By Mary Velan
Law enforcement agencies are being thoroughly evaluated as of late to determine how best to improve operations, mitigate expensive litigation and optimize resources. One operational philosophy being applied to achieve these ends is intelligent policing which strives to enable agencies to do more with less while using data to support policing decisions.
As more agencies rely on data technologies to measure performance and analyze policing efforts, it is becoming apparent that there are significant differences between agencies – particularly with use of force. The definition and application of use of force varies between jurisdictions and departments, leaving ample opportunity for costly litigation in the future.
At a recent roundtable discussion hosted by EfficientGov and Tribridge, 10 police chiefs, sheriffs, general counsel, deputies and captains came together to discuss a variety of topics including the evolution of intelligent policing and the future of use of force guidelines.
According to Assistant Chief Jim Previtera, from the Investigative Services Bureau of the St. Petersburg Police Department, intelligent-led policing has proven to be one of the most effective strategies to police in the modern world.
“The realization that resources could be maximized by focusing on specific prolific offenders and not on geographical areas where crime occurred was important,” Previtera told EfficientGov. “The transition is ongoing, however, and law enforcement needs to continue to realize the ways technology can be implemented into operations so that we become increasingly effective.”
Previtera argues concepts such as Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping in real time can offer tremendous potential for law enforcement in the realm of public safety, especially when incorporated into an intelligence-driven strategy.
Deputy Chief Clyde Parry of the Coral Springs Police Department’s Operations Division said data-driven policing allows law enforcement to chart past crime trends, recognize current crime trends and identify emerging crime threats.
“These tools allow managers to deploy their limited resources where crime is occurring or likely to occur based on an examination of the data,” Parry told EfficientGov. “Assigning officers to proactively patrol areas where crimes are likely to occur as well as providing them with the type of criminal activity that is occurring should have a positive effect on combating crime in these areas.”
To create a more proactive policing team, Parry recommends integrating police intelligence with predictive analytics.
“By including known offenders who reside in the area identified for a particular crime, tracking offenders who were recently released from prison or identifying probationers for the same or similar crimes, you could enhance your crime fighting efforts,” Parry explained. “Stationary cameras provide 24/7 surveillance of high-crime areas to real-time crime centers that are staffed with dispatchers and crime analysts that can greatly enhance data-driven technologies.”
Furthermore, Parry believes computer programs that support data-driven policing or intelligence-led policing can prevent lawsuits or inaccurate claims of bias-based policing by showing the courts that officers are deployed where the crime is occurring.
“By utilizing data-driven deployments you take away the argument that the police are targeting a particular area of the city because of race or ethnicity,” Parry told EfficientGov. “The data-driven approach puts cops on the dots where crimes occur most frequently, regardless of race or ethnicity.”
Corporal Todd Turpack from the Clearwater Police Department explained intelligence-led policing enables law enforcement to be more proactive by ensuring resources are available to gather timely and accurate intelligence, and then act upon the information collected quickly and decisively.
“If you gather intelligence stating that burglaries are on the rise in a certain area, and are not refocusing your resources to combat the issue, you are now a reactive agency, not a proactive one,” Turpack told EfficientGov.
Barriers to Success
All participants at the discussion agreed law enforcement agencies must overcome some challenges when first applying data-driven technologies and strategies – not least of which is accounting for the cost.
Parry told EfficientGov that law enforcement agencies must find funding for many of their intelligent policing projects through grant funding or by demonstrating a cost/benefit analysis to politicians to gain support.
“About 10 years ago, my department looked into dash cameras for all our patrol vehicles,” Parry explained. “We tested and evaluated numerous company’s equipment and determined that each camera would cost us over $5,000 per car. The cost was so prohibitive that we scrapped the entire project.”
If you haven’t done the research, cost is factor that can often kill a project before it gets started.
In addition, Parry explained how officer buy-in is paramount to the success of any new data program. How to use the tools to collect the information must be taught to all officers, as well as why the resources are necessary to achieving departmental goals and improving performance.
The technology must also be operator-friendly so all officers know how to complete their responsibilities. While many data-driven technologies require a dedicated analyst to properly manage reports and ensure the integrity of the end product, police officers also play a vital role in the collection of information throughout their policing efforts.
Parry recommends agencies develop well-crafted standard operating procedures and general orders, and ensure these policies are strictly followed by all officers.
“If the officers sees the new technology as another tool in their toolbox rather than another way for management to check up on them, they will more than likely embrace the new technology,” Parry told EfficientGov. “If the purpose of the technology is to improve officer safety, for example, the first time an overzealous supervisor uses the technology to monitor officer habits the buy-in may be lost.”
Finally, the technology selected should be reliable so all members of the law enforcement team have confidence in its ability to function properly. If there are doubts about the technology’s capabilities or efficacy, it will not be used or grossly underutilized.
Previtera explained the reliability of a data-driven solution relies solely on the accuracy of the information being entered into the program. When the data used is up-to-date and thorough, the analytics will be stronger and more beneficial to decision making.
Use of Force Guidelines
As more law enforcement agencies find the use of force in specific instances deemed excessive or aggressive, many departments are looking to reevaluate training programs so recruits better understand when use of force is necessary and when certain tactics become too aggressive.
As officers put on body cameras and more data is collected on the behaviors of both officers and citizens, heightened understanding of use of force standards may be required. At the present, there is no standardized set of use of force guidelines to define when it should be used and to what level it is legal. Each jurisdiction has its own interpretation it uses when training recruits.
Turpack feels that standardized use of force guidelines should only be presented to law enforcement agencies as a suggested use of guidelines, not a nationwide set of rules that will be enforced by the federal government.
“I do not feel the federal government has the knowledge the know what use of force guidelines will work in Florida as opposed to say Alaska,” Turpack told EfficientGov. “If the DOJ wants to encourage departments nationwide to adhere to or somewhat mirror a national standard that is acceptable. Mandating such a policy, however, is far too overreaching.”
Parry believes the use of force guidelines will remain relatively close to the guidelines provided to law enforcement agencies today. Supreme Court cases have established a set of guidelines through their court rulings over the years, which have provide agencies with concise rules on lawful use of force by officers.
“What will change, however, is a closer examination of how, when and why the use of force is applied,” Parry told EfficientGov. “This will occur because of the utilization of body camera technology.”
According to Parry, the increased use of body cameras will allow the public a first-hand look at what the officer observes at the scene. The footage will result in more questions on the use of force during certain incidents, but may also lead to a better understanding of what the officer experiences on the scene.
“My concern is as more and more of these videos become commonplace, the public will get desensitized to what they view,” Parry explained. “This could cause the public to provide more scrutiny over the use of force and perhaps raise the bar to a higher standard than what has been established by the Supreme Court of the United States.”