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How Knoxville PD increased situational awareness at special events

This “eyes in the sky” equipment helps boost safety for community members

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Knoxville Police Department deploys The RATT to bolster situational awareness and public safety at special events.

Critical Tech Solutions

The importance of situational awareness within law enforcement cannot be emphasized enough. No matter what incident is unfolding – the pursuit of a suspect, a routine traffic stop or even surveillance at large events – officers need to have their eyes in multiple places at once to have a full understanding of what’s going on and what could happen next.

For patrol officers in Knoxville, Tennessee, this situational awareness was sometimes lacking, as the department faced limitations relating to their real-time camera locations and felt their technology wasn’t being optimized – a problem for such a populated area.

The city of Knoxville is a bustling metropolis with approximately 200,000 residents and spans over 100 square miles. When special events are held downtown or on the University of Tennessee campus, Knoxville PD is responsible for ensuring the safety and security of all who attend. However, each gathering that passed became a repeated reminder that the department needed to explore additional ways of increasing its visibility.

Thankfully, Knoxville PD had grant money available to bolster their technology array and began exploring camera trailers, along with other options, to identify the best tools on the market. “We were looking at trailers and learned that, right here in our town, was a product called The RATT,” said Lieutenant Will Wilson.


As Wilson and others in the department learned more about The RATT (an acronym for Rapid All-Terrain Tower), they realized this camera tower just might be the answer to their problem. Unlike heavy, cumbersome camera trailers, The RATT provides “eyes in the sky” within a matter of minutes. As a hitch-mounted vehicle mast, departments can use The RATT to deploy a camera, lights or antenna as high as 35 feet into the air.

The RATT can be towed by any vehicle with a class 3 2”x2” hitch receiver and, weighing in at only 100 pounds, is deployable by one person in under ten minutes. Officers using it on uneven terrain can secure the mast using a built-in bubble level and adjustable handle, making it a versatile solution for any situation.

Rapid Deployment Kits offer several mobile surveillance options and all equipment is housed in one Pelican IP67 case for easy transport. When it comes to power, a 12-volt DC trailer plug or vehicle cigarette lighter is all that’s needed.

When Knoxville PD adopted The RATT in the spring of 2023, officers were instantly on board. “Most of the people in the purchasing process have boots on the ground and were very familiar with the challenges we’ve faced at special events to try to make them safe,” said Wilson.


In most instances, Knoxville PD deploys The RATT in conjunction with their traditional camera trailer, with each bringing its own set of benefits to a given situation.

“We try to put The RATT in more dense areas,” explained Wilson. “We’ll put it in the middle of wherever our crowd is, whether it be the Tennessee Valley Fair or the Christmas Parade on Gay Street. It’s more dynamic and interactive with its camera.”

Wilson emphasizes the importance of having someone close by to staff The RATT, unlike a camera trailer that acts as a stand-alone solution. The department will often park their trailer farther away from an event, noting The RATT is much easier to deploy in busier areas from the back of a vehicle.

Since adopting The RATT, Knoxville PD has not experienced a critical incident at public events and instead has found the mobile surveillance tower is helpful in discouraging illegal activity.

“We’ve been fortunate in that the times we have put up The RATT we haven’t had an issue, and I think that does speak to a deterrent factor as well,” said Wilson. “It’s not obvious, but if someone is looking for cameras and looking to do something, they would see it and it could deter them.”

Having cameras in the sky has also provided Knoxville PD with an additional investigation tool. The mobile camera system incorporates a solid-state drive with recording capabilities, which have proven useful for the department in terms of intelligence gathering and identifying persons of interest.


Like any new piece of technology, using The RATT brought along a slight learning curve for those at Knoxville PD. Initially, the department had some problems with bandwidth during larger events due to attendees’ cell phone use. Wilson says the team at Critical Tech Solutions offered excellent advice and technical support and provided them with options to help them more easily livestream video from The RATT’s camera.

“They’re a very innovative company,” said Wilson. “They’re constantly asking how things can be improved and what they can do better. They’ve even come out to some of our events and spent the day with us to help us work through problems. It’s helped them improve their product when they can see how it’s being used and that gives them ideas for improvements in the future.”

Visit Critical Tech Solutions, makers of The RATT.

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Courtney Levin is a Branded Content Project Lead for Lexipol where she develops content for the public safety audience including law enforcement, fire, EMS and corrections. She holds a BA in Communications from Sonoma State University and has written professionally since 2016.