforts tireless. She is devoted to our children and saves lives every day.” ASJ

Editor’s note: To learn more about autism and how to get involved in your community go to

Posted in Law Enforcement Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

October 2nd, 2015 by AmSJ Staff

[su_heading size=”30″ margin=”1″]The Makers Of Weaponeye[/su_heading]

Interview by Steve Joseph ⋅ Photographs by Michael Bensayan

[su_dropcap style=”flat” size=”3″]T[/su_dropcap]he American Shooting Journal reached out to Michael Bensayan, the inventor of Weaponeye, a device mounted to the front of a handgun that records exceptional video and sound. This device has been touted to be exactly what law enforcement needs to show the whole story during times of intense stress and critical life-decision-making situations.

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American Shooting Journal What is Weaponeye?

Michael Bensayan Weaponeye is a compact, under-barrel attachment for pistols that contains an HD camera, laser sight and flashlight. It is currently made for specific Glock handguns, but we plan to expand Weaponeye to other models and brands.

AMSJ How did you come up with this idea?

MB I watched several court cases involving cops and firearms. Many of these cases were not very clear, and the outcome was catastrophic for people and the community involved.  Some of these proceedings triggered riots that cost taxpayers a fortune in damages, and sometimes worse: the deaths of loved ones. Those situations might have been avoided if someone simply had a camera and recorded what really happened. After some thought, I decided to put the camera onto a gun.

AMSJ Who are some of the companies or people using Weaponeye now?

MB We have several international law-enforcement agencies to include the Dominican Republic, Brazil and the Bahamas, and closer to home, security officers, business owners and many US citizens.

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AMSJ How are you received at gun shows?

MB We’re a respected brand and are considered a pioneer in the eyes of today’s gun enthusiasts. Both vendors and the public often visit our booths just to hear the benefits and features of the Weaponeye unit. Our video display at shows depicts the Weaponeye in action, as well as the camera feed. There are always people intrigued and watching.

AMSJ What kind of feedback have you received?

MB Most people immediately remark on the superb quality of the video and audio. They also feel that the position of the camera is perfect because it is on the front of the gun, cannot be covered or pointed away from the subject. Weaponeye will always be recording towards the target.

We currently have an extensive waiting list for future Weaponeye models that will be made for other gun and rifle models.

I am constantly being told, “Finally! Something has been created to protect responsible gun owners and law enforcement.”

Many have said that if law enforcement carried a Weaponeye, many cities could have avoided riots and saved millions of tax dollars by showing what really happened. ASJ

Editor’s note: If you are interested in Weaponeye or want to know more about them, you can visit

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Posted in Industry Tagged with: , , ,

September 14th, 2015 by AmSJ Staff


[su_heading size=”30″ margin=”0″]HIPERFIRE’s New EDT Trigger[/su_heading]

HIPERTOUCH_EDT2HIPERFIRE announces its new EDT(Enhanced Duty Trigger) AR fire-control trigger. This fire-control group is designed for law enforcement, OEM rifle builders, NRA service rifle competitors, and home defenders as a lower cost high-performance trigger upgrade. This single-stage trigger is an extension of the enhanced duty trigger introduced at the end of 2014. It sports two user-adjustable trigger weights of 4½ and 5½ pounds by simply interchanging two hammer springs.

Thanks to the EDT‘s novel mechanical advantaged design these springs can be, and are, heavier and
more powerful than the alternative MILgrade
hammer spring. Noticeable is the EDT’s more massive hammer head compared to the EDT designed to carry more collision power into the firing pin to reliably ignite
308/762 NATO cartridges while exhibiting faster lock time than stock alternatives. It’s a HIPERTOUCH alright featuring only a hint of creep, a smooth flat stroke with an equally smooth and very positive reset that users of HIPERTOUCH® FCGs have come to appreciate.

The MSRP is $94.

HIPERFIRE has wholesale and OEM purchase programs.

HIGH PERFORMANCE FIREARMS LLC d.b.a. HIPERFIRE is a Minnesota limited liability
company organized in 2011 to design, manufacture, and sell novel products into
the MSR marketplace that satisfy the unmet needs of the more demanding recreational
and professional shooter.

4255 White Bear Pkwy, Ste 1700, Vadnais Heights, MN 55110
(651) 762-2800 |

Terry Bender, Owner (651) 762-2800
Kevin Tapia, Sales (704) 992-1727


Posted in Media Releases Tagged with: , , , , ,

August 21st, 2015 by AmSJ Staff

[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”3″]H[/su_dropcap]unting is a deeply rooted instinct for many people, and can be categorized as sustenance, survival, tradition and conservation, to name a few. Real hunters appreciate all of these treasured aspects and work hard to maintain them. Unfortunately, we share our prized hunting grounds with people who do not respect the rules, such as poachers, and I feel strongly about having them strung up, drawn and quartered in public. Something about the punishment fitting the crime appeals to me, but I digress.

We have pulled together some great preseason hunting tips this issue, including how to lighten your day pack and adjusting to warmer-than-expected weather during the current Western drought. We also focus on great optics (get it, focus … optics?) and how to choose, maintain and use the best glass for your style of hunting, and for added motivation, Scott Haugen shares his epic seven-deer year.

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September 19th is National Thank A Police Officer Day?

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No matter what critter you plan to hunt this year, most of all, be safe and respectful. Not just of other hunters, private lands and laws, but of the animals themselves. A wounded and lost animal doesn’t do anyone any good. Be sure that when you take that shot, your mind is clear, your gun is zeroed and your aim is true. The American Shooting Journal will be with you (true … you … get it … anyone?).

Among our featured stories – and one of my favorites – we put a microscope on the master craftsmen who make the tiniest of firearms. How small can a real-life, bullet-firing gun be? You may be surprised to learn that you can fit them between your thumb and index finger. These creations and the jeweler’s patience needed to manufacture these amazing miniatures is truly awe inspiring.

We also detail the people behind SilencerCo and their vision for the future. If you know of someone in the shooting industry who you feel is exceptional, email me at and tell me all about them.

Posted in Editor's Blog Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

July 30th, 2015 by AmSJ Staff

Hide And Seek Heroes

Trace Sargent And Her Pack

[su_heading size=”17″ align=”left”]Story by Tatiana Whitlock[/su_heading]

K9 Search and Rescue Specialists Inc., Tracy Sargent works with her cadaver dog Chance as they search a business for survivors in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Wednesday, May 4, 2011. Authorities have said they expect the search will continue for at least another week. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)



Trace Sargent and Cinco

[su_dropcap style=”light”]L[/su_dropcap]ooks can be profoundly deceiving. At first glance, Tracy “Trace” Sargent could easily be a high-powered corporate CEO or lead a marketing firm. This petite Georgia blond with a commanding presence and the charisma and intellect to match, looks like she would fit elegantly at the head of a boardroom. You certainly don’t envision this refined, vibrant woman with a sweet Southern drawl to be out enthusiastically hunting lost persons, getting dirty, crawling through rubble, or chasing down fugitives by moonlight. Yet that is exactly what she has been doing with her K9 partners for over 20 years, gracefully shattering stereotypes and saving lives along the way.


One of Sargent’s pack members Chance

Sargent is one of the nation’s leading K9 handlers who specializes in search, rescue and recovery missions. It’s not something most people want to think about, but there is nothing more precious than a specialized K9 team when loved ones are lost or missing.

One conversation with Sargent and you realize that she is one of those extraordinary people who found her calling, changed her life’s path accordingly and never looked back. A story in Reader’s Digest would depict her as someone who went from not knowing which end of the dog wagged to founding K9 Search and Rescue Specialists, Inc. (K9 SARS) in Georgia. Sargent has also been a program manager for Homeland Security, and has conducted search missions across the globe.

K9 Search and Rescue Specialists Inc., Tracy Sargent hydrates her cadaver dog Chance as they search for survivors in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Wednesday, May 4, 2011. Authorities have said they expect the search will continue for at least another week. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

K9 Search and Rescue Specialists Inc., Tracy Sargent works with her cadaver dog Chance during a search for survivors in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Wednesday, May 4, 2011. Authorities have said they expect the search will continue for at least another week. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)The article Sargent credits with starting it all was of a woman and her German shepherd who found a missing three-year-old boy in the woods. The short story resonated with her. “If she could do it, dog gone it, so could I!” recalls Sargent. She could clearly see that having a specialized tool, a K9 partner, to help people in need was her calling in life. The switch was flipped and a dog enthusiast and her pet were transformed into a nationally acclaimed, life-saving K9 team.

“I want to end my life’s sentence with an exclamation point, not a question mark.”

CNN Headquarters Pic - Sept 10 2013

Chance receives national recognition with CNN in 2013.

Sargent’s methods for teaching her dogs, and herself, on how to find a human being would time and again prove successful, but the scope and depth of her knowledge in public safety didn’t stop there. After her initial beginning, Sargent asked herself, “What if I actually found somebody? What am I going to do?” That’s when she became an EMT. Throughout her work, she noticed that most of the crews used specialty radios. “Everyone was using these funny radios,” Sargent notes, so she learned how to use them and became a certified HAM radio operator. As she was working with firefighters, police officers and emergency personnel, she asked, “Ya’ll get paid to have this much fun?” She then became a firefighter, police officer and certified in emergency management. She has also earned several college degrees along the way, and continues her life-long passion for learning, as evidenced by her recent certification as a forensic sketch artist, putting her naturally gifted artistic talents to work in the never-ending battle of good versus evil. Any one of these professions can define a career, but Sargent gracefully embodies them all.


K9 Search and Rescue Specialists Inc., Tracy Sargent works with her cadaver dog Chance as they climb a pile of rubble during a search for survivors in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Wednesday, May 4, 2011. Authorities have said they expect the search will continue for at least another week. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Sargent and her K9 teams have been deployed on numerous highprofile cases, such as the search for Natalee Holloway, the teenager who disappeared in Aruba in 2005; the Casey Anthony case, a mother accused and acquitted of murdering her two-year-old daughter; and the runaway bride case, where Jennifer Wilbanks disappeared four days before her wedding. At any time Sargent can be found searching through the aftermath of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and tornadoes like the one that decimated Tuscaloosa, Ala., for survivors or human remains. (DAVE MARTIN)


K9 Search and Rescue Specialists Inc., Tracy Sargent works with her cadaver dog Cinco as they search an apartment complex for survivors or victims in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Wednesday, May 4, 2011. Authorities have said they expect the search will continue for at least another week. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Chance, Cinco and Drako are three of Sargent’s current K9 partners. All are highly trained in search, rescue and recovery, and are some of the most highly decorated dogs in the country. Cinco, a 10-year-old black German shepherd, is perhaps her most talented K9 partner. By the time he was a year old, he had received five national certifications. His predecessor Brooke, a sable German shepherd, was the first dog licensed for SAR work in Georgia, and is honored in the Georgia Animal Hall Of Fame. Together, Sargent and her dogs have found lost children, Alzheimer’s patients and tracked down violent domestic terrorists such as Eric Rudolf, who was known as the Olympic Park Bomber and was responsible for a series of bombings across the South between 1996 and 1998.

Cadaver dog Chance sits on a pile of rubble during a search for survivors in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Saturday, April 30, 2011. The dogs will sit when they come across the scent of humans. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Cadaver dog Chance sits on a pile of rubble during a search for tornado survivors in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Saturday, April 30, 2011. The dogs will sit when they come across the scent of humans. (DAVE MARTIN)

Trace Sargent and ChanceThe great affection and intense professional relationship between Sargent and her K9 partners is undeniable. While at home they are very much her “kids,” when it is time to get in the truck and respond to a call the dynamic shifts. In the field the mutual respect and professionalism forged through thousands of hours spent working together appears to manifest in an almost telepathic connection. For example, watching Sargent and Chance move through the debris of crushed homes in Tuscaloosa, it is clear the dog’s tuned senses are an extension of Sargent’s instincts, and her ability to translate for her partner enables them to communicate what they find to those who simply don’t speak dog.

K9 Search and Rescue Specialists Inc., Tracy Sargent works with her cadaver dog Chance as they search a wooded area for survivors in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Wednesday, May 4, 2011. Authorities have said they expect the search will continue for at least another week. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

K9 Search and Rescue Specialists Inc., Tracy Sargent works with her cadaver dog Chance as they search a wooded area for survivors in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Wednesday, May 4, 2011.  (DAVE MARTIN)


PHOTO 4 Tracy and Cinco - Tornado - Portrait Size


Like Sargent, her K9 teammates can’t be measured by first impressions. You might think that these exquisite breed specimens, with such skill and intelligence must be hand picked from very specific breeders – not the case! “They are all rejects,” says Sargent lovingly. Either a show dog with a cosmetic defect that left him unfit for the championship ring or castoffs in line to be euthanized at the local pound, Sargent’s team is made up of great minds, not pedigrees. She admits, “Not every dog is meant for the kind of work and lifestyle that a SAR dog leads, and shepherds and Labs tend to be more naturally inclined for the job.” It takes a special personality and temperament as much for the dog as for their human to do the work and thrive in a work environment filled with death and destruction.


Cadaver dog Chance works a pile of rubble in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Wednesday, May 4, 2011.   Rain added to the misery of those in several Southern states trying to salvage what they could from homes badly damaged.  (AP Photo/Dave Martin)


Search and rescue is not without its perils or personal sacrifice. Logan, one of Sargent’s first dogs, was killed in the line of duty. Although that was over 10 years ago, the loss is still one she can’t bring herself to speak about, except to say, “I have learned that it is OK to be afraid. You just can’t let that fear stop you from living.” Sargent even joined the front lines and served overseas in Iraq as a bomb-dog handler, contributing her array of skills in the fight against global terrorism and keeping Americans safe. While some calls result in the joy of finding a missing hiker or child who is still alive, other calls have a grim and emotionally
taxing outcome.

PHOTO DOG Cinco and Brooke - August 8 2007 024

PHOTO 7 Cinco and Tracy - IPWDA - October 2 2007 010

The dogs in Sargent’s team are made up of what she lovingly calls “rejects.” Some were scheduled to be euthanized and were instead saved from the pound, while others were considered cosmetically flawed to be considered as show dogs. (RALPH REICHERT)

Good Day Atlanta - Aug 1 2013

Cinco receives national recognition with Good Day Atlanta in 2013.

On the lighter side, Sargent is a trainer who developed and instructed an award-winning training program for the state of Georgia, has coauthored an internationally published book titled How to train a human-remains detection dog and conducts seminars and workshops for groups seeking this type of specialized training. She finds balance on her farm, which she describes as her sanctuary from the craziness of her life and the world. She also volunteers with her local Humane Society and has plans to launch a new program training dogs to partner with our wounded warriors. Among all of this, she also founded STAR K9, a professional animal talent and wrangling business that trains and casts a Noah’s ark of varying animals and their handlers for the entertainment industry.

PHOTO 5 Boat Search

On a lake in Big Canoe, Ga., a fisherman’s boat was found drifting without the owner. There were no signs of the angler because the lake was so large. Sargent and her K9 team were deployed and alerted on a very specific area. The law enforcement divers found the fisherman in that exact spot. He had suffered from a heart attack, fell out of the boat and sadly drowned. Thanks to Sargent and her team, friends and family were able to give him a proper burial. (RALPH REICHERT)


PHOTO 6  Porterdale Search - September 22 2007 022

Porterdale Search – September 22 2007 (RALPH REICHERT)

As much media and publicity as there is about Sargent and her extraordinary dogs, she is a quiet and low-key person. Her dogs remain the keystones of all the interesting things that she has done over the years, from Iraq and TV reality shows to international searches and hometown cases. “It’s incredible to think that it all started with one little puppy. I still can’t believe I’ve been everywhere that I’ve been, had the adventures I’ve had and lived to talk about it!” says Sargent. By now Sargent’s family is comfortable with her ever-evolving career, though early on they were skeptical and worried for her safety. Her life is led not by what society expects her to do or be, but by the natural progression of where her life’s passions have led her. She is often asked why she lives her life “outside the box,” and it is an easy question for her to answer.



“I want to end my life’s sentence with an exclamation point, not a question mark. I don’t want to have any regrets in my life, and if I should live to be a 100, I don’t want to look back and wonder, ‘What if?’ I’m gong to find those answers while I can, and live my life with passion and purpose,” she says.

It is the dedication and service of first responders like Sargent and her dogs that makes our country a safer and more compassionate place. ASJ


Posted in Women and guns Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

July 21st, 2015 by AmSJ Staff

It’s Too Easy To Crack Your Gun Safe

Story and photographs by Dave Goetzinger

Not long ago, I was in the market for a small handgun safe. After visiting a local gun shop and bringing home my new gun safe, I took it out of its box, and wondered if I’d spent too much. Up close, the device looked insubstantial. A nagging suspicion motivated me to go online, where I quickly discovered research by Marc Tobias and Tobias Bluzmanis of Investigative Law Offices and Security Laboratories. Their work confirmed my suspicion about the safe. It could be broken into easily.

I started thinking of these safes as Chinese-made, battery-operated toys for gun owners.

Tobias and Bluzmanis, who specialize in evaluating security systems, did an analysis of handgun safes in 2012. Their investigation began with a product called the Strong Box. About 200 of these had been issued to personnel of Clark County Sheriff’s Department in Vancouver, Wash., after the ten-year-old daughter of a Clark County Deputy was accidently shot and killed by her brother who had managed to get a hold of his father’s department-issued handgun. The Sheriff’s Department instituted a policy that all department-issued weapons must be secured in gun safes. Thus the safes, which were issued to personnel between 2003 and 2004. In 2010, however, the three-year-old son of Detective Ed Owens died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after the boy’s sister was able to remove a handgun from their father’s department issued safe.


Some safes were readily accessed by using a common household item such as a paper clip.

Tobias and Bluzmanis found that the safe in question could be vibrated open. Lifting it by one side several inches from a floor and dropping it was all that was needed. Their investigation then broadened into an examination of other safes. None of the safes they examined proved secure. Tobias wrote a piece for Forbes magazine on their findings, and posted video of their examinations on his YouTube channel. He also filed a class-action lawsuit against a safe manufacturer in 2012, prompting them to settle out of court. Tobias and Bluzmanis are now examining that manufacturers latest product designs and are considering filing another lawsuit.

Among the safes Tobias and Bluzmanis compromised was my safe. The product was still for sale, unchanged, as of 2015. The salesman who sold it to me claimed ignorance about the product being defective and processed my return without objection. Several days later, I purchased a more secure safe by Fort Knox, by which time I was convinced that someone needed to do follow-up research on handgun safes. So I decided to do it myself. I went to Cabelas and selected a several product by multiple safe companies, then set up an iPhone at home to record my examinations.

Neither safe posed any challenge to my attempts to break in. With video on my iPhone, I went to a different retailer and negotiated a low price on another safe to break into. In the end, I broke into seven safes. The skills needed to accomplish this were no different than the skills I developed in childhood taking my toys apart. Indeed, I started thinking of these devices as Chinese made, battery-operated toys for gun owners.


And some safes simply required gentle coaxing while others could be accessed through the solenoid behind the front panel.

Design problems with these safes fell into two main categories. They nearly all had keypads set into rubber or plastic fittings that could be pried or peeled up, exposing holes into the interior of the locking mechanisms. At the very least, there would be one hole allowing a cable to connect the keypad with the mechanism inside. These holes were easily exploited. Another shared characteristic was that none of the interior components of the locking mechanisms were arranged in ways to thwart probing with wires. If I couldn’t directly access a concealed reset button or a latch release, I could poke a solenoid with a paperclip or pull out wiring to actuate a locking mechanism from the outside. Finally, all the safes shared the characteristic of cheap construction, such as loose hinges, ill-fitted joints and extraneous holes.

“Manufacturers couldn’t care less,” Tobias says, “nor do they have any expertise in gun-safe design. It is all about money. That obviously trumps the safety and security of the consumer.” In April of 2012, Tobias contacted the Vice President of Marketing for a safe manufacturer and offered to go to Chicago and brief the engineering team on the design problems he and his colleague uncovered. They were uninterested in his input. The spokesman for Walmart was equally uninterested in hearing from Tobias about his concerns regarding the products they sold.

Gun owners need to understand that Chinese-made, battery-operated toys are being marketed to them as safes, and a series of governmental oversights in the United States have created an environment conducive to marketing these products. Four of the products I tested for this article are advertised as being approved by California’s Department of Justice (DOJ), meaning they meet California’s DOJ Regulatory Gun Safe Standards. The fact is cited on the manufacturer websites and on the boxes the safes come packaged in. Some of the websites even sport official-looking seals to draw attention to the California DOJ approval, though California has no official seal to designate this.


The California Department of Justice does not have an official emblem for safe’s they have tested or deemed safe by their standards so companies created their own versions giving their products a more official appearance. These are just some of the examples.

To get California DOJ approval for a handgun safe, a manufacturer submits four of a given model to be tested by a Certified FSD Laboratory that has been vetted by the DOJ. FSD means firearm safety device. The safe manufacturer must also provide the name and model number of the device, a description of the device, a description of the product’s intended use, including a description of how to operate the product safely, and the type, make, or model of firearm(s) the device is designed for. The safe must also meet California’s gun-safe standards, which is easy to do.


Testing procedures are outlined in California’s Penal Code, Chapter 6, Section 4095. All tests are intended to replicate forces exerted through the use of common household tools — like screwdrivers and paperclips — for approximately ten minutes. In addition to describing the conditions under which tests are performed (at temperatures between 16 and 27 degrees Celsius, with a primed case installed in a locked firearm, etc.), the statute describes a long series of tests to be performed on gunlocks. Only subsection (e) of the statute describes tests for what it calls lock-box-type devices that can completely contain and enclose a firearm. They’re dropped on a concrete slab. They’re dropped from a height of one meter and one centimeter with the locking mechanism facing up, and with the locking mechanism facing down.


California DOJ gun-safe certification guidelines only test the security value by dropping the safe from a height of 101 centimeters with a firearm inside.

Following these examinations, the lab submits testing results to California’s DOJ, which performs no additional tests. Upon approval, the device is listed on California’s Roster of Approved Firearms Safety Devices. The manufacturer is then free to cite the approval on product packaging — complete with official-looking seal.

One problem with this process, which Tobias has commented on in his writing, is that California’s DOJ Regulatory Gun Safe Standards do not address methods of covert entry or mechanical bypass techniques. Another glaring problem is that Certified FSD Laboratories are set up to test gunlocks, not safes. The tests performed on locks are done to specific purpose (for example, manipulating cylinders to determine how resistant they are to picking), the dropping of so-called lock-box-type devices is done to no specific purpose. A device is simply deemed to have failed the dropping test if it is disabled, if the firearm is made functional or if the firearm discharges the primed case during the test.

Obviously, the word disabled could meaning anything, including that a lock box is rendered inaccessible by being stuck closed, in which case security is no longer an issue. Furthermore, a modern center-fire handgun won’t discharge when dropped from a height of one meter, so dropping a lockbox with a center-fire handgun inside tells an examiner nothing. All of which is to say that California’s Penal Code, Chapter 6, Section 4095, is inadequate to address safes and is outdated by over two decades.


It required very little effort to compromise several models of gun safes.

To complicate matters for the consumer, manufacturers of portable handgun cases often claim their devices meet Transportation Security Administration guidelines. Yet the Firearms and Ammunition guidelines established by the TSA also make no mention of covert entry. According to TSA guidelines, “Locked cases that can be pulled open with little effort cannot be brought aboard the aircraft.” The phrase “pulled open with little effort” is the only language in the guidelines that might be construed to address unauthorized entry, forced or otherwise. Since TSA does not endorse products (or services, or entities), responsibility is left to manufacturers to decide — or to make the claim, anyway — that their products are TSA compliant.

California’s DOJ Gun Safe Standards and TSA’s Firearms and Ammunition guidelines are easy enough to satisfy that, for manufacturers of cheap safes, they’ve become inadvertent marketing ploys. That manufacturers of these products know nothing about security doesn’t prevent them from seeking California DOJ approval, or from invoking TSA Firearms and Ammunition guidelines if they think they can get away with it. Who can deny the incentive? The gun owner market is a specialty market rife with gadgets and gear, and toy handgun safes are good money.

One can argue the semantics of what constitutes a “lock box” or a “safe,” but that won’t change the situation. Toy safes are being foisted on gun owners, people who’ve taken upon themselves the responsibility of owning firearms. Any effort to take that responsibility seriously by securing a gun in a device like the ones I tested would be undermined by the device itself. This means the gun owner who is looking for a small handgun safe has few choices. Fort Knox and V-Line make handgun safes with pushbutton mechanical locks. These are sturdy and have few of the weaknesses I found in other safes, but they could be better. The gun owner market is still waiting for the handgun safe that gun owners deserve. AmSJ

Posted in Just Plinking Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,