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The Role of Technology in Modern Policing

Law enforcement has always been at the forefront of testing new technologies before any other industry. Technology plays a critical role in modern policing thanks to the plethora of technological advancements, and there is a history of policing and technology going hand in hand. These technological advancements have allowed police agencies to find innovative ways to leverage new technologies as tools in order to improve public safety and save lives. 

One of the most significant ways technology has improved policing is through communication and coordination. The police radio was first used in 1933, and since then communication technology has advanced significantly within the realm of public safety industries. The police radio of 1933 has advanced into modern-day two-way radios that now keep officers communicating in the most difficult situations. Two-way radios work during power outages, emergencies and even when cell towers are overloaded—all to keep officers connected so they can continue to protect communities and save lives. 

In addition to two-way radios, there are many other technological advancements that play a fundamental role in modern policing. Here are five specific technological devices that play a role in modern policing:

Police Drones

Unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, have become increasingly common within policing. Drones provide law enforcement with an aerial view of an environment by live-streaming videos and images. The main benefit of drones is the gathering of important information about crimes as they unfold, and using the videos and images for collecting evidence.

GPS

GPS applications are continuing to expand into the public safety community, improving communication and making crime-solving easier for law enforcement. 

Officer tracking is one form of GPS that allows for better coordination of where officers and vehicles are. Using GPS, 911 dispatchers and police officers can pinpoint the exact location of a call, allowing officers to determine the safest and fastest route. Officers can also record their location at traffic stops and crash accidents, allowing for precise information to be exported to agency maps so they can proactively determine what measures need to be taken in order to prevent future accidents from occurring.

Body-worn cameras and in car videos

Body-worn cameras have gained significant traction in modern policing. Many law enforcement agencies across the nation have adopted the use of body-worn cameras in an effort to increase transparency and visibility in interactions between law enforcement and civilians.

Body camera being worn by a police officer.

While increasing police accountability, body-worn cameras have the potential to also aid in officer training. When officers are faced with challenging situations, police departments now have that footage available, and it can be used to show officers in training. Departments can thus analyze civilian-police interactions and provide training material for new police officers. 

Similarly to body-worn cameras, in-car videos, or dashcams, also provide law enforcement with transparency in regard to policing. Dash cams have been proven to enhance police officer safety while also reducing police department liability.

Body camera being worn by a police officer.

Biometrics and hand-held fingerprint scanners

Biometrics and policing often go hand-in-hand. Police departments have used biometrics for decades, primarily by using fingerprints for identification purposes. Now, smaller and less expensive biometrics are available, allowing police officers to carry handheld scanners to instantly identify individuals with a criminal past. 

This being said, for obvious reasons, the use of biometrics is controversial due to privacy concerns. For this reason, the law enforcement industry has moved forward cautiously with the use of biometrics in modern policing.

CCTV

The use of closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance cameras is a method of formal surveillance that helps with crime prevention, the detection of offenders and crowd control or public order scenarios. CCTV surveillance assists in solving crimes by examining the movement of suspects and identifying suspicious activity occurring in real-time. Though not all CCTV systems are police-monitored, police-monitored CCTV cameras are designed to increase formal surveillance by making it easier for police to monitor suspicious activities and disturbances.

What are the unintended consequences of technology in modern policing?

While the role of technology has undoubtedly benefited law enforcement greatly, there have been adverse impacts on policing. Some of the major pushback regarding the previously mentioned technological advancements centers around privacy concerns. If technology is being used wrongly or dishonestly by law enforcement or the government, it can cause social instability and severe backlash from the public. One of the most controversial pieces of technology used in policing is body-worn cameras. The criticism towards body cameras is based on privacy concerns, and it’s a sentiment shared by both parties—police officers and the general public. 

Another unintended consequence of technology in modern policing is that officers need to pay attention to multiple devices at the same time. Adopting and using multiple devices at the same time can be extremely distracting to officers and can potentially put them in a dangerous situation. 

Introducing new technology can be difficult for some police departments, and for individual officers. It’s critically important for police departments across the nation to provide their officers with adequate training when a new technology is implemented into patrol and duty.

Role of technology in police department operations

Technology plays a crucial role in modernizing police department operations. The use of automated scheduling has alleviated the challenges and stresses that administrators face when trying to provide coverage for 24/7 policing operations. Certain software features have been proven to enhance agency operations and reduce operating costs. 

If your police department is interested in modernizing its operations, reach out to our team to learn more about how InTime’s software can improve your police operations and efficiency.

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