Just 40 years ago, in January 1979, law enforcement agencies around the world were first introduced to computers and their implementation inside police vehicles. This would allow officers to search police databases from the front seat of their patrol cars.
Fast forward to now, where the advancements in technology are rapidly evolving, including in law enforcement. With instant access to dispatchers, critical data, GPS, and police records, officers today are better equipped to manage incidents and react quickly to changing situations. These mobile technologies improve officer safety, productivity, situational awareness, and the safety of the public. All of these technological improvements have helped develop what is called Computer Aided Dispatch or CAD.
Technological improvements in CAD systems for the Police and law enforcement technologies now allow police agencies working with smaller or technology restrictive budgets access to this technology, drastically assisting officers.
Here are the top 10 Law Enforcement Software and Technology fundamentally shifting the field in 2021:
1.Tablets, Laptops, Smartphones & Mobile Police Technology
Nowadays, it is not uncommon for law enforcement officers to have laptops in their vehicles to assist with traffic stops. Many departments have also implemented tablets and other mobile devices for their officers to have a higher level of mobility.
Mobile programs allow law enforcement personnel that are involved in an investigation to use a simple interface where they can manage the case in real-time. These are called Record Management Systems (RMS). This reduces the amount of time spent in communicating new, and sometimes repetitive, information. With immediate access to information stored on national computer databases, this Police RMS technology can help reduce the lag time between the detection and apprehension of a suspect. Some applications and programs even allow personnel to log evidence and other information without an internet connection.
2. Cloud Computing
Law Enforcement and public safety agencies rely on data for nearly every aspect of their operation. This includes purchases/supplies, fleet maintenance, finances, human resources, and many other of the day to day operations that an agency needs to keep moving.
Where cloud computing was relegated for high tech companies and large corporations, cloud-based solutions have become an integral part of law enforcement technology without the need for immense budgets.
Law enforcement agencies typically employ cloud-based systems like public safety cloud to help with data storage and management issues. In addition, cloud computing and SSL encryption, offers a far superior level of security than traditional on-site servers that many agencies have used in the past.
This increased security with cloud computing also leads to other operations benefits. This removes the need to have I.T professionals on staff to constantly maintain and update servers. Cloud servers handle all maintenance and security, allowing police organizations to not have to focus on the technology. And these benefits also reduce the chance of unscheduled outages due to natural disasters or similar events.
Cloud computing when coupled with other technology creates benefits and systems that are orders of magnitude safer and more efficient for agencies. We’ll talk about some of these softwares that work with cloud computing that can fundamentally improve a police officers’ job.
3. GPS for Law Enforcement Dispatch
The global positioning system (GPS) plays a significant role in law enforcement for many reasons. Stolen property can be tracked down when it has a GPS installed or built-in. Phones, cars, and heavy machinery are some items that have been recovered by having this technology. GPS technology is used to help track police cars and can be used by a police department to manage its fleet of patrol vehicles. This is otherwise known as a law enforcement dispatch system or Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL). This helps identify which officer is closest to a 911 call, the location of the officer if they need assistance, and limits patrol overlap. GPS has been used to locate people that have gone missing or who were abducted. AVL Software has been used as a tracking device for dangerous criminals, and is used as a monitoring device for parolees.
4. Computer Aided Dispatch
Computer Aided-Dispatch (CAD) softwares is also known as modern policing, 911 dispatch software or public safety software in the field. CAD systems have become integral to the operations and efficacy of public safety agencies. Where in the past law enforcement would use punch cards with handwritten notes, the advent of cloud computing has helped spur on advances in CAD technology.
The improvement of CAD technology has provided departments with much more than simple record keeping, but now can combine many important functions like serving as mobile data terminals, integration with first responders and 911 dispatchers, and also operating as a records management system.
Modern CAD Systems, like 10-8 Systems, has given police officers and agencies more fidelity and stability in handling their operations. They don’t have to worry about overloading radio transmissions or imprecise coordinates and location information. In combination with the GPS technology and the mobile data terminal, officers can report vital information, call for backup and identify locations of fellow officers.
5. Records Management Systems
We spoke a little about records management systems (RMS) earlier, but the power of the technology has grown so much that we thought it deserved its own section. Records Management Systems have first and foremost eliminated the need for traditional paper filing and documents. By moving all documents electronically, information and data can more easily be stored and secured.
This in turn helps law enforcement agencies use the power of data analytics and computing as all information is stored digitally. By having the information not on paper, but rather data points digitally, agencies can now expand their understanding of the information.
For example, RMS systems allow agencies much more granularity and specificity when it comes to identifying hot spots. With the data law enforcement agencies can review frequency of crime based on type, time and day, and possible suspect(s). This level of specificity allows for a tailored approach that can help increase patrol in specific streets and blocks, instead of entire zones.
Real Time Data
What was once seen as something for the movies or big budget agencies, real time data is now accessible to all law enforcement agencies. And the benefits of real-time data are immense for the operational productivity of both the agency’s management and the efficacy of its officers.
An example of the benefits of real time data includes real-time security officer tracking software. This kind of real time tracking allows agencies to monitor and confirm patrol route and check-in locations.
This helps fix outdated and archaic methods of tracking where officers are constantly on the move. Now tracking and oversight can move as fluid as their officers the situation at hand. Utilizing mobile technology, GPS location and officer identification, agencies can monitor and assign officers to tasks based on their routes and proximity.
Though this was possible before with the use of 2 way radios, real time data eliminates the time it takes for data gathering and communication on reports and status updates. The data is already right at the agency’s fingertips.
And of course law enforcement managers and agencies are expected to compile data to report progress. Real time data allows reports to be generated without intense labor in finding and collecting data. For example, daily and weekly logs can be pulled, broken down by officer, department, function and location. And real time data can also help deal with everyone’s favorite report, expense reports.
Fingerprint readers are small and portable, providing an accurate reading in minutes. This mobile technology allows law enforcement to work in the field and reduces unnecessary travel back to the station while increasing the officer’s productivity. Mobile fingerprinting is especially useful in situations where an officer has no other means of identifying a person.
Body Cameras and Dash Cameras
Body cameras and dash cameras (body cams and dash cams) are technology solutions that increase an officer’s safety and accountability. While there are controversies and issues surrounding these cameras and their implications of an individual’s privacy, studies have shown that these technologies have significantly impacted the way the public views the work of law enforcement. There have been many cases where an officer was unjustly accused of being overly violent or inappropriate and the cameras absolved the officer of any wrongdoing.. Using these advanced technologies does not only promote officer efficiency but can be a “second set of eyes” which can verify what the officer saw and how they responded. This has been shown to improve transparency to both the public and their superiors.
Social media is widely used by police and others in law enforcement to help gather tips for solving a crime, to engage with their local community, and to educate the public about their department and officers. Facebook and Twitter are the most common social media platforms used today. Many departments share videos and pictures of a crime being committed to their social media accounts resulting in thousands of crimes being solved with the assistance of the public. It has been a successful tool to use, with over 91% of departments nationwide using some type of social media.
A mobile solution that is particularly relevant to law enforcement and public safety personnel is hands-free operation. The importance of this technology is driving a shift away from smartphones, laptops, and tablets, to wearable technology.
Wearable devices offer a new level of intelligence. Digital Assistants like Alexa and Siri offers hands-free operations by accepting voice commands. The combination of the digital assistant, along with the hands-free technology, offers a higher level of safety to the officer. There is no need to push a mic to talk to dispatch, free a hand to call for backup when trying to take down a suspect, or use a bloody hand to call for an ambulance when you are trying to help an accident victim. Wearable technology is smart technology.
Push over Cellular Radios
Push over Cellular radio technology brings together the merits of advanced walkie-talkie features with the coverage enjoyed by cellular network users. By utilizing existing 3G and 4G technology that the wireless companies have built, law enforcement can expand and widen their coverage area beyond the use of their walkie talkies.
Compound this with the communication jams that can occur on two-way radios. It can be extremely inefficient and time consuming to contact a specific individual on the main channel and have them respond and identify another frequency to communicate further on. With Push over Cellular technology, all of this is eliminated, giving individual officers the ability to establish communication lines without needing to go through the main channel.
All of this ultimately leads to precision and speed in situations where time is of the essence. When emergencies are occurring and officers needs to communicate and locate a situation quickly, POC technology combined with CAD & RMS technology gives them the ability to find the precise location of the situation and communicate and coordinate with their team efficiently.
Drones and Robotics
Many law enforcement agencies are using drones and robotics to assist in their duties. Here are some of the ways that drones and robotics are being implemented:
- Assistance with chasing suspects
- Provide lighting at night or other low light situation
- Crime scene investigation and evidence collection
- Reconstruction of accidents from aerial views
- Management of traffic
- Search and rescue operations
- Disaster relief
- Diffusing bombs
- Accessibility when human/officer entry is not available
- Gather data
Law enforcement agencies are using new modern technologies to increase their crime prevention efforts through initiatives. Luckily, organizations with modern records management systems (RMS) and computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems are already equipped with some of the best data processing. The benefit is amplified when the RMS is integrated with a computer aided dispatching (CAD) system.
The primary advantage of modern technologies that are driven by data to prevent crime is the ability to focus resources. Hot spot policing is a common term used by law enforcement. Hot spot policing is an effective technique that begins with the examination of data already found in an agency’s CAD and RMS. Through a combination of:
- Reported crimes
- Suspicious activities documented by patrol units,
Through this method police professionals can pinpoint certain areas and focus more resources in those locations.
Facial Recognition Software
Without a doubt, facial recognition software is one of the more controversial emerging police technologies of the 21st century. To illustrate how facial recognition software can be used in the modern world just imagine a crowded street. Law enforcement are in pursuit of a man that has committed a crime. They begin by uploading a picture into a video surveillance network. With the help of police intelligence software and modern artificial intelligence, that is integrated into the video surveillance network, they find the suspect.
That is just an example of what facial recognition software can do. With facial recognition a single camera can scan the street and immediately begin analyzing faces. The software then can find a facial match with someone within the crowd. Law enforcement can then arrive at the scene and immediately take the suspect into custody.
But of course facial recognition software may also have some drawbacks. Facial recognition software can easily mistake a suspect with similar facial features. But through technological advancements of facial recognition they can slowly chip away those mistakes. In addition, precautions must be taken with this software since it has the potential to be abused to secretly monitor the public.
Before law enforcement decided to use biometrics, individuals that broke the law would be able to escape or dodge officers much easier. With modern technology, suspects can change their look, create fake documents, and do anything else to evade law enforcement.
Now, law enforcement have benefited from the use of modern technology. Modern technologies are being used by police officers to aid them with capturing criminals. Biometrics are now being used by officers to help identify individuals such as:
- facial recognition
- Iris scanning
- Voice analysis
- DNA profiling.
Law enforcement relies heavily on the accurate identification of a person which can be done with these technologies.
Thermal imaging is slowly becoming a very vital law enforcement technology that is helpful in dark conditions. Thermal image cameras utilize infrared imaging to detect heat emitted by such objects as humans and animals. The software then converts the heat emitted by living things into a “heat picture” or “heat map” and its environment.
Thermal Imaging can be used to track suspects even in darkness. Such technology has life-saving applications — from firefighting to search and rescue missions.
Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
The expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) signifies that more data is being made, collected and analyzed. This loT is incredibly valuable in law enforcement in the modern age.
That’s why artificial intelligence (AI) is important in today’s modern age. AI is used to support the technologies that law enforcement use. Artificial and machine learning can be used for:
- Crime mapping
- Crunching data
- Pinpoint high-crime areas
Artificial intelligence is also being used for “predictive policing.” Utilizing so-called “deep learning” algorithms, programmers can train computers to analyze data from a vast array of sources and categories to actually predict when and where crimes are likely to occur, increasing the likelihood that officers will be in the right place at the right time.
Automatic License PLate Recognition (ALPR)
Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) is a system that combines cameras, character recognition software, and data processors. With ALPR,officers have the ability to easily scan license plates. This helps officers to be more responsive and productive in the field by improving these two things:
- Reducing the amount of time spent communicating with the dispatcher
- Reduces the time spent manually entering data of a license plate.
ALPR then transfers that information and links it with police and motor vehicle databases to provide officers with up to date information.
ALPR was once used only for scanning license plates, tracking stolen vehicles, and running a vehicle’s registration. However, a recent survey that was conducted on behalf of Vigilant Solutions found that the ALPR technology has directly, or indirectly, assisted law enforcement in solving other crimes as well. These crimes include child abduction, rape, murder, and terrorism.
Law enforcement agencies are now using handheld lasers in crime scene investigations. But these handheld lasers are not your typical laser pointers. In fact, these lasers are a lot more sophisticated. These handheld lasers are spectroscopy devices that can determine the chemical composition within a few seconds.
This type of handheld lasers can produce results instantaneous and help law enforcement decrease the time an officer needs to wait for a lab result and have more time investigating.
Gunshot Detection System
A few cities around the U.S. have begun implementing gunshot detection systems or also known as “GDS” and “ShotSpotter”. GDS is an artificial intelligence system that pinpoints a gunshot within a city. The GDS automatically shares this information to law enforcement.
This GDS is still fairly new modern technology and is still-improving. This gunshot detection system uses audio sensors placed around different neighborhoods to detect gunshots. The position of these detectors show the law enforcement the exact location.
With the help of this gunshot detection system, police officers can respond to gunshots faster and give law enforcement a leg-up on assisting victims and tracking down suspects.
Law enforcement agencies are increasingly under scrutiny with a growing pressure to provide a high-quality service. The assistance of new technology reduces the workload of the officers while allowing them to do their job more efficiently and safely. These 11 law enforcement technologies have already proven that mobile solutions greatly improve law enforcement data and save lives.