High tech roundup: December 2011

I was blinded by scienceIf you came to this blog by way of Twitter or Facebook, you know that for several months I’ve been using the Scoop.It bookmarking service to aggregate news items about how police are using high tech. One reason I like it: its magazine-style format is nicely laid out, easy to read and easy to digest.

Some highlights from this past month:

Newark police headquarters goes high tech

A “mission control” center for disaster response, a high-tech-investigations room that gives city detectives real-time access to federal crime databases — and a meeting room where community groups can meet with police leaders.

The way this story was packaged caught my eye because even with all the ostensibly “Big Brother” style high tech, some emphasis remained for low-tech face to face relationship-building. I’m pretty naive, but I’d like to think this means NPD will use that room to give adequate attention to those who are worried about the way they’re policing. It’s something for other departments to keep in mind as they move further into the realm of high tech.

Three stories on social network analytics

SAS turns social media analytics into intel weapon focuses on sentiment analysis in 28 languages, while Social network analytics saves lives in Iraq is about artificial intelligence. The SAS article is PR-heavy and the InfoWeek article is somewhat oblique (only so much can be discussed without compromising OPSEC), but both are interesting in that they look at technology police may be using in the not too distant future.

Along similar lines was an article about predictive analytics, which prompted me to post on Facebook: “Used the right way, this may be a hybrid between reactive and proactive/community policing. However, data can never replace human relationships, and police shouldn’t overrely on predictive policing.” It’s an argument I made earlier this year in writing about the value of HUMINT and community policing compared to high tech use.

A two-fer on the use of Predator drones

KXAN in Texas covered a convention of UAV enthusiasts, many of whom do help law enforcement on search and rescue missions. Just a day later, though, the LA Times featured law enforcement use of federal agencies’ drones, questioning whether the routine practice is wise. Although courts have ruled that warrantless aerial surveillance is legal — what’s done out in the open cannot be assumed to be legal — drones make surveillance more accessible to police. Once again, it’s officer safety vs. government transparency.

Predictions for law enforcement technology, community service

Finally, I didn’t bookmark this in Scoop.It but it caught my eye nonetheless, because of the predictions it made for the coming year. Most relevant:

  • A store will be where the customer says it is.
  • Augmented reality and plain old reality will merge.
  • Social traction will correlate to brand affinity.

In a law enforcement context:

If stores are going mobile, be prepared for customers to want to interact with police departments this way, too. I’m not talking just getting your text-message Nixle alerts; I mean e-government services like mobile citation payments, real-time crime mapping, crime reporting, etc. Is your website mobile-friendly? Do you have apps for citizens to use?

AR could be huge for law enforcement. The ability to layer information over buildings and faces, for instance, has enormous tactical implications. The only problem is budgetary. But if you’re fortunate enough to live near a university doing research in this area, that can be one good way to jump on the leading edge.

Finally, “social traction and brand affinity” simply mean that more people will pay attention to you online if you’re giving them information they can trust. Not what you think they should trust — but what they can rely on because it educates and is relevant to them. What they need to know, not what you want them to know.

How are you communicating your agency’s use of high tech to the public?

Creative Commons License photo credit: jumpinjimmyjava

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