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Survey, Response Tech Expected to Improve Policing in Albuquerque

The Albuquerque Police Department has implemented three new tools to help enable police to use a more informed response to calls for service. The tech could be especially impactful for community members with disabilities.

Close up image shows lights on top of a police car
Three new tools in the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) are expected to enable officers to respond to calls for service from a more informed place.

Police departments across the U.S. are finding innovative ways to implement technology to better serve constituents, ranging from more proactive use of social media to drone deployments. And while some concerns have been raised over the use of certain tech by these departments, experts argue that enhanced data will ultimately help improve policing for the residents.

Ultimately, that is the value of the three tools highlighted by APD this month: two tech-powered community surveys and Smart911 software.

Improved community engagement is part of a court-approved settlement agreement with the Department of Justice, explained APD Deputy Chief J.J. Griego, which requires the department to have a mechanism to monitor its progress. The two tools for surveying the community aim to help the agency better gauge public opinion and measure the department’s performance.

The first survey tool uses SPIDR Tech and enables participants to respond by phone. The second uses Zencity, which is delivered digitally via social media. Griego said the SPIDR Tech survey focuses more on individual experiences with officers, while the Zencity surveys are focused more on the performance at large.

He also noted that the SPIDR Tech software measures the responses about an officer and call taker, and using Esri’s tech, APD leverages that info to understand the performance of an officer and area command on a broader scale.

The survey responses act in a way akin to a content management system, Griego said. If responses indicate a trend of unprofessional behavior from an officer, for example, the department can incorporate that information into its early intervention system to intervene proactively.

Complementing the information provided through the surveys, APD has also implemented Smart911, a database allowing residents to create a profile about their household to provide information that may be relevant during a 911 call.

Griego provided several examples of information residents might include in their Smart911 profile, such as behavioral health issues, medical issues, medications or pets in the home. Griego said a lot of times, responders don’t receive this information prior to dispatch because of the urgency of 911 calls.

“But with this new platform, we’re able to get much more information than we would normally get on a regular 911 call,” Griego said. “Some of that information may tailor our response.”

If police are responding to a call that involves someone with a behavioral health disorder, Griego said APD may include a mobile crisis team to respond to that call, for example. If police are responding to a call that involves a medical issue, the fire department and an ambulance could be sent to respond.

Autism Society New Mexico made a statement in the announcement, underlining the value this technology brings in the way APD serves community members with autism. The organization said lack of information can result in tragic outcomes, but that this technology will help complement APD training to help officers improve interactions with people with autism.

Griego offered the example that a person with autism may have sensory issues that causes them to be distressed by loud noises. If a police officer responding to a call where a person with autism lives knows that, they can opt not to turn their vehicle’s siren on.

Although the department just started using this tech, it has already proven to be tremendously beneficial, Griego said.

Residents can enter their information online or through the Smart911 mobile app. For those without access to Internet or Internet-enabled devices at home, they can use public libraries or get help at one of the APD substations in the city.

Griego, who is APD’s language access coordinator, underlined the value of the platform enabling residents to input information using multiple languages; the information can then be viewed in English by the dispatcher accessing it.

Also, to alleviate community concerns about privacy, Griego noted that the department does not access or use any of an individual’s information provided in the Smart911 platform unless a call to 911 is placed. The person responding to the call would see the information and pass it on to the responder dispatched to the scene.

Griego credited the “technologically-inclined” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller for helping support APD with resources, services and hardware that they need to better serve the community.

These new tools complement the department’s existing tech tools, such as those it uses through its real-time crime center. Griego said that, as with any new tech, the department must weigh its benefits and how it can be integrated with existing technologies already in use for APD.
Julia Edinger is a staff writer for Government Technology. She has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Toledo and has since worked in publishing and media. She's currently located in Southern California.