Are technology advancements changing the nature of law enforcement? There are some who would say so. According to The Police Chief, the rate of technology adoption and changes in the law enforcement field are so vast and rapid that those deployed today may not reasonably be the same as those used 10 years from now.
The introduction of technology into the field
Technology changes have already altered how grant requests are formatted, what is required out of an operational budget and daily procedures. As one article in Government Technology Magazine claimed – real-life police technology is catching up with science fiction. The introduction of new technologies has allowed law enforcement personnel to alter behaviors, gain greater control of situations, inform the public and increase efficiency.
According to a new report titled, "The Future of the Force: Police, Technology and Serving the Public," a range of technologies have been introduced to the local law enforcement department that used to be the stuff of imagination. Now, everything from electronic notebooks to crowd monitoring and sensors to software are being made a part of public safety and law enforcement.
Like the high-tech vision of the Bourne movie franchise, data is routinely being turned into real-time intelligence and departments are improving communications and compliance tracking.
"This will use many different technologies, from electronic notebooks which allow officers to check a suspect's criminal record while they are at a crime scene, to sensor networks which help them to covertly track people and vehicles," Nigel Rees of Airwave, the company that runs the emergency services network and commissioned the report in Great Britain, told the BBC.
Law enforcement turns toward social media
Departments and agencies across the world are beginning to use social media as an effective tool. In the United States, the Boston Police Department and other city agencies used the power of social media to keep citizens informed on both the day of the bombings and a few days later when the city was shut down during a man hunt.
"We tried to put out as much information as we possibly could without jeopardizing the investigation," said Cheryl Fiandaca, bureau chief for public information at the Boston Police Department, reported Bloomberg.
Other agencies across the pond are also using the power of Twitter and Facebook to connect with stakeholders. The BBC reported that the Greater Manchester Police in Britain are using Twitter to engage with communities. Now the force has even extended its presence on Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Facebook – all of which are used to inform the community about what is impacting the area.
"Our research revealed that everyone was using the Met's Twitter handle to send in vast amounts of information. There were accusations of criminal activities, requests for information, tweets about what the police were doing and some reporting of serious events that should have been sent through 999," said report author Jamie Bartlett, reported the BBC. "The issue then becomes what do the police actually follow up on?"
Internal and external technology advances are occurring
Depending on the agency and the location of the department, some organizations are better prepared to make internal and external technology updates. An external update would include new in-car or wearable camera systems, while an internal technology update would include software alterations. BBC reported that law enforcement training software and readiness and resource tracking are significant changes a department can make that will reduce operating costs and boost the performance of officers in the field.
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