Early warning systems for police

How tech supports police accountability

The Baltimore Police Department (BPD) is replacing a largely paper-based process with a centralized, fully automated training and compliance system as part of its overall digital transformation.

Envisage Technologies’ Acadis Readiness Suite will do two things for the department when it goes live next month. First, it will allow for predictive training by automatically reminding officers when they are due to take a course and by providing just-in-time training to officers in the field as they respond to calls. Second, it will use data about officers to predict when they might need supplemental education. For example, if an officer has had four exposures to traumatic scenes, the system would flag that person for post-traumatic stress disorder management training.

“Training is so essential to improving policing operations overall,” said Danny Murphy, deputy commissioner of BPD’s Compliance Bureau. “It’s that critical translation piece between putting words on a paper in policy and having it happen in the streets, so we need really great, clear, transparent management of our training processes.”

For years, the department has managed training for its 2,400 officers with basic office tools. Course announcements and signups would be emailed, and completion of training would be logged on a spreadsheet or on a piece of paper.

“When paper is moving back-and-forth, there’s no linkage between the information,” Envisage CEO and founder Ari Vidali said. “Paper moves from one department to another, it gets stored in a filing cabinet, we get nothing out of it. When you start to link the hire-to-retire life cycle of an officer to all the activities that they have ever done, you get some really, really powerful, new capabilities that were never possible before.”

For example, if the data shows that an officer uses force too frequently, the system can push a refresher course on complying with the department’s rules. “We can predict that we need to inject just-in-time training to officers to ensure that we’re linking training to the activity and ultimately the outcome in the community,” Vidali said.

With Acadis, officers have their own portal page that shows all of the training they need to do and when. The system will remind them 120, 90, 60 and 30 days out, and if they don’t complete a course by its due date, the system automatically notifies their supervisors.

The system will complement other IT upgrades BPD is making. For instance, Axon announced in July that BPD is deploying its records management solution that will integrate data from officers’ body-worn cameras so that footage and reporting systems go hand-in-hand with field reporting, Murphy said.

“That’s going to bring field-based, electronic, real-time reporting to our officers in the field documenting stops, searches, arrests and other interactions,” he said. “Much of that is paper-based right now in BPD, and as the paper goes from this location to that location to that location, someone might not be able to read the handwriting on it, and there’s so much loss in data value and integrity and timeliness in that process.”

BPD also contracted with Peakon for cloud-based software that collects personally identifiable information that it aggregates and reports to the department. It also generates analytics using BPD employee demographics and will integrate with Workday, the city’s and department’s future human resources system.

“These different systems come together to connect, to give a full picture of what is going on,” Murphy said. “All of those pieces need to come together to get the most full picture possible to support our officers and improve operations overall.”

A main driver of the modernization effort is a consent decree that the city and the Justice Department entered into in 2017. It is a “court enforceable agreement to resolve DOJ's findings that it believed the [BPD] had engaged in a pattern and practice of conduct that violates the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and certain provisions of federal statutory law.” The decree specifies making technological upgrades to support policing improvements.

Murphy joined BPD 18 months ago from the New Orleans Police Department’s Compliance Bureau, where he worked on compliance with that city’s consent decree.

“When you think about the reform implementation process, it starts with policy and then training the members on that policy to support it and then perform in support of it,” he said. “In all those phases, we need great technology that allows us to efficiently and effectively look for areas in need of improvement.”

About the Author

Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in northern Virginia.

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