Survey shows appetite for technology to drive informed decisions, improved communications
Agencies should focus on the solutions that directly support their workforce, removing administrative burden and reducing officer burnout
By Marcus Claycomb
We’re at a critical juncture in law enforcement’s digital transformation journey, which will shape the future of our industry in the years to come. It's time to understand how the right technology will impact this transformation and bring increased efficiency, improved communication and swifter responses to law enforcement.
According to a report by Deloitte, innovations that are shaping the future of law enforcement begin with emerging technologies. But it’s critical to understand the unique challenges that every industry and its workforce is undergoing and deploy technology that suits these personalized needs.
I work very closely with the business development side of law enforcement. I also spent three decades as a law enforcement professional, so I understand how important it is to get perspectives from those working in the field.
That’s exactly what we did in a recent Panasonic Connect survey of law enforcement professionals. We asked for their opinion on relevant industry topics, and 57% of respondents said they believe that technology will have the greatest impact on informed decision-making and communication in the next five years. In that same survey, respondents also said that they believed technology would have a positive impact on streamlining processes and reporting.
Streamlining operational tasks saves time
Law enforcement agencies are facing an extreme labor shortage. A 2021 Police Executive Research Forum survey showed an 18% increase in resignations from the prior year, with agencies filling only 93% of available positions on average. Many officers are also retiring, further aggravating the labor shortage. Law enforcement agencies are asking their workers to extend their scope of work to fill in gaps, resulting in heavier workloads, longer shifts, and expanded field regions. But with fewer resources, agencies can’t expect a smaller workforce to produce the same outcomes.
An officer’s job is unpredictable and nomadic. Modernizing or digitizing workflows in this era requires technology that is durable, flexible and connected. These technology features promise ease-of-use and adaptability that reduces frustration and helps officers complete their work faster. One example is police reports. Traditionally, officers manually gather information and write the reports back in their vehicles. If they are called into another incident, the report gets postponed to the end of the day. This process of gathering all the details is time-consuming and can add unnecessary strain on officers.
Technology now gives officers the opportunity to streamline this procedure. Tablets can be detached and taken out to the incident to capture images for direct upload. Laptops can also be used to input data directly into a reporting application. Agencies can speed up the data entry process by:
- Pre-populating generic agency information and officer credentials
- Setting common terminology to auto-fill
- Using spell check and grammar check to ensure reports are accurate
- Using voice-to-text solutions, which allow officers to speak into a device while it captures and records information
- Using devices that can automatically record and transcribe interviews or conversations, delivering additional speed and accuracy
These features will pave the way for more accurate, timely and complete reporting, and more successful prosecution. By automating manual, inefficient processes, agencies can reduce officer stress and administrative burnout. Officers can also spend more time serving their communities or covering an expanded geographical area.
Next Generation 911 and Live911 enable swifter and targeted response
Live911 contributes to faster response times for emergency responders. This technology allows first responders in the assigned region to listen directly to calls coming through to a 911 call center. This eliminates the lag time for a call to get relayed from the 911 dispatcher to officers with Live911, leading to a swifter response.
Next-generation 911 also directly impacts how officers gather, analyze and act on critical details about situations in the field. With the right technology and next-generation 911, responders receive additional context to a 911 call, such as text, images, videos, geospatial imagery, GPS location tracking and more. This information is only as helpful as the ability to break it down into meaningful parts. Using the right devices or software, data can be gathered and processed more easily, leading to more informed decisions, actions, and learnings. Take a response inside an office building, for example. Instead of only knowing the time and place of a situation, officers and team leads can receive information such as floor plans, building escape routes, traffic data, and more. This allows them to strategically plan and execute a response.
The result of more informed decision-making is heightened situational awareness and better visibility on the ground for officers. Data collection and distribution paint a more vivid picture of a situation, which goes well beyond the scope of a 911 operator’s notes. Real-time information gathered from a richer data set eliminates guesswork when responding to an incident or disturbance. Officers arrive ready, situationally aware, and with a better course of action.
Connectivity takes communication anywhere
There is seldom a technology conversation in which law enforcement professionals do not bring up the need for new forms of communication. New communication solutions have everyone excited – and they are a priority for agencies. In that same Panasonic Connect survey referenced earlier, law enforcement said that new technology will have a meaningful impact on an officer’s ability to communicate.
Communication starts with connectivity. It’s crucial for any officer to have access to a device with multiple connectivity options, particularly with large workforces spanning vast locations. Emergencies take officers to locations where connectivity is often compromised – congested urban centers, rural communities, or locations with damaged utilities. In these scenarios, dedicated networks like FirstNet, cellular networks offering priority and pre-emption for first responders, and 4G LTE and 5G cellular, are the only way to connect reliably. From there, technology can assist by facilitating officer-to-officer or even machine-to-machine communication:
- FirstNet is a dedicated high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network for first responders. Devices that are compatible with FirstNet, including purpose-built rugged units, ensure that first responders can leverage this network for better connectivity and communication on the job.
- Cellular networks offering priority and pre-emption for first responders, such as Verizon Frontline, ensure that first responders have the public safety services and tools they need to respond in times of crisis.
- Devices enabled with 4G LTE or 5G ensure that first responders can stay connected anywhere. Those with the full spectrum of 5G – Sub6, C-band and mmWave – allow officers to seamlessly connect to the best available network with speed and without any disruption or loss of connectivity.
Don’t just look ahead...act
There’s never a bad time for law enforcement agencies to re-evaluate and re-strategize workflows that take advantage of new technology solutions. Agencies should focus on the solutions that directly support their workforce, removing administrative burden and reducing officer burnout. By addressing these timely and important challenges, officers can do their jobs more effectively while better supporting their communities. With the right technology strategy, law enforcement agencies can successfully modernize for the next five years and beyond – and build a digitally-transformed workplace.
About the author
Marcus Claycomb serves as the Business Development Manager for Public Sector at Panasonic Connect North America. He works with internal and external partners to enhance existing technologies and develop new solutions to fill the “need void” in the fields of law enforcement, fire/rescue and medical. Marcus started his career in medical & fire/rescue and recently retired from a 30-year career in law enforcement. He holds a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Bellevue University in Nebraska and an associate’s degree in Computer Network Administration and is a proud graduate of the FBI National Academy Session #273.