If you’re helping direct your community’s law enforcement, you know all too well that you’re being asked to do more with less – less time, smaller budgets, fewer resources. Adding to the burden: the increasing difficulty in hiring staff. All this comes when the need for the services and the protection that law enforcement provides is as great as ever – and at a time when it’s harder to make needed new hires.
In recent years, law enforcement agencies have been looking at ways that technology can help meet these twin issues. To be sure, tech tools have become an important part of police work. But with money tight and staffing stretched, police departments need even more effective help. So, what should you and your law enforcement agency be on the lookout for?
A deeper look at law enforcement issues
Last year, Thomson Reuters commissioned research to better understand U.S. law enforcement agencies’ current and future priorities and challenges. Researchers conducted in-depth research interviews with community law enforcement professionals across a wide range of agency sizes and geographies within the U.S. (most were urban or suburban).
Despite the significant differences in their agencies’ size and location, respondents almost universally acknowledge that law enforcement will become increasingly technology-focused in the future. Many believe tech tools can help law enforcement agencies better investigate criminal activity and improve reports of crime statistics and activity.
Another common theme that has come out of the research: Many agencies think that technology tools, along with proactive policing and community involvement, can reduce the number of service calls and lower the crime rate. Tech tools also could be notably useful in what’s being termed smart or intelligence-driven policing.
At the same time, respondents express concerns about becoming excessively dependent on technology at the expense of staff. Many communities worry that technologies such as facial recognition and license plate readers could be misused or could endanger citizens’ privacy.
Respondents appreciate their citizens’ concerns. After all, most see improved community relations and proactive policing as crucial to crime prevention efforts. Many Thomson Reuters interviewees also emphasize that technology cannot replace the human element of law enforcement. Based on this research, it’s clear that law enforcement is seeking an approach that balances technology with a “human touch” – face-to-face interaction with their community’s citizens.
Another issue is a problem just about every type of workplace faces: getting up to speed on new platforms and software. As the Thomson Reuters research reveals, even agencies that have adopted advanced analytical tools struggle to make use of their capabilities. And many departments worry that technology enhancements will require specialized staff to operate them – staff that they don’t have the budget to hire.
Four solutions to look for
Your agency has undoubtedly been facing many of these challenges. Based on Thomson Reuters research as well as other data, four strategies for maximizing the effectiveness of technology in law enforcement stand out as particularly crucial:
- Find and use a tech tool that can cover your full investigative workflow. Using multiple platforms can make tech’s crime analysis benefits less efficient. An investigative platform should also be intuitive to use and not require specialists to run it.
- Have up-to-date and accurate data sets to make trusted decisions. Research respondents noted the need for increased regional sharing of crime, arrest, and investigation information. This is crucial for many reasons – for instance, the fact that many criminal perpetrators may conduct crimes in many jurisdictions.
- Develop the capability to uncover connections and boost the effectiveness of your digital information search. Data sets need to be able to “talk to” each other so that law enforcement personnel can better track down offenders. This capability can be particularly helpful for investigating organized crime. Pulling the data together helps agencies understand the full story of the activity being investigated. This also allows them to visualize that story, providing additional clues as well as information that can be used in criminal proceedings.
- Make sure your agency has access to accurate data sets and the ability to search to get accurate results in a timely manner. It is essential for agencies to ensure that their officials have identified the correct subject before they move forward with an arrest. Knowing where a person has been and when helps them move cases forward more effectively.
Clearly, these strategies are interrelated. Agencies need up-to-date, reliable information to better track criminal activity and bring perpetrators to justice. While properly vetted tech tools can’t (and shouldn’t) replace human interaction, it can make an agency’s investigations more efficient.
For law enforcement agencies to make technology more cost-effective, Thomson Reuters offers a free on-demand webinar that discusses strategies that can do just that. The webinar includes a deep look at Thomson Reuters’ CLEAR for Law Enforcement.
This platform is built on CLEAR, a cloud-based public records application that quickly pulls together and analyzes thousands of local, state, and federal data sets. Learn how the right technology can help your community’s law enforcement personnel do more in this challenging environment in our webinar, “Technology in policing.”
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