Video Surveillance Success In Mitigating Colorado Planned Parenthood Attacks

People often talk about the hypothetical benefits of police using a facility's video surveillance to help respond / mitigate casualties in active shooter attacks. Doing this can be tough unless the technology and policies are in place to get that video immediately to the responders. However, in Colorado, this looks to have worked well.

Check this:

  • "Relying on building maps and "incredibly dramatic" live surveillance video, police outside the Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic that was under siege Friday were able to prevent the tragedy from becoming even deadlier, an official said."
  • "Police then watched as the gunman roamed the clinic. People had scrambled to all parts of the facility seeking safety — a file room, a consultation room — and as the gunman came toward them, "officers in the command center were communicating with them by cellphone, telling them to lay down on the floor," Suthers said."
  • "Once it was determined that the assailant was no longer near them, the officers freed those hostages"

That's a pretty powerful description.

It's certainly worth using for a real example of how this can make a difference.

The biggest technical bottlenecks include:

  • The police having the app / software to see the cameras. Typically this is proprietary.
  • The police having password / authorization to access the cameras.
  • The police having network access to the cameras. Often, this is firewalled, requiring a VPN or a single whole is punched open, still requiring to find out the IP address / port.
  • The police knowing how to get the 3 above solved in minutes.

Anyone who knows more about this specific install or similar setups, please share.


Full disclosure - I work for Eagle Eye Networks.

I don't know anything about this specific situation, other than what has been reported. However, we have worked with several police agencies in this capacity before, although not in this serious of a situation. The nature of our application lends itself to easily sharing video with 3rd parties.

This is how Eagle Eye addresses the four points mentioned above:

  • The police having the app / software to see the cameras. Typically this is proprietary.

Users (including police) access our system via the web - no plugins are required and we support IE, Chrome, Safari and Firefox on Windows, Mac or Linux. We also have iOS and Android apps which are free to download from their respective stores. Essentially anyone with a browser already has the software they need to access our system.

  • The police having password / authorization to access the cameras.

Business owners/managers can add police by just knowing their email address.

  • The police having network access to the cameras. Often, this is firewalled, requiring a VPN or a single whole is punched open, still requiring to find out the IP address / port.

Police just log in via the web or mobile app, no special network access is required because they are not connecting directly to the equipment on site.

  • The police knowing how to get the 3 above solved in minutes.

When the owner/manager adds the police officers they receive an email with a link to create a password and log in.

Just to be clear, for members, cloud based systems like Eagle Eye, represents less than 1% of the recorders deployed. While I do think cloud systems have distinct advantages for such a scenario, most users will still face these challenges.

Also, one downside of Eagle Eye is that its core VMS functions are not as mature as many recorder incumbents (Eagle Eye Cloud VMS Tested).

The biggest technical bottlenecks include:

  • The police having the app / software to see the cameras. Typically this is proprietary.
  • The police having password / authorization to access the cameras.
  • The police having network access to the cameras. Often, this is firewalled, requiring a VPN or a single whole is punched open, still requiring to find out the IP address / port.
  • The police knowing how to get the 3 above solved in minutes.

Most systems now have a HTML5 interface so software or an app isn't needed and customers can share their user/pass for quick access. Remote access is normally set up when the system is installed so I don't think this is a huge hurdle.

How is the police getting access to the facility's internal network from outside?

Sure, you can share your user/pass but the time is of the essence in such situations so if it not done beforehand the 5, 10, 15 minutes it takes to get the police in touch with someone who knows the IP address and password will be critical. Yes/no?

Back in the analog days, I had a hospital project where we ran video and data feeds between the hospital's matrix switch and a free standing cabinet located in one of the corners of the parking
lot. The cabinet also contained video monitors and a control keypad for the matrix switch.

The plan was, in case of a crisis, the police department's mobile command center would set up camp in the parking lot and connect to the video system in order to view the cameras. This setup was tested a couple of times during drills and it seemed to work well.

You could probably do something like this with IP; run a network feed to a nearby location outdoors, and provide a laptop computer that had the VMS client application pre-installed on it.

I have found that these kind of arrangements work best in smaller/richer cities where law enforcement has ample resources and can develop close relationships with each of the larger businesses and institutions within its jurisdiction. Trying to get a big city police department to get on board with something like this would be more challenging.

You could probably do something like this with IP; run a network feed to a nearby location outdoors, and provide a laptop computer that had the VMS client application pre-installed on it.

We recently did this for a school and both the school and law enforcement like this solution.

There is a lot to like about this solution.

Fact is when the police show up with their mobile command post they have at best some cell internet connection, 4G etc. You can't monitor more than about 2 cameras on a 4G internet connection. I know you can do it but there is no comparison between a mobile experience and a client on the LAN experience.

Part of the response protocol is certain people are assigned to respond to the connectivity points and actually operate the VMS client machines for law enforcement. Law enforcement personnel are not trained to use the VMS hindering its usefulness.

The client computer has the full featured client on it versus a web client which on most VMS's is not full featured. The client machine can be set up to auto launch and auto-login the VMS client software.

Access to the VMS system is secure, getting policy approval for remote IP access is not simple. The technical aspects can be solved but the "we don't want big brother watching us" mindset usually can't be overcome.

Our primary / by-far-largest campus has its own sworn police dept. with full access to the University's surveillance system since they are on/inside our network. One of our remote campuses in another city relies on local (city) LE. Their communications/dispatch center is behind a single public IP so that was easy enough to get them access at a network level. We created a shared user account with access to the cameras at that location and they utilize our web interface. They test access every week and report any issues. In the last several years they changed that public IP once which was the only issue thus far.

This works for access from that center but not direct from field. If they had a VPN setup designed in a certain manner it could still work for them but I doubt they have that. More likely would be that if it was a prolonged event we would do something on the fly for their access. We couldn't do this fast enough for a short (minutes) incident but we could easily pull it off for something that ran longer, I would guess 1+ hours by the time communication started happening with us and in the meantime they could relay (verbal) from their communications center which isn't as efficient but it's at least something.

We are looking at keeping sealed envelopes at the police dispatch with temporary usernames/passwords and instructions to log on to school and hospital systems. The managers of these facilities can periodically inspect the envelopes if they want to be sure abuse is not taking place. Dry runs would be scheduled to make sure people know the procedure. The passwords can be changed once they have been used. This requires a little manual labor but I think it at least helps the situation.

This was an Aimetis solution. I can't share all the information but it performed very well and was used by the police who are the real hero's here.

Anthony, thanks for letting us know. If or when they agree to share more information, please post an update or shoot me an email.

As a facility manager I'm sitting here thinking of ways I could give the police access to my system and can think of a couple. However, I don't know how useful it would be. My cameras monitor the perimeter of the facility. The only interior cameras I have are for the lobby and the loading docks in the warehouse. Oh and I have one on the refrigerator in the cafeteria...

Is it common for businesses to monitor interior spaces and hallways which would be what you want to view in an active shooter scenario?

"Is it common for businesses to monitor interior spaces and hallways which would be what you want to view in an active shooter scenario?"

Yes, interior cameras are common, statistically more common than exterior, one reason is simply they are less expensive to deploy. I am not suggesting that most companies have comprehensive indoor coverage but hallways, lobbies, key areas like warehouses or breakrooms are common areas to have cameras.