The first Police Innovation Conference took place in September at the Microsoft New England campus in Cambridge, Mass. On the eve of the event, Government Technology spoke with several top public safety officials to get their take on the top technology trends making their way into law enforcement this year. Among them was Norwood, Mass., Police Chief William G. Brooks III.
What are this year’s top trends in police innovation?
The effective and efficient use of community outreach technology. Everyone is aware of social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), but there seem to be more and more types cropping up. I’m interested in knowing what has worked for other police agencies, because I think you can do too many, and I believe they can be mismanaged. In the end, you want to use social media to not only reach the tech savvy, you also want the average resident to be able to stay connected.
What has changed compared to last year?
The drone issue is hot. What can they do, how do you manage them? How do you keep the community on your side? The police should not use a tool just because someone is selling it. You must first decide whether there is a need, and then what the benefit is. The second issue rushing forward is body-worn cameras by police officers. Dash cams have been around for years, but technology can now put a camera on an officer’s uniform. So the application is no longer just drunken drivers, but domestic disturbances, use of force and, with the case of the NYPD just recently, stop and frisk. The cameras are great, but you have to figure out management systems: Where do you store the data, for how long, is it Freedom of Information Act material, etc.
What innovations or technologies most interest you?
Strategic crime control. How to use software to predict crime, prevent crime and identify trends and series. Also the proper use of social media, which I believe my department does effectively.
What about drones and robots?
How is that technology changing law enforcement? Drones are too new, and we don’t see them here. Robots have actually been around for a while. Bomb squads use them, so now SWAT teams are calling out the bomb squad even where there’s no bomb, just to make use of the robot. If there’s a barricaded gunman, you hate to send in a dog because you don’t want the dog shot, but you don’t want officers hurt either. A bomb robot can climb stairs. They have cameras and mics. You can also broadcast a message to the subject. Now it’s up to us to identify safe, legal and effective new uses.