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Police departments are using data to motivate, protect and empower their officers

Departments put their officers in the best position to succeed when they have a real-time grasp of their own data and can operationalize it to meet community needs

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Policing the digital realm.

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By Nick Noone

Police departments are frequently using technology like automated license plate readers, video cameras, gunshot detection devices and drones to find criminals and develop crime reduction strategies. With the right protections in place, these technologies are helping to make communities safer. However, it’s less common for departments to use data internally to support their own officers.

Tackling recruitment and retention challenges through data analytics

Recruitment and retention continue to be a major problem for police departments across the country. The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) reports that from 2020 to 2021, surveyed agencies had an 18% increase in resignation rates and a 45% increase in retirement rates compared to the previous year. The challenge hasn’t abated – total sworn officer staffing continues to decline.

Police officers are a department’s most valuable resource. As recruiting and retention challenges surge, law enforcement leaders are adopting data-powered strategies to train, coach and empower their staff. These strategies are designed to align officers with their community’s needs and the cultural values of the department – resulting in a more effective workforce and greater community trust.

Harnessing real-time data for dynamic public safety operations

Public safety operations are incredibly complex because they are incredibly dynamic. Not only must departments develop both high-level and granular views of the communities they serve – for example, a macro understanding of crime trends across a region combined with the nuanced needs of people on a certain block – they must also continuously tune their understanding in near-real-time as trends shift or as new challenges emerge. Harnessing data at the speed of real-time operations is required to manage a constantly shifting environment. Doing so helps supervisors and officers stay ahead.

Departments are putting their officers in the best position to succeed when they have a real-time grasp of their own data and are successfully operationalizing it to meet community needs.

Community-centric goal setting and performance metrics

Increasingly, police leaders are using data to continuously align with the community on macro trends and micro-issues, which allows them to set measurable goals and empower officers to achieve them. This data-informed, community-involved goal orientation is helping departments spot and celebrate positive progress, get ahead of challenges, and develop venues for collaboration between various levels of management within the department and with the community.

Internal training, mentorship and coaching have significantly improved for departments that are able to leverage reliable data for alignment between supervisors and staff. Supervisors have the information they need to set goals, deploy strategies and assign task ownership to the right people at the right times. Chiefs are introducing new strategies like dynamic resourcing systems that align the intensity and importance of patrol and investigative workloads with community needs and root causes of crime. These systems enable supervisors and officers to leverage data for high-value coaching and task alignment.

New styles of early warning systems offer additional benefits by providing a dynamic approach to supporting officers as they work through stresses inherent to the profession. Alignment on data empowers leaders and staff to be more proactive, and more empathetic and ultimately helps supervisors create the cultural environment necessary for officers to do their best work.

Bridging the trust gap: Data transparency and community engagement

Critically, data-driven departments are better equipped to continuously build trust with their communities while creating clarity of purpose for their officers and staff. Proactive, data-informed dialogue with community groups drives better alignment and replaces interactions based on no data or stale data. When the department and the community operate as trusted partners, officers have better clarity on the projects or initiatives that matter – and why they matter – or why they may shift. When strategy and purpose is more seamlessly understood at every level of the organization, officers can channel an inspiring amount of positive energy into their daily work.

These factors help create a culture where officers and staff are exceptionally empowered to lean in and “own the mission” of the organization – and the impact of their work becomes more apparent to themselves, their colleagues, and their community.

The trends of using data to curb crime and to support officers are closely intertwined. Public safety organizations that adopt a data-driven mindset have an incredible opportunity to concurrently enhance recruitment, retention and prosperity within their departments and the communities they serve.

About the author

Nick Noone is the co-founder and CEO of Peregrine. The company brings data integration and analysis capabilities to public servants in municipal, regional and state governments. He is a data scientist and technology entrepreneur, focusing on national security, law enforcement and public safety missions.

Prior to Peregrine, Nick ran the U.S. Special Operations (SOCOM) business at Palantir Technologies. In this role, Nick was responsible for creating the special operations community’s global real-time situational awareness platform, which is utilized by over 18,000 personnel across six continents. Nick received his M.S. in Statistics from Stanford University and his B.A. in Economics, also from Stanford. During his time at Stanford, Nick competed as a gymnast on the university team, winning two national championships and four All-American titles.