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Smart solutions for short-staffed departments: Predictive analytics in law enforcement

Having access to centralized data in one platform can streamline operations and inform tactical operations while boosting transparency and trust

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Predictive analytics help short-staffed police departments deploy officers where they are needed most.

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By Tom Mangan for Police1 BrandFocus

Short-staffed police departments need help deploying officers at the right places and times to deter crime and boost public safety. Predictive analytics can do that by scanning months of data from multiple sources and applying algorithms suggesting the savviest allocation of police resources.

Law enforcement agencies also can share their analytics data with the public, improving transparency and bolstering public trust. Moreover, a robust data analytics program can help agencies secure grant funding, which often requires agencies to show they are making data-driven decisions.

News reports about large, well-funded police agencies using futuristic tools like artificial intelligence and biometrics might give the impression that smaller agencies are out of luck. But that’s rarely the case anymore, thanks to the rise of cloud-based, software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. The best of these tools integrate data analytics with records management software (RMS) to centralize and standardize predictive capabilities.


Communities across the U.S. have a hard time finding and keeping police officer candidates. With many officers retiring, police leaders depend on data analytics to fill staffing gaps and optimize scheduling. Algorithms developed by expert data scientists can analyze data from a vast array of sources, detecting patterns suggesting times and places with the greatest need for a police presence.

Accessing predictive data used to be difficult because computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems and RMS documents resided in separate software packages that didn’t always communicate well with each other. Modern systems integrate these capabilities. The result: An officer responding to a call at a specific address can immediately pull documentation on the property and its record in previous calls, averting time lost to digging up property files in separate applications.

The CivicEye software platform, for instance, puts these concepts to work in a suite of applications combining RMS, CAD analytics, jail management systems (JMS) and other essential law enforcement functions. Hosting the software in the cloud makes it available on any internet-connected device.

The SaaS model frees police agencies from managing on-premises hardware and software. SaaS also helps jurisdictions large and small tap the company’s data-science expertise. With access to a pool of advanced technical talent, small police forces can have predictive capabilities that used to be reserved for big cities, states and federal agencies.


Law enforcement agencies in eastern Tennessee and southern Mississippi show how modern, cloud-based data platforms improve operations and streamline day-to-day interactions for patrol officers.

Picayune, Mississippi: Thirty-six officers serve this city of just under 12,000, about 50 miles northeast of New Orleans. The Picayune Police Department modernized its RMS to improve allocation of tactical resources. CivicRMS from CivicEye gives officers a real-time view of police data. Filters and sorting tools break down data like arrests and offense types, both at a macro level and down to the individual officer or offender.

With this data in hand, police shift managers and supervisors can pinpoint crime hotspots and document trends across offenders, officers and departments. This kind of analytics data lays the foundation for predictive and proactive policing.

“Numbers and analytics can help agencies give objective answers, instead of subjective ones, to the public’s important questions,” said Joe Quave, Picayune’s police chief. Analytics data also improves public trust because the chief can post current crime statistics to keep citizens apprised of policing trends.

White County, Tennessee: Fifty-five officers and deputies serve about 32,000 residents in this county and the town of Sparta, the county seat, which has population of 5,000. The police department and the sheriff’s office joined forces to implement CivicRMS in both agencies, making it much easier for officers, deputies and support staff to work together in this mostly rural community halfway between Nashville and Knoxville.

Before the upgrade, officers often lost valuable time waiting for information like outstanding warrants from their agencies and jurisdictions outside the county. Today, both agencies share a wide swath of data, ensuring officers have the facts they need when dealing with suspects and assessing risks while on patrol.

A common issue: The sheriff’s office would have one collection of evidence against a suspect, while the police department had separate evidence against the same person, complicating the process of indictments, plea deals and trials. Today, they can pool their evidence to ensure a stronger case, said Nick Dunn, a detective with Sparta Police Department. “With CivicRMS, Sparta Police Department and White County can work together on one case that can be indicted exponentially faster,” Dunn added. “It streamlines our work, from the initial incident report up to the court.”

Officers and deputies spend less time on paperwork and in court, creating more time to focus on protecting the public. And analytics algorithms in the RMS platform provide predictive capabilities that make them better at their jobs.


Police agencies aiming to get more predictive with a modern, cloud-based RMS need to keep these points in mind:

Procure strategically: Traditional requests for information, quotes or proposals have proven benefits, but you may be better off with a more informal purchase process built on trusted relationships between your technology experts and a proven technology vendor.

Define requirements: Analyze your current technology stack, identify shortcomings and start scouting replacements. When shopping for a new software platform, look for general features like CJIS-compliant security and 24/7 tech support, necessary modules like incident reports and e-ticketing, and secure API integrations for CAD and JMS.

At minimum, your solution should include tools for use-of-force tracking, racial profiling and data analytics because legislation is increasingly requiring police agencies to document these kinds of trends. (Dig deeper with CivicEye’s RMS Purchasing Guide.)

Predictive policing is not a cure-all. No matter how smart our tools get, they can’t replace the judgment and intuitions of experienced officers. Even so, the more proactive law enforcement leaders get with anticipating problems and minimizing them when they are still small, the better chance agencies have of staying on top of crime while short staffed.

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