Law Enforcement Entrepreneur
Ambitious undergraduate business majors typically go for a master’s in business administration as their next move, but not Max Kramer. Instead the 2014 graduate of New York University enrolled in the Criminal Justice Institute at Palm Beach State College.
Call it extreme product research.
By enrolling in PBSC’s Auxiliary Law Enforcement Officer program, Kramer sought to experience how it felt to be in a police officer’s shoes. Far from a whim, it was a critical step for Kramer as the founder and president of Centinel Solutions, a Palm Beach-based startup that has developed the first encrypted firearm-mounted camera to meet U.S. Department of Justice specifications. With this product, Kramer aims to solve one of the most serious problems confronting police departments and communities nationwide: the usability and accuracy of body-worn cameras.
“I figured what I needed for my MBA was to immerse myself in the curriculum of criminal justice and engage with law enforcement on a daily basis,” says Kramer. “Spending six months in a law enforcement environment taught me firsthand how much the police value evidence, truth and life.”
Unlike manually-operated body-worn cameras, Kramer’s Centinel Shield Weapon Camera is mounted under the gun barrel and begins filming automatically when the gun is pulled from the holster. Activation also triggers a mobile app that sends push alert notifications with GPS coordinates to the officer’s command for backup, along with a use-of-force data. The 2.5-ounce camera turns itself off when holstered, and the encrypted recording, which captures audio and video, is uploaded to an ultra-secure, government cloud portal for immediate viewing, as well as evidence management and analysis.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of the firearm-mounted system is what gets recorded. When police officers draw their weapon or take cover, their physical movements often block the body-worn camera. As a result, the precise moment force was used seldom gets recorded, leaving room for speculation in the wake of officer-involved shootings. Kramer’s camera avoids this problem. Attached to the weapon, it captures the scene with the same point of view as the officer.
“It gives a very important evidence trail for law enforcement as well as community standards,” notes Kramer, who over the past four years has worked with a small team of experts to develop the patent-pending camera, mobile app and portal, called the Shield Suite. “By putting the camera on the firearm, we have a dynamic platform that moves with the officer and really shows that final mile, which is what law enforcement and the community are concerned about.”
Kramer has spent many hours with law enforcement professionals to make sure the Shield Suite delivers.
“For years, I used to sit in a duck blind with Officer Valkovich, a retired MTA [transit] cop, and I heard a lot of stories from him. One thing led to another, and I got introduced to people in the field. During our research and design phase, I spoke to everyone from line officers to directors of task forces, homeland security professionals and police executives. Our products are the culmination of everybody’s opinions and critiques on what’s needed in the industry.”
Kramer also developed many strong relationships at Palm Beach State, including Phil Berlingo, PBSC Criminal Justice program coordinator and a former NYPD officer.
“Florida puts auxiliary officers through the same high-liability training that the full-time officers get put through,” says Berlingo, “so it was more realistic for Max to come here for our auxiliary officer program. In New York, auxiliary officers don’t carry firearms at all; they go to a quick two- or three-week class on how to assist the police.”
Kramer, now 25, was the youngest person in the class of mostly former police officers. Berlingo recalls, “Besides getting his chops broken by the older students, who really helped get a millennial in line, Max already had a vision for his products; there was a reason for him to be here.”
“My experience at Palm Beach State was incredible,” says Kramer. “The facilities are shipshape, the leadership, and the background of your instructors—professionals from the Sheriff’s Office and various departments in Palm Beach County—everything was the best that I’ve seen or heard about. And instructor Berlingo’s lesson plans were of great value, especially when we brought what we learned in text out into the simulated training scenarios. I’m very grateful to the Criminal Justice Institute and Palm Beach State College.”
While there are other firearm-mounted cameras out there, Kramer’s is the first and only CJIS-certified police gun camera. This means it complies with the federal standards of the Criminal Justice Information Services Division for protecting the sources, transmission, storage and generation of criminal justice information.
“If you’re going to put something out there for use by on-duty law enforcement officers, there are lots of different standards that must be adhered to,” says Kramer, “including Department of Justice rules and regulations, and encryption and data transfer procedures. Also we had to consider how the gun fits into the officer’s holster. We’ve been able to secure partnerships with the two leading holster manufacturers, Blackhawk and Safariland, which is also a first in the industry.”
Currently the Centinel Shield Suite is deployed in the field across the country and in security departments at academic institutions. It’s being tested as both an alternative and supplement to body-worn cameras.
“The Shield Suite helps solve a very contentious situation and provides the level of transparency that all stakeholders want,” says Kramer. “It’s a very rewarding endeavor to market a technology that has the ability to enhance trust and solve some of the key problems of our time. The feedback so far has been that this is a tremendously valuable tool.”
Watch an interview with Max Kramer: