Law enforcement needs better tech chops

Report: Law enforcement needs better tech chops

In a new report for the National Institute of Justice, Rand researchers collected and analyzed data on the use of law enforcement technology and found three challenges. The community needs to increase its knowledge of technology and practices, better share and use of law enforcement-related information and research and test a range of topics.

While the report found that improving “the law enforcement community's awareness of the most promising criminal justice practices and technologies” was the paramount need, researchers also discussed specific technology areas such as:

Predictive analytics. The law enforcement community said it needs predictive analytics tools that are affordable and easy to use and that provide situational awareness about recent relevant activity in addition to the predictions.

Geospatial tools. NIJ oversight is needed in developing usable tools, disseminating them and ensuring  that NIJ-funded tools work with existing systems.

Automatic license plate readers.  More research is needed on the use of LPR data for crime analysis (beyond reacting to the discovery of a stolen plate) and on technology and policy barriers to sharing LPR data across agency lines.

Information-sharing systems.  The study’s authors found the need for interoperability standards specifying core elements (names, addresses, geospatial coordinates, times/dates, etc.). Software-as-a service and cloud computing models, shared regional licensing, and other novel and promising acquisition models could also reduce costs for agencies, the report suggested.

The researchers found that sharing, displaying and using information effectively are major challenges for the community because efforts to date have had limited coverage and are not consistent. That environment makes it difficult for new developers and users to learn about all the available information-sharing tools and technologies, the report said.

To deepen the community's technical knowledge, the study recommended that NIJ designate a federal coordinator for technology-related outreach who would work with various stakeholders to develop and monitor a dissemination strategy capturing who will do what, for whom and when. It also recommended that NIJ look into creating a common operational picture or dashboard display that law enforcement officers could use.

NIJ's potential reach within U.S. law enforcement is wide. The Rand study estimated there are nearly 18,000 relevant agencies, including about 12,500 local departments, 3,000 sheriff's offices, 50 state agencies and 1,700 special jurisdiction agencies.

"This situation requires strategic planning information, both to help NIJ make the best investments to leverage its limited funds and to help the range of technology developers supporting law enforcement better understand the law enforcement community's needs and priorities," the report said.

Read the full report here.

FCW’s Mark Rockwell contributed to this article.

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