Polk County Sheriff’s Office launches new lab to combat AI threats

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Polytechnic University are teaming up to protect the public from artificial intelligence threats. 

Sheriff Grady Judd and Dr. Randy K. Avent, president of Florida Polytechnic University, announced a new Polk County Sheriff's Office Artificial Intelligence Laboratory during a press conference on Friday afternoon. 

The pair spoke about the different components of the artificial intelligence lab including research, planning, and education; collaborations and partnerships; technology; protecting private data, and investigations. 

"We’re going to see an environment where they are going to make good, upstanding citizens look like they are involved in the child pornography world. We’ve got to be able to stand up quickly and say that’s got to go away," Judd stated.

The unit will consist of detectives, researchers and students.

"We’re going to have Sheriffs and deputies out in the real world seeing fraud cases and all that, and then you pair them with a researcher try to figure out, ‘Well, how do I counter those particular cases?’" Dr. Randy Avent, the President of Florida Polytechnic University, said.

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The newly created unit wants to:

  • Identify emerging AI technologies and leverage and/or combat the misuse of these technologies.
  • Provide ongoing updates on emerging AI technologies, methodologies, and trending AI incidents to law enforcement leadership.
  • Compose and propose legislation and policy to protect the community from new crimes that AI certainly will create, if left unchallenged.
  • Craft solutions with next generation intellects from Florida Polytechnic University.
  • Obtain and maintain cutting-edge training and tools to help identify AI-related crime and criminals.
  • Assist in criminal investigations involving the use of AI, including cyberharassment, identity theft, extortion, hate crimes, and other related cybercrimes.
  • Systematically vet new AI investigative software for use in a law enforcement setting.
  • Maintain up-to-date knowledge of developing AI trends, techniques, tactics, and procedures of threat actors using AI technology, including extortion/blackmail trends.
  • Identify and analyze "deep fake" and AI-altered images/video/audio production technologies and methodologies used to mislead the public.
  • Identify federal, state, and local agency partnerships for investigating AI incidents.
  • Implement the best policies and practices related to criminal AI investigations.
  • Provide training and assistance in investigations related to AI (internal to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and to external partner agencies).

As part of the partnership, Florida Poly will provide technical research and support to the PCSO AI investigation unit.

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During a press conference on Friday, Judd said he couldn't put an exact dollar amount on the project but said it would not be expensive. 

He added that about 8 - 12 Florida Poly students will work with the sheriff's office.

Florida Poly Interns will also provide advanced technology solutions to current PCSO systems while gaining unique real-world experience working and developing skills in the AI field with law enforcement professionals.

Judd said he believes Polk County is the first sheriff's office in the country to have this type of AI lab.

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"AI is the next uncharted universe, which we must sail into and chart safe navigation for all of our community, and we will protect you from the evils of AI," Judd vowed.

Leaders hope that the unit will continue to grow and evolve along with technology.

"I guarantee you a year from now, we’ll come back and there will be 20%, 30% more than we, never in a million years thought of," Dr Avent said.

The university is exploring curriculum and degree opportunities related to AI fields of study.