An app that connects cops to citizens: Does it make sense?

Close to 200 law enforcement agencies in the United States and Canada are now using the MyPD app

We use our cell phones a ton, and anyone familiar with today’s phones knows the majority of the time we use them we are accessing and manipulating apps

Sooner or later, even the “old school” guys in law enforcement will have to embrace technology, and perhaps the greatest conduit to technology today is the mobile phone. 

According to a recent study by Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) the average person checks his or her cell phone approximately 143 times a day. Further, there are more than 300 million devices in the U.S. alone, and an estimated 94 percent of the U.S. population has a phone. 

Already being used by 50 police departments in Massachusetts, the “My Police Department” (MyPD) app is a unique way for citizens in these towns to connect and learn about the law enforcement members protecting and serving them. If you’re thinking, “It’s just another way for people to harass me,” read on. 

MyPD allows citizens to download the app for their Android or iPhone and easily connect with the police department or other participating agency right from their device. It’s free to download, contains no advertising, and users don’t need to share personal information or set up an account to use it. Information sharing is optional, which allows the users, and the agency, to control what others read or have access to. Essentially, it’s not an app designed to air the dirty laundry of your agency, and users cannot use it to look into your personnel file.

Agencies can choose to send alerts to users, and members of the public can receive alerts from more than one agency at a time. For example, a user could opt to get notifications from a town they work in and also where they live, without having to download multiple apps for each department. Cell phone users want fewer apps on their devices because it gobbles up memory and slows the device down. 

Receiving Good Reviews
So far, the agencies using the app seem pretty happy. 

Norwood Police Chief William Brooks explains, "We have found having an app to be a tremendous asset in our community outreach.  People can use MyPD to receive push notifications from our Twitter feed, can call us with just a couple of taps on the screen, and can easily find information about crime and public safety. But we get perhaps the most use out of the anonymous tip feature. When a citizen makes up his or her mind to send us intelligence, they can use MyPD to connect directly to us.” 

Chief Brooks  understands and embraces technology and has identified the positive attributes of using technology instead of dodging it. This single app opened the door to positive interactions with the community and the chief is received kudos from the officers and the public. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

The app features:

•    Real-time push notifications and alerts via twitter or other channels
•    Information on: victim resources, press releases, domestic violence, local traffic, drug resources, most wanted, cold cases, and more
•    Information about missing children across the state
•    Ability for citizens to send in questions or concerns, along with photos and GPS location
•    Customizable home screen that can share slogans, photos, or updates

This app is not another social media network, but rather social in nature because it promotes interaction between the public and the police department. Users can "unlock" and share badges, climb in rank, and unlock new badges the more they interact with the agency. This approach is soliciting more involvement from the public which is garnishing the agencies using the app more leads for cases and is being well received by the public. This is a new concept and a first for a public safety-type app.

"We are excited to provide users our new version of MyPD," said Deputy Chief Marty Cohan of the Peabody Police Department. "Our number of app users has grown now to a few thousand, and our app has been well received by the public. Citizens want their police to keep up with technology, and we strive to do that.”

Of course there are those in the public criticizing advances in technology when it comes to police, but mostly they are referring to the advances in weapons and equipment. Our younger generations are being raised on technology, apps, and social media, and if agencies don’t adapt to these changes, they become distant and the public feels alienated. These folks feel cops are refusing to change, when in reality, the cops are more likely fearful of these changes or have no idea something like this even exists.

Close to 200 law enforcement agencies in the United States and Canada are now using the MyPD app. Consider downloading the free app and try it for a few days on your own device. Then take it to your sergeant or tech support team and show them what you discovered. 

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