Virtual Command Center
July 3, 2012
Originally published in the July 2012 edition of the CJIS Link, Volume 14, Number 2
On April 18, federal and local officials in Clarksburg, West Virginia, announced the arrest of a major West Virginia synthetic drug supplier. Operation “Hot Stuff Cool Things” was a multi-agency operation of 70 agents that used a Virtual Command Center (VCC) on the Law Enforcement Online (LEO) network to share information about the ongoing case. Subsequently, the owner of the Clarksburg and Buckhannon stores Hot Stuff Cool Things and three other individuals were arrested on multiple federal drug charges by a task force that included the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service, West Virginia State Police, U.S. Marshals Service, Clarksburg Police Department, Bridgeport Police Department, and the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office. During the raid, officers found over $750,000 in cash and bank deposits. The U.S. Attorney said that millions of dollars of bath salts (a synthetic drug commonly used as a cocaine substitute) had moved through the stores in the last year.
In the modern law enforcement environment, agencies need to share information, collaborate, and join forces to combat crime and terrorism. Often they need to post, track, and spread information across departments and jurisdictions in a quick, secure way for an investigation or for a major occurrence. To satisfy this need for safe, inclusive communication, the LEO Operations Unit created the VCC capability in 2002. The LEO VCC is a situational awareness and/or crisis management tool used to share information about street-level and tactical activities among law enforcement operations centers and command posts. Since its inception, the VCC has been used by numerous agencies for local, national, and international events ranging from major case management to global events like presidential inaugurations.
FBI Buffalo conducts a SWAT exercise at the Tactical Operations Center using the VCC.
Multiple agencies monitor a NASCAR event through the VCC.
Because the VCC resides on LEO, it is extremely flexible and can be used or viewed from multiple geographic locations. This makes it feasible for federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to create joint efforts in investigations and law enforcement actions. The VCC exists on a secure system for any designated audience members online, not just those physically present at an event or a “brick and mortar” command center. Through the VCC, law enforcement can effectively manage a tactical incident in real time, 24/7, with both operational and technical support. As the VCC receives and posts relevant information and intelligence, it provides a comprehensive account of an incident or event to designated law enforcement channels.
The VCC provides an events board feature that permits information posts as an event occurs and allows listing of data such as photographs, scanned documents, or any information that would be useful to managing an event or crisis. Agencies hosting the VCC can permit access to individual persons or entire agencies as needed. Even critical incident managers, such as emergency planners, can now have remote access to a crisis without having to be on-scene. Recent enhancements to the VCC capability include the ability to display incidents by specific dates or times, improved refresh rates on the screens, and improved critical real-time monitoring of operations.
The FBI and the law enforcement community as a whole have benefited from the increased ability to share vital information and collaborate—even over previously unmanageable locality impediments—by the creation of the VCC. In 2011, LEO members created over 300 new VCCs and opened over 700 VCC event boards to collect, record, and securely publish information. As an indication of its effectiveness and adaptability, the law enforcement community has used the VCC not only during kidnappings, shootings, and special investigations, but also during major events such as NASCAR races, Republican and Democratic National Conventions, a presidential inauguration, the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl, the Academy Awards, and the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.
To learn more about the VCC, visit www.leo.gov or call James Carder at (304) 625-5639.