By Police1 staff
As a police leader, your to-do list gets longer every day. Along with prioritizing the health and safety of your officers and addressing crime rates and community concerns, it can seem overwhelming to keep up with advances in police technology. That’s why we brought in experts – both police leaders and technology SMEs – to break down the most pressing police technology concerns into the following six action points. When you’re done adding these to your to-do list, check out our companion article on some of the biggest technological challenges for police leadership.
1. Assess cyber vulnerabilities
Police leaders need to assess the cyber vulnerabilities of their agencies. In 2021, several agencies fell victim to hacking attacks that resulted in the loss and public dissemination of sensitive data, including investigative and personnel files.
— Brendan Hooke is a Captain in the Fairfax County, Virginia Police Department and Commander of the Department’s Office of Information Technology.
CLOCK: Police1 on-demand webinar on the growing threat of ransomware attacks on public safety agencies
2. Use technology to increase situational awareness
One of the most important measures is the use of technology to increase situational awareness. Finding a solution that will help your team make more informed decisions is crucial, especially in high-pressure situations. Law enforcement officers need information to achieve the best outcome and improve officer safety. In many cases, they only have seconds to assess the situation and choose the best course of action. You don’t have time to wait or search for business-critical information.
Technology can have a major impact on situational awareness, giving officers the tools to improve outcomes. Police leaders should consider a range of technologies such as: For example, higher resolution body-worn cameras, dash cams and road cameras for visibility, and artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms that can assess risks and sift through datasets to recommend better courses of action.
Most importantly, police leaders must leverage mobile technology to make this data available to officers where and when they need it most. Public safety professionals need more real-time access to information and reporting capabilities while on foot or in the field and can’t be tied to their vehicles or office desk. We see a trend to replace laptops with rugged tablets that can be used anywhere and in any conditions. We’re also seeing increasing interest in handheld computers that provide mission-critical data and discrete communications.
— Michael Sparks is the Director of Government Sales for Zebra Technologies and has over 25 years of experience selling and delivering complex technology and software solutions.
READ: How law enforcement is preparing for a tech-savvy generation of officers
3. Implement a Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS)
The amount of digital evidence officers encounter is growing exponentially every year. Agencies that do not use a Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS) to manage their digital evidence should prioritize adopting a DEMS solution.
Between 2013 and 2019, the amount of digital evidence collected by officers at my police department increased by over 90%. Many authorities are seeing a sharp increase in digital evidence being collected by officers. CCTV videos, crime scene photos, taped interviews, and evidence shared by citizens are commonly encountered by officers in almost every emergency service.
It just isn’t good enough to mix digital evidence in folders alongside non-probative documents, city marketing materials and other files. Handling digital evidence in this way puts your evidence at risk of being accidentally accessed, moved or deleted. It is also difficult to authenticate digital evidence outside of a DEMS. Can investigators explain the chain of custody of critical CCTV videos or case photos in court? Can your detectives attest that the files have not been altered since they were collected months or years ago? Can you determine if sensitive evidence has been downloaded and inappropriately shared outside of the agency? And by whom?
A DEMS tracks the entire lifecycle of digital evidence, providing a defensible chain of custody, comprehensive reporting, access control, and compliance with local, state, and federal laws. Combined with training and updated departmental policies, a DEMS helps ensure your agency’s digital evidence is properly handled, stored, and managed. Make it a priority to review your department’s procedures for handling digital evidence and update them accordingly.
— Steve Paxton has been a police officer for 26 years. Most recently, he worked as a detective assigned to the Everett, Washington Police Department’s Forensic Investigations Unit.
READ: 16 features to look for in a Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS).
4. Embrace data-driven decision making
Public security authorities must be proactive in evaluating their role in community interactions that have historically served as the epicenter of police-community tensions.
Citizens take an active role in solving public safety issues, and governments reassess their engagement based on three principles: availability, accessibility, and authenticity. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to meeting technology needs, but it is clear that leading agencies will invest in their use of data to develop community trust and better connect first responders on the ground.
The Justice Department is signaling widespread demand for data-driven decision-making announced In late January 2022, a new initiative designed to provide states with more criminal justice data. The DOJ noted that the new initiative is introduced to guide budgeting and policy decisions when agencies face obstacles in the form of time constraints, outdated technology, and a lack of federal mandate.
This initiative is a clear sign that responsibilities that were once considered basic functions of public safety are now being re-examined. Governments will continue to focus on using data to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
By taking the opportunity to assess their agency and community’s technology needs, police leaders can work to align with federal policies and adopt more data-driven decision-making.
— Matthew Polega is Head of Communications and Public Policy at Mark43.
READ: Why data-driven community engagement is reinventing crime prevention and policing
5. Prioritize officer mobility
Having spent more than 20 years as a law enforcement officer, I believe it is extremely important for law enforcement leaders to prioritize officer mobility to support efficiency, situational awareness and effectiveness in planning their technology roadmap.
While many agencies have already docked laptops in vehicles to digitize reporting workflows, these setups leave officers anchored to their cars, which is not ideal from an efficiency standpoint. Equipping officers with mobile handheld devices and tablets to take with them on missions and regular patrols will streamline operations and allow them to collect more real-time data. For example, by using a mobile device with an integrated barcode reader, an officer no longer has to walk back and forth to his car to scan a driver’s license at a traffic stop. Likewise, by pairing a mobile device with dictation software, officers can complete reports from anywhere without having to type in their cars with their heads down. The flexibility offered by mobile devices gives officers the freedom to do more outside of the vehicle and become more aware of their surroundings as situations evolve.
As staff shortages challenge many departments to complete their tasks with fewer resources, it becomes more important than ever to create ways to increase efficiency. Mobile solutions offer tremendous ROI, not only from a productivity perspective, but also through their ability to expand a department’s data capabilities. As law enforcement agencies move toward more digitized operations, data-driven decision-making will come first, making it even more important for agencies to collect and store more data in real-time through mobile solutions.
— Marcus Claycomb is Business Development Manager at panasonic.
DOWNLOAD: How to Buy Mobile Computer eBook
6. Break down information silos
Police leaders should focus on technologies that make it possible to break down information silos and share information about critical incidents with all stakeholders. Technologies that enable the sharing of information can give police and other responders a better understanding of the situation they are about to find themselves in. For example, through the use of a security profile system, public safety can obtain information about a specific caller’s location, emergency contacts, medical or mental health history. This type of information is critical to improving the situational awareness and safety of officers when responding to 9-1-1 calls while enabling a more informed and faster response.
— Todd Miller is at SVP Strategic Programs Rave Mobile Security.