Spokane Police Department uses high-speed laser scanning to make easy work of a daunting seven-acre scene

Just months after transitioning from a total station to 3D laser scanning technology, Major Crimes Unit Investigators Brian Shrier and Paul Taylor, of the Spokane Police Department, were deployed to map their most challenging environment to-date: 7 acres of woods, hills and rocky outcroppings.

Large, complex scenes have always been a challenge to map, even with a conventional laser scanner. However, Shrier and Taylor had sought expert advice from Collision Forensic Solutions, the Nebraska-based crash and crime reconstruction services firm which also provides consultations, equipment and training in forensic mapping technology. Based on the firm’s recommendation, the Spokane PD purchased the RTC360 Leica RTC360 reality capture solution.

From the start, Shrier and Taylor had confidence that Collision Forensic Solutions would provide their Department with the right scanner for their needs. And the challenging seven-acre scene proved it. “The RTC360 scanner worked flawlessly documenting that environment and the topography we were faced with in this critical incident,” Shrier says.

Agility, speed and automatic registration tackle 7 acres in four hours

Since its debut in 2018, the RTC360 Leica RTC360 has been a game-changer. With a capture rate of 2 million points per second and two minutes per scan, it’s the fastest scanner on the market, and its compact, lightweight design, makes it one of the most agile. “It can go anywhere,” Taylor says. Transporting the total station, he explains, used to take several trips. But the RTC360 scanner, tripod and tablet all fit into one backpack. “Everything we need,” he says, “I can carry in one trip.”

As Shrier and Taylor scanned their way through the 7-acre scene, the RTC360’s visual inertial system (VIS) technology automatically tracked scanner’s movement from station to station. “The RTC360 is magic,” Taylor says. “When I move the instrument, multiple cameras on the scanner are recording where it’s been and where it’s going.” Typically, scans taken from multiple locations must be aligned, or registered, with post-processing software back at the office, but the VIS interfaces with Leica Cyclone FIELD 360 edge-computing software to unite the scans in real-time. “Even in a wooded environment, where there aren’t a lot of defined registration points,” Shrier says. “the VIS worked perfectly.”

The RTC360’s technology allowed Shrier and Taylor to track their own progress, as well. As scans are united, the RTC360 sends the registered data, including HDR imagery, to any smart device. “We were able to view a registered point cloud on our iPad, and if our scan plan had any deficiencies, we were able to address them right there on scene instead of coming back to the office and finding it later when it’s too late,” Shrier explains. “We could move forward with confidence knowing that we were getting everything we were after—and then some.”

Shrier and Taylor walked away with nearly a billion points of data, including 37 scans and high-dynamic range (HDR) imagery, in less than four hours of scan time.

Reality capture solution delivers an immersive 3d work product

With some laser scanners and workflows, it can take days or weeks to post-process the scan data, depending on the size of the scene. But after Shrier and Taylor returned to the office and imported the RTC360 point cloud data into Leica Cyclone REGISTER 360 software, there wasn’t much left to do. Cyclone REGISTER 360 placed the data onto real-world coordinates and finalized the registration with little-to-no manual assistance. “Other than a little cleanup, it’s ready to deliver,” Shrier says.




Instead of the 2D diagrams produced from total station data, Shrier and Taylor are now delivering an immersive, 3D photorealistic digital reality environment that allows users to view, move through, measure and markup the scene as needed. “We were able to scan where a witness reported standing, which in turn helped others view the witness’ possible perspective,” Taylor says. “That type of information is invaluable for investigators.”

>>RELATED: Transitioning to 3D Workflows? Here’s How Spokane PD Made It Fast and Simple

The information, which includes the Leica TruView and JetStream work products and their executables as well as the final report, is placed in an electronic folder and made available on a memory stick. “End-users can easily install those executables on their computer and view everything that we have,” Shrier says. The software is simple enough for non-technical people to navigate. “I spent maybe 10 minutes with each of our detectives giving them a crash course on how to use TruView and JetStream so they can go into different scan sites and look at the point cloud,” Shrier says. “In summary,” Taylor adds with a chuckle, “it’s easy enough for a cop to use.”




The easy-to-use 3D work products are the type of deliverables their prosecutor’s office has come to expect. “Once they started seeing these terrestrial scans of crime scenes coming in from the Washington State Crime Lab, which has a Leica ScanStation P40, and other agencies,” Shrier explains, “the prosecutor’s office requested that all diagramming of major crime scenes be done with a scanner.”

It’s one of the motivating factors behind the department’s transition to laser scanning technology. “There’s just no real comparison at the end of the day of what the detectives and the prosecutor’s office gets with a scanner versus the total station,” Taylor says. “It’s like a crayon drawing versus watching a movie.”

Advanced technology makes work easier and more enjoyable

Shrier and Taylor know the Spokane Police Department made its transition to laser scanning technology at the opportune moment. As one laser-scanning colleague likes to remind them, “You guys don’t know how good you’ve got it.” But they’re OK with that. “We’re like 16-year-old kids and our first car is a Cadillac,” Shrier says. “The RTC360 has become a critical piece of gear in our toolbox.”

“The RTC360 is simple and fun to use,” Taylor adds. “And it makes our job a lot easier while giving us the opportunity to deliver a superior product.”

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