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Nov 26, 2005

GPS Monitor Faulted In Women's Murder

Santa Rosa, Florida officials are looking in to ways to improve their global positioning system (GPS) monitoring of people out on bond after the murder of a woman. According to the Pensacola News Journal, Roy Albert Thompson Sr. had been arrested on a domestic violence charge involving his wife, Pamela Thompson. As a condition of being released on bond, Mr. Thompson was required to wear a GPS monitoring device

The system, which is monitored by Court Programs of North Florida Inc., included an ankle bracelet and main transmitter that must be carried by the wearer. The main transmitter can be removed at any time. However, if the ankle bracelet moves more than 30 feet from the main transmitter, a violation is recorded by the computer system. The system also allows the creation of a, "no-contact zone" which the person wearing the monitoring device may not travel in to.

According to sheriff's reports, Mr. Thompson drove to an area just outside the 500-foot, no-contact zone around his wife's home. He left the GPS transmitter in his vehicle and walked to his estranged wife's home. There he broke in to her home and shot and killed her, before turning his gun on himself and committing suicide.

Officials are looking into why no emergency signal or page was sent to the company monitoring the system, despite the fact that Mr. Thompson clearly traveled further than 30 feet from the transmitter. Besides looking into the system's failure, the sheriff's office is investigating the possibility of linking their computers to the GPS companies' computers so that deputies could respond directly when a violation is recorded.

I've posted previously on the growing use of GPS in law enforcement. Officials are excited about the use of the technology for monitoring parolees, and the accused out on bond. However, judges and police officers must be careful that they don't let this new technology give them a false sense of security. GPS can be a valuable tool for public safety, but it will never replace good police work and sound judicial decisions.