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Real Time Law Enforcement Administration

Charles Craft

Operating in Real Time

We have become accustomed to living in a world that operates in real time. Retailers, box offices, delivery services, restaurant reservations, in-car GPS and television news all provide us with information that is accurate to the moment and updated as conditions change. You think of it, and there’s an online service or application that provides you with the information you seek on a 24/7 basis. As well as being a convenience, real time technology allows users to identify situations that require immediate action and make decisions without delay. This point was demonstrated to me during a recent car trip when my GPS alerted me to a developing severe traffic congestion situation, which allowed me the opportunity to re-route.

Real time technology allows users to identify situations that require immediate action and make decisions without delay.

As real time experiences have become the standard by which we operate, we’ve also developed the expectation that all product and service providers respond to inquiries, demands and changes in the same fashion. If the data is available, the public expects an immediate and accurate response. This technology benefits more than just the consumer. It also allows producers, retailers and service providers the ability to avoid costly and reputation damaging errors.

Operationally, law enforcement has recognized the need for and benefit of real time response to service demands and has embraced the technology necessary to enhance response capabilities. For example, CompStat and Data-Driven Policing philosophies utilize technology to analyze data in real time and provide law enforcement managers with the information needed to allocate and direct resources. There are many other examples of technology utilized by law enforcement to facilitate real time response to data as it is processed. While the primary beneficiary of real time response are the citizens we serve, law enforcement agencies also benefit in terms of reduced cost, improved officer safety and enhanced public perception.

Identifying and Mitigating Risk in a Real Time Standard

The administrative side of law enforcement has been much slower to identify and implement technologies that would bring the management of internal processes and personnel into real time. As a police chief, much of my time was dedicated to identifying and mitigating risk. All too often I found myself in a reactive mode; I was searching for information necessary to respond to some incident or conduct that had already occurred. The search for that information took me to multiple files and databases. I’m sure that all police executives have performed such exhausting research and experienced the disappointment in finding that based on past performance, the incident or conduct was predictable and may have been avoided had intervention and remediation occurred.

In an era where law enforcement activity is live streamed and scrutinized at an unprecedented level, police executives must leverage technology to enhance their administrative capabilities.

Given the demands placed on law enforcement leaders, it is reasonable to argue human beings cannot, in a timely fashion, correlate, analyze and formulate a response to the vast amount of data gathered. However, workload and human capabilities mean very little in terms of civil liability. The legal concept of “known or should have known” requires that police chiefs and law enforcement executives have systems in place for identifying and mitigating risk in a real time standard. In an era where law enforcement activity is live streamed and scrutinized at an unprecedented level, police executives must leverage technology to enhance their administrative capabilities. Failure to do so will expose the executive and their agency to increased liability and a loss of public confidence.

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