The topic I wanted to research is about how police use computers in their everyday job. Over the past two decades, technology has increased dramatically and has made its way into policing. There are a couple of reasons why I chose to look at this topic. Here at Frostburg State University, my major is law and society. After college I plan to work in the law enforcement field as a career, more specially I want to be a K9 handler for a police department. This has been something I have always been interested in since I was little. The reason why I chose this topic to be to see how the impact of computing has affected police. This is important for me so I will have more of a general idea about what kind of work police do on there computers. This is important to society because the police are not liked by some, and this will give people more information about the police they might not know. This can be looked at locally with police departments like Frostburg or globally with police departments across the Earth.
In todays world, when you see a police car almost all the time if you look in the window you will see a laptop setting on or around the center console. The laptop will be facing towards the officer in the drivers seat. Have you ever wondered what that laptop was for? Police cars have many computing devices all around their car which you might not know about. According to the National Crime Justice Reference Center “ in the 21st century, powerful technological advancements have emerged, including closed-circuit television, automatic license plate readers (LPRs), in-car cameras, and body-worn cameras (BWCs), predictive policing software, and social media communication and monitoring tools. The proliferation of computer technology, communication technology, and other major technological advancements over the last several decades have made numerous technologies available to law enforcement officers that were virtually unheard of by their predecessors”.(Strom 2017). Prior to the 21st century, most police departments only had CB radios which would go back and fourth between cars and dispatch.
When talking about the professional impact on police computing, it has made police offers job easier. For example, with todays in car computers, if they have a description of a suspect, they would normally have a picture of the suspect on their computer. Before in car computers, they had to rely on the information radioed to them by dispatch. Having these computers make sure they don’t arrest the wrong suspect. Having the in-car computers make the police more professional.
When looking at the ethical impact of police computing, you also have to look at the legal impact as well. In police cars, their laptops have specific software that helps them with daily activities. These are software’s that private companies sell the police agency in which they can chose which one they use. One example of a software for sale that many police agents use is called PoliceOne. According to their website PoliceOne is “a collection of information, product listings and resources for researching public safety Software solutions. It covers a variety of software products such as CAD, data sharing, emergency response, GIS/mapping, investigation, jail management, report writing, RMS, scheduling, video analysis, wiretap systems and other public safety software’s” (PoliceOne, 2019). That is just one example however other software’s are made by Motorola solutions, COBAN Technology, LexisNexis, and Ideal Innovations. These are just a few of many out there. These software’s are commonly used to run license plates, find locations, respond to calls and look up peoples information. A police officer offer has to be ethical and make sure they are using it legally. According to CBS news, “those systems also can be exploited by officers who, motivated by romantic quarrels, personal conflicts or voyeuristic curiosity, sidestep policies — and sometimes the law — by snooping. In the most egregious cases, officers have used information to stalk or harass, or have tampered with or sold records they obtained…They’re warned that their searches are subject to being audited and that unauthorized access could cost them their jobs or result in criminal charges.”(CBS, 2016). This has been an ethical and legal problem for officers that has arrived with in car computers with software systems with information about anyone a few clicks away.
When looking at the security of police officers and the use of new technology, the body camera on police officers impacted everyone. These are closed looped surveillance systems that the officer wears on there shirt that records audio and video. The point of a body camera is to have video proof for evidence of everything a police officer does. These are public records that can be acquired through government offices. Having these cameras have officers security in a number of ways. One example is if a criminal report that the officer violated protocol, the evidence would be reviewed to see if it was a true allegation or not. This is a form of job security for the officer because no longer can allegations of misconduct get you fired. The video doesn’t lie. Also, it protects the security of the citizens. Once again for example if an officer lies about what he did to a citizen, the video is a secure way for the citizen to prove something actually happened. According to White “Transparency, or willingness by a police department to open itself up to outside scrutiny, is an important perceived benefit of officer body-worn cameras. Transparency can demonstrate to the community that officers aim to act in a fair and just manner when interacting with citizens, which can increase perceptions of police legitimacy”(White, 2017). Having an officer be more transparent would increase the security of the citizens.
Also, when looking at body camera technology, it important to look at the social issues and the responsibility that goes along with these cameras. According to White, “The response from the NYPD following the judicial order to deploy body-worn cameras has been almost universally negative. Former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly stated that “the body camera issue opens up certainly more questions than it answers”. (Lovett 2013). The body camera has caused the social issue for officers that their privacy is invaded when they are wearing the cameras. They are able to turn them on and off however most departments require them to be on at all times. One example is while a police officer is at work and is having a private conversation on the phone with their spouse, this is all public record, which the officer would not want their conversation on there. One the other hand, this could be a social issue because it records and films citizens that might not want to be recorded.
In the future the increase in technology will increase the impact of computing for police officers. This could help them with catching suspects easier, running facial recognition, better use of DNA and more automated dispatch services.
In todays world computing as an impact on everyone locally and globally. For the police department it has dramatically changed how they operate in the past twenty years. This comes from the invention and innovations of in car computers. Along with this, became the use of software programs the officers used on their computers. These helped impact the officers because it made their lives easier. Also, with the invention of the body camera caused social issues and responsibility issues but also protected the security of officers. Computers will always impact all agencies now and in the future.
- Strom, Kevin. 2017. “Research on the Impact of Technology on Policy Strategy in the 21st Century.” NCJRS, September 2019. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/251140.pdf
- PoliceOne. 2019. “Police Software” Motorola IACP 2019. https://www.policeone.com/police-products/police-technology/police-software/
- Lovett, Ian. 2013. “In California, a Champion for Police Cameras.” New York Times, August 21, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/22/us/in-california-a-champion-for-police-cameras.html? pagewanted=all&_r=0.
- White, Michael D. 2014. Police Officer Body-Worn Cameras: Assessing the Evidence. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. https://permanent.access.gpo.gov/gpo56953/Police%20Officer%20Body-Worn%20Cameras.pdf
- CBS AP. 2016. “Police Sometimes Misuse Confidential Workplace Databases”. CBS September 30th 2016. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/police-sometimes-misuse-confidential-work-databases-for-personal-gain-ap/