How digital networks will deliver next-generation law enforcement
- By Cindy DeCarlo
- Oct 07, 2016
As the frontline of homeland security, law enforcement and border security officers manage and respond to a vast array of potential threats and unanticipated events. From major acts of terrorism and drug trafficking to natural disasters and political rallies, law enforcement organizations at the federal, state and local levels require reliable, interoperable communications and collaboration capabilities.
In the past, products often dictated capabilities, limiting law enforcement’s ability to leverage new technology. Today, however, rapidly increasing sensor connections and machine-to-machine communications are helping agencies overcome those limitations and deliver on their core mission of protecting and serving the public as well as ensuring officer safety.
Digitizing public safety
Digitization is changing how law enforcement officials connect with each other. As new and increasingly complex threats to public safety emerge, coordination among disparate organizations are critical during a response. Real-time collaboration increases efficiency by enabling teams to connect and share information from anywhere at any time through voice, video and data systems.
Of course, interagency coordination is important in many areas of policing. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection, for example, regularly collaborates with state and local officials to protect the nation’s borders. Using secure collaboration tools, agencies can share information and intelligence quickly and easily as they face challenges of drug smuggling, human trafficking and illegal immigration.
Alternatively, imagine an incident like a large protest, natural disaster or attack in a public setting. With the right secure technology environment, a local commander could immediately create an online workgroup to share video and information among officers. If the incident includes responders from other agencies, those officers could seamlessly join the workgroup to access all the shared information and contribute any additional intelligence they might have. Additional insights could be gleaned by tracking law enforcement and other responders through body-worn sensors and vehicle networks that record video and voice communications and provide data on responder locations and health. All of this information would be available to on-site leaders and remote command centers in real time, creating an agile environment where critical decisions can be made quickly.
A digitized public safety environment goes beyond connecting law enforcement agencies with each other. Modern sharing and monitoring capabilities also make it easier to connect with civilians. Citizens today can report emergencies or suspicious activities via next-generation 911, where text, pictures and video can be sent to emergency call centers and tip hotlines. Smart city kiosks, in places like Kansas City, provide citizens with another way to quickly contact emergency services. Real-time videos and information shared through social media can also enhance situational awareness for law enforcement and emergency personnel. As agencies receive this information, dispatchers can share it with responders, quickly giving police and first responders insights that can enable smarter resource and personnel deployment.
Future is bright, efficient and digital
Ultimately, digitization offers law enforcement improved situational awareness and the ability to communicate better, faster and more securely than ever before. Like most government agencies, law enforcement organizations are being careful as they explore next-generation technologies. Many new tools offer upgrades, but performance combined with flexibility will provide maximum value for agencies. End-to-end solutions will give local, state and federal law enforcement the integration and scalability to meet their individual needs now and tomorrow.
Looking forward, we’ll undoubtedly see more law enforcement organizations adopting digital technologies and shifting their IT strategy to an enterprise-level approach. This transition starts with putting an infrastructure in place that can handle large volumes of data, manage security threats and support the real-time response and communication expected from modern law enforcement. Digital communication is woven into the fabric of nearly every part of life – personal and professional – and law enforcement is no exception. Those agencies that embrace it will quickly see immediate returns and serve as leaders in next-generation law enforcement.
Cindy DeCarlo is director of public safety and defense at Cisco.