Recently, we explored five ways the cloud can transform courts. Benefits included enhanced collaboration, scalability and improved equity in accessing justice. Particularly in the context of remote operations, virtual service delivery and an evolving cyber threat landscape, the cloud holds much promise for all government agencies and departments.
One critical area that is often overlooked in cloud discussions is public safety. Public safety organizations can also leverage the cloud’s potential to modernize technology in ways that ensure resilient and responsive operations. In fact, between the impact of COVID-19 and calls for more responsive policing in a time of limited resources, public safety departments face seemingly insurmountable challenges. The cloud can help in the following ways:
Calls for help are the most recognizable start to public safety processes. While 911 systems have been spatially aware for decades, mobile phones were initially more of a challenge. Now, cloud-enabled technologies like RapidSOS can automatically pinpoint a connected mobile device within five meters, routing help to people far from home. In addition, unified computer-aided dispatch systems let law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services communicate and collaborate across multiple agencies and jurisdictions – a critical part of response plans for major disasters or mass casualty incidents.
2. Field Work
Law enforcement and emergency vehicles equipped with GPS-enabled automatic vehicle location technology have provided real-time location information for years. Still, mobile phones now let public safety agencies track officers on foot chases and firefighters inside buildings. In addition, combining location awareness with overlays of known COVID-19 cases helps public safety agencies keep first responders safe.
3. Record Keeping
Finding ways to simplify report writing represents a potentially huge force multiplier for public safety agencies. By one count, more than half of police officers spend at least three hours a day on average writing reports. This obviously impacts their ability to be in the field. Digitizing report writing cuts those hours while automating the review process and simplifying mandated reporting.
Using sophisticated analytics capabilities can replace monthly or weekly incident reports with real-time, immediately actionable insights. Finally, artificial intelligence and machine learning hold the potential to automate systems even further by simplifying approval workloads and other time-consuming tasks. Intelligent systems could analyze routine reports and flag only the ones with inconsistencies or potential compliance issues for human review.
4. Data Sharing
The National Crime Information Center has long served as an electronic clearinghouse of data for public safety organizations, but new cloud-based systems can strengthen information sharing among neighboring jurisdictions and state agencies. Even within jurisdictions, integrating law enforcement records and court systems can make a critical difference.
The real benefits come when disparate pieces are integrated to allow access to the same information through the entire enterprise – from dispatch and mobile apps through record keeping and court systems.
Right now, many public safety agencies face technology challenges around siloed systems and federal and state privacy and security mandates that limit technology options. In addition, many on-premises systems rely on physical backups that are located nearby. That provides redundancy and the ability to recover after some natural disasters, but not catastrophes such as hurricanes that disrupt entire regions.
Integrated, cloud-based solutions can help agencies overcome these challenges while providing new ways to ensure their personnel have the right information when they need it. This improves the safety of first responders as well as the public, while allowing agencies to successfully meet increasing and evolving needs with fewer resources.
Meredith Trimble is a former municipal official and Town Council Acting Chair, who focused on strategic planning, annual budgeting and bonded infrastructure projects. Her government experience also includes posts in both federal and state-level executive branch agencies: Associate Editor of the U.S. Federal Election Commission’s FEC Record; and Director of Education for the Connecticut Office of State Ethics. Now a Senior Content Specialist with Tyler Technologies, Inc., she writes content to help empower those who serve the public. Her current focus is to help facilitate data-enabled organizations to create connections between governments and those they serve.