Police forces worldwide have one critical mission – to protect and serve the public. Seems simple enough right? Well, you might be surprised.
The 2019 criminal landscape has brought about a wealth of new and unique challenges that police organizations are struggling to address. On top of this, public scrutiny of public safety officials has reached an all-time high.
A universal fix hasn’t been determined, but digital policing has been adopted as a strategy by a number of high visibility police organizations. What is digital policing? Let’s start from the beginning.
Taking a Look Back
Prior to the technology revolution of the 70s and 80s, officers relied on antiquated radio systems and their actual proximity to crime hotspots in order to be successful. Their decision-making capabilities were highly valued, as much of the time they’d have only themselves and their partners to rely on.
Fast-forward to the initial days of the desktop computer and officers were making more informed decisions. The data they relied on, however, was only accessible inside the four walls of the office. This meant that much of their time was spent at the station, away from the communities where they were needed most.
As technology has become increasingly mobile, an amazing opportunity has presented itself for today’s public safety organizations. Today, police officers can be on location at a crime scene, with complete access to the tools and analytics they need to do their jobs most effectively.
Digital policing will make it easier and more consistent for the public to make digital contact, improve our use of digital intelligence and evidence, and ensure we can transfer all materials in a digital format to the criminal justice system.
Is digital policing the answer?
This question might seem like a no brainer: of course officers should have access to data to better inform their practices. Almost every other industry (especially within the private sector) has adopted this way of thinking… Why not public safety?
The problem lies in infrastructure and processes. Policing is a field that has been highly-resistant to change, and for good reason. With copious amounts of highly confidential data and complex security requirements, organizations need to be extremely mindful of how this information is handled.
Do the benefits of digital policing outweigh the potential costs?
The cost-benefit threshold of digital policing is different to each organization, but many different technologies that have been used in the private sector can make a world of difference to officers in the field. Let’s take a look at one of the most common benefits of adopting a digital approach: the officer experience.
The Officer Experience
Most police forces today have some sort of technical apparatus inside the vehicle so that officers can access critical information on-the-go. It’s also a well-known fact that the job can take officers just about anywhere, including rural areas where network connectivity is an issue. Now, imagine a situation where all of an officer’s devices suddenly lose connection and she is unable to access any of the mission-critical systems on which she relies.
This is simply not an acceptable outcome. Officers need to be able to view suspect information, search license plates, run fingerprint scans and report back on their own real-time location and status. In today’s world, being without these tools can make a difference in saving a life.
You be the Judge
Digital policing practices are no longer just a theoretical concept. Thousands of police forces (including a high percentage in the United Kingdom) have taken meaningful steps in integrating digital practices into their policing strategy.
Don’t get it wrong, this is not an easy or quick change. It’s something that takes time and resources. In fact, in order to successfully go digital, police organizations need to adopt a holistic view of their operations and, sometimes, completely change the way they deliver core services.
So, your organization needs to be the judge. Does this new technologically-advanced landscape call for change? Do police need just as great, if not better tools as the modern-day criminal to stay one step ahead of the game?
It’s definitely something to think about.