May 31, 1999 By Raymond Dussault
In many ways, its potential for change is no more evident or direct than in law enforcement, where laptop computers, link analysis software, automated record management systems (RMS) and computer statistics and analysis software are part of the modern toolbox available to federal, state and local police. Though TV cop shows may not be near as atmospheric when squad rooms are cluttered, not with paper files, but with computers, floppy disks and CD-ROMs, this change can increase the safety of everyone of America.
time, money, energy and provide field officers more accurate data than they have
ever had before. In today's law enforcement, he, or she, with the most information wins.
We can't let the crooks be better informed than the cops."
In fact, the technology is advancing so quickly and becoming so prevalent that there are no corners of our justice system where its light won't eventually shine. It comes down to people -- the cops on the street, the third-generation sheriff in a rural county, urban police chiefs and 20-year veteran detectives who learned to do their job with a Bic pen and steno pad. If they do not embrace the new age and rethink traditional, often reactive, approaches to crime, the pace of change will slow.
Finding the Future
"Integrated justice systems are the future of law enforcement. They can save time, money and energy, and provide field officers more accurate data than they have ever had before. In today's law enforcement, he or she with the most information wins. We can't let the crooks be better informed than the cops," said Dep. Bob Moccio of the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department in Northern California. "When we get to the bottom line of who's responsible, the buck stops with us -- the law enforcement professionals who do the job every day."
Moccio has spearheaded his agency's switch to an automated RMS, putting laptop computers in every patrol car. Moccio and his team also coordinated with Placerville Police Department Chief Steve Brown to form a valuable and unique data sharing plan.
"What we are trying to do in Placerville and El Dorado, and what we need statewide and ultimately nationwide, is to create a place to easily collect common data -- missing property, stolen vehicles, gun records, for example. Because, these days, the guys we're after don't just stop when they reach the county line," Moccio said.
Still, Moccio recognizes the height of the hurdles that confront law enforcement in moving toward comprehensive information-sharing. Most of those hurdles are no longer technological but include significant budgetary constraints and staffing issues. Sometimes, however, the biggest hurdles are the officers themselves. To say that police -- federal, state and local -- tightly control the information they share is a huge understatement.
Like the military, much of the data law enforcement gathers is sensitive. It is intelligence. It could jeopardize ongoing cases, fellow officers working undercover or in the field, even compromise prosecutions. Definitely legitimate concerns, but Moccio and others are concerned that these important considerations are sometimes used as excuses that block access to an ideal integrated justice system.
Knowledge is Power
"Information has always been a source of power. If I know something that you don't know, I have more power, or at least more perceived power, than you do.
That is power that can be used for career advancement or whatever, and cops are no different than anyone else in that regard -- they guard that power jealously," Moccio explained. "In law enforcement, information is
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