Community Policing Nugget
The Role of Technology in Community Policing
Technology can be leveraged in specific ways to enhance the implementation of the community policing philosophy. Technology can increase the effectiveness of problem-solving and partnership initiatives and assist in the implementation of organizational changes designed to institutionalize these processes.
Robust information systems that supply timely and accurate data to analysts and officers can contribute significantly to enhanced problem-solving efforts. Problem solving can be information-intensive and often requires access to both traditional data (offender information, incident reports, calls for service) and nontraditional data (physical characteristics of locations, property owners/managers, increased victim information) that can allow for the improved identification and analysis of problems. Agencies have also had success developing databases of problem-solving initiatives. These databases allow for the sharing of knowledge regarding problems and innovative responses throughout an agency and maintain an ongoing record that can be referenced when confronting similar problems in the future. In addition, crime mapping technology can contribute significantly to broader problem-solving efforts and can provide officers (often through in-car computers) with up-to-date information regarding recent trends and locations of incidents and problems in their beats.
Technology can also facilitate partnerships through increased police communication with the public. Community policing encourages agencies to develop two-way communication systems that can be enhanced through such means as online reporting systems and interactive applications (surveys, maps), reverse 911, e-mail alerts, and discussion forums, thereby facilitating ongoing dialog and increased transparency. Databases of potential partners can also be developed that include information on the historical relationships with specific partners and the potential human and financial resources they can bring to address various problems. These databases can then be searched for specific public safety problems that the police are addressing.
Technology can enhance organizational supports for community policing by improving internal communication systems through electronic memos, reports, newsletters, and e-mail. It can also improve incident reporting through electronic reports, resulting in greater accuracy and increased efficiency that can feed problem-solving and crime analysis efforts. Technology can also improve dispatch and reduce response times, resulting in greater time to engage in proactive efforts. Technology allows for greater coordination and communications interoperability with other entities for more efficient operations and coordinated responses. Community policing also encourages the use of technology to develop accountability and performance measurement systems that are timely and contain accurate metrics and a broader array of measures linked to community policing principles through CompStat-like and early intervention systems. Technology, particularly effective Internet sites, can also greatly enhance recruitment efforts and can be used to provide online training around community policing topics.
It should be noted that any information made more readily available through technology is not useful if attention is not paid to its quality and accuracy. Community policing encourages agencies to put safeguards in place to ensure that all information that they collect from various sources are entered into central systems that are linked to one another and are checked for accuracy. Analysis and information is only as good as the source. If information is to be used effectively to enhance partnerships, problem solving, and organizational transformation efforts, it must collected systematically and be of high quality.