This blog post is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent industry perspective, “The Time for Public Safety Digitization is Now.”
Digital transformation or digitization can mean different things to different organizations, but for public safety and law enforcement, it essentially means this: the realignment of and new investment in technology, innovation and practices to more effectively execute an agency’s or department’s mission.
“It’s really the cultural change for the public safety industry, from the old way of business into a quicker and more responsive way of business,” Stewart said.
This transformation moves law enforcement away from standalone and stovepiped solutions and toward a unified enterprise public safety approach that can join employees, processes, data and devices via digital tools to empower them with new capabilities and increased operational efficiencies.
“It is about the technology,” Rogers said, “but it’s more than that, too. It’s the act of getting the right information, at the right time, to the right person, with the goal of furthering an agency’s mission. The technology simply enables the mission.”
For today’s public safety officers, the need for access to critical information in real time is more urgent than ever. From automatic license plate recognition that empowers officers with more accurate knowledge before an encounter to vehicle-based video that provides an extra set of eyes so officers are never alone, creating a complete sensory environment has become critical to protecting the lives of officers and citizens alike. “Digitization allows different law enforcement organizations to communicate in real time. Often criminal cases cross jurisdictions. For example, if a city police department is working a case that crosses into a state or federal area, the right technology means getting the information to those agencies in seconds. That collaboration can be the difference of solving the case and keeping the community safe. We’re all on the same side,” Racicot said.
Simply put, the potential benefits of true digitization in law enforcement and public safety cannot be understated. Modern technology can support everything from better data analytics to clearer communication to new tools that can help law enforcement officers save lives.
And it’s more important than ever to deploy these solutions with a focus on cybersecurity protections. Today, the public safety sector faces innumerable challenges from new and evolving threats and trends, and they are more often than not ill-equipped to face these trials.
Recently, there have been some key trends in law enforcement digitization:
- Wearables and video: Wearables that record information and video add a whole new dimension to national security and public safety. Body-worn cameras, video surveillance cameras, microphone systems, sensors and other technologies provide necessary information for law enforcement and national security agencies.
- The Internet of Things: IoT means connecting unconnected people and things, and it’s transforming public safety. For example, officers could have access to live streaming videos when they arrive to an active shooter engagement at a campus, or be able to proactively respond to a sensor feed that shows unusual traffic at a known trouble-spot.
- Secure mobile communications: As more content and more types of content are collected, communicated, accessed and analyzed on mobile devices, much of it will be confidential and some may be classified for investigative or national security reasons.
- Analytics and big data: Big data refers to large and complex datasets that traditional data processing techniques cannot handle. Agencies need to use analytics and analytical modeling, including predictive modeling, threat analysis, risk analysis, event management and other technologies, to derive better and more relevant information from the data being collected.
- Cybersecurity: Never has it been more important to ensure that the public safety environment is protected from the enterprise to the edge. As vehicles become remote offices, leveraging FIPS 140-2 certified encryption is a must. Sensitive inmate/ attorney communications must be protected from eavesdropping. Criminal justice information systems files need to be safe from ransomware and exfiltration. A robust security architecture is a necessity.
Clearly, these technology trends could transform the future of law enforcement and public safety when effectively deployed. But given a variety of factors, it can be difficult to implement them. Everything from aging infrastructures to a lack of skills in IT implementation to siloed data and IT systems to reduced budgets makes it more difficult to start to take advantage of the possibilities digitization offers.
“Imagine a world when fire and EMS can come together on the same scene and are part of the same enterprise network that’s supported by the county or the city,” Rogers said. “That’s what we’re offering – for all public safety agencies to have a true collaborative nature and not have an independent, siloed approach, but a network that moves with the agencies that you need them to move with.”
For more information about digitization in law enforcement, you can find the full industry perspective here.