Shawnee PD’s new 3D laser scanner halves investigation time

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3D laser scanner
Shawnee police purchased a FARO 3D laser scanner, which scans crash and crime scenes in 60 percent of the time. Photo by Bret Cortright with FARO

Shawnee police officers’ investigations of crashes and crime scenes just got more detailed and more than twice as efficient.

The 3D Scanner software produces a detailed and scaled map of a crash or crime scene, including a 360-degree perspective, according to Shawnee city records.

One officer utilizing a 3D Laser Scanner can record a scene in about 60 percent of the time required by four officers using a Total Station, the Shawnee Police Department’s current device. In fact, the city’s traffic safety unit recommended purchasing the FARO 3D Laser Scanner because it can record and measure a 150-meter area in roughly seven minutes.

Mayor Michelle Distler approved the purchase during the Monday council meeting.

“They can do in 15 minutes what it takes an hour a crew of four to do,” Distler said. “That’s not only a big deal with our normal accident investigations, but when you think of the accident investigations on the highway — when you shut down a highway like a recent accident we had for four hours — that’s a big difference than if we could have it shut down for less than an hour and get the same results. So this is huge for our city.”

Steve Walsh, sergeant of the Shawnee Police Department’s traffic safety unit, said the tool will help officers reconstruct crashes involving serious injury or death, especially if criminal charges would likely be filed. The scanner will also be utilized for major crime scenes that are large in scale or have large amounts of evidence.

Walsh said most residents probably won’t notice any change in police investigations, but the highway will be reopened much more quickly after major crash scenes.

“This will also help up prevent secondary crashes in the back up caused by road closures,” Walsh said. “We get called to assist several area agencies with major crashes, so it will not just be Shawnee residents who may notice this change.”

Complete data of a crash or crime scene also keeps track of minor details that may become important after police officers follow up on leads, Walsh added.

“Utilizing our current Total Station, which only produces a one-dimensional diagram, the only thing captured is what the officers physically capture at the scene,” Walsh said.

The Shawnee council agreed 5-0 to purchase the FARO laser scanner for $70,461, which includes on-site training. The city had budgeted about $84,500 for the purchase in its revised 2018 budget. Councilmembers Stephanie Meyer, Jim Neighbor and Justin Adrian (Adrian has resigned as councilmember since then.)

Walsh said the Shawnee police had wanted a scanner for several years, but it was too expensive. Since technology has evolved and more of these tools are being used across the nation, the scanner is more affordable.

Using the 10-pound scanner, one police officer can scan a 150-meter range. Security measures within the scanner and software also prevent against tampering, according to a letter to the city from FARO. The software is also able to analyze blood spatters and determine the height of suspects and shooting trajectory.

The FARO Focus S150 Laser Scanner and accompanying software are products of FARO Technologies Inc., a Florida-based company that provides similar technology to the U.S. Department of Defense, federal and intelligence agencies and the U.S. military.

Mitch Brim, Shawnee police captain, said the use of 3D scanner technology is expected by prosecutors. The Lenexa Police Department uses the same software.

Shawnee police will begin to use the scanner as soon as a select group of officers complete their training on the new tool.

About the author

Leah Wankum
Leah Wankum

Hi there! I’m Leah Wankum, and I’m the Post’s Deputy Editor. I’m thrilled to call Johnson County home, and I’m deeply committed to the Post’s philosophy that an informed community is a strong community.

I’m a native of mid-Missouri, and attended high school in Jefferson City before going on to the University of Central Missouri, where I earned a master’s degree in mass communication.

Prior to joining the Post as a reporter in 2018, I was the editor of the Richmond News in Ray County, Missouri. I’ve also written for several publications, including the Sedalia Democrat and KC Magazine.