Myers said he would love to spend the $6 million on technology. In Colorado Springs, he is operating a department that relies on portable radios. "I don't even have hard-mount radios in the cars. We're working in a portable-only environment, and we're having coverage issues with that and don't have the funds to put car radios in every squad car. It's hard to talk about these technologies and efficiencies we can gain when we're not even meeting our basic technology needs."

Myers sees policing at a crossroads with technology that could dramatically increase the effectiveness of police. "It's been forecast that we're somewhere between 20 and 40 years away from a human interface with chip technology. Somewhere down the road, officers will be able to download mug shots of every wanted person and by looking at the faces recall immediately whether it's a wanted person or not. That's radically going to change how we do business."

There is technology available now that makes life easier for some police forces but to others, it's just a dream. "The issue of when you do a traffic stop and somebody doesn't have their license with an in-car video system and perhaps some fingerprint technology, have that immediately run through a database and search nationally to find out who this person is; that exists, but it's not widely in use by police," Myers said.

Funds for that kind of system are not always available at the local level and technology is getting even less affordable, Myers said.

"The rate of change of technology is occurring exponentially, and the days of being able to spend a whole lot of money on some new technologies and riding that wave for 10 years or until you have to update it, those days are gone," he said. "Technology now requires constant maintenance and updating, and the rate of obsolescence is skyrocketing."

  

Back in the Community
Part of the funds from H.R. 1700 will allot monies to be spent on school resource officers to help combat gang violence. That's a good first step. Police say communicating with youngsters before they're involved in a shooting doesn't happen enough either in schools or on the streets.

"You can become more efficient with the technology, and we're doing that as far as identifying the issues and trying to be more proactive in addressing those. But you can't get away from perception. People want to be able to see an officer in their area," Citty said.

Part of that is community trust, and that has eroded in the last several years, police say. People in the affected areas are too scared to even call the police, and inner-city youngsters are conditioned not to snitch. 

Joe Ryan, chairman of the Department of Criminal Justice at Pace University in New York City and a former New York City police officer, believes police have taken on a "militaristic" approach to policing in the last several years and need to revert to community policing.

"The idea behind the federal government giving money to local police agencies is to promote innovation," Ryan said. "Collecting information about what's in your community is really important. We need to get the officers back in the community, and at the same time, use the information to make them more efficient."

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor