New laser scanner giving SPD a 3D view of crime scenes, collisions

SPOKANE, Wash. - The Spokane Police Department has a new high-tech tool to investigate crimes.

Several officers are being trained to use a new laser scanner which gives investigators a view of crime scenes they have never had before.

The device, an RTC360 manufactured by Leica, is 12 pounds and about the size of a purse. Not only is the device incredibly accurate, police say it will save time investigating serious car accidents, even murders.

"It's less bulky, it's smaller, we can move it around a scene faster," said Spokane officer Ben Maplethorpe, one of several officers training with the new technology.



Documenting crime scenes and car crashes has always involved the painstaking process of taking photos and measurements. The new scanner does both - with the push of a button - in a matter of minutes.

"It starts scanning and collects over two million points a second and it can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes depending on the resolution you want," Maplethorpe said.

But the scanner does more than take photos and measurements - it builds a three-dimensional map which investigators can study months, even years after a crime occurs.

"This can be used in any major crimes case or collision investigation - anything detectives may need more in depth photographs and measurements," Maplethorpe said.

It's not just detectives that will be studying the 3-D scenes. Maplethorpe said prosecutors can use them as well.

"It makes it a whole lot easier for juries to put themselves into a scenario of what might have occurred."

Other features are still being explored, and the department started training officers in late December.

"We're in the learning process," Maplethorpe said. "It's always going to be a learning process especially with technology constantly evolving and software constantly evolving."

The laser scanner was not cheap. The device itself, the software, and training is included in a $150,000 contract the Spokane city council approved in September. Close to $105,000 was funded through justice assistance grants.


Get your weather forecast from people that actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.