Impacts of technological advancements can be observed in almost all spheres of modern life, and police agencies are no exception. The adoption of technology has helped the law enforcement system in controlling and reducing the rate of crime; thus, it has become a prime strength of police agencies. Moreover, recent IT developments have also made far-reaching impacts on law enforcement. Many high-tech devices, including DNA testing, LPR, and the GPS technology, as well as surveillance camera, are largely utilized by police agencies. The ongoing concerns about internal security and terrorism also demand new technological developments and enhanced resources for police agencies to combat and reduce crimes. The current paper identifies and assesses technologies, which are of the primary concern for law enforcement agencies. It also emphasizes those technologies that are the most effective for enhancing the potential of the police to satisfy the safety and security needs of citizens.
The Use of Technology in Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Management
The beginning of the twenty-first century has been marked with tremendous impacts of technology on almost all spheres of modern life, and law enforcement agencies are no exception. Their operations have been improved and shaped by technological developments in many significant ways. The primary law enforcement strategy of the last four decades has focused on preventive patrolling and a quick response to emergency calls and combating crimes for the safety and security of citizens. In the past, the law enforcement system possessed the limited technology of two-way radio/wireless communication and automobiles, but the recent technological growth has improved the functioning of the police in many ways. For example, information technology, DNA, on-the-spot fingerprints testing, and bulletproof jackets are now critical and common tools in police agencies (Koper, Bruce, & Bruce, 2009). Contemporary issues of counterterrorism and homeland security have also led to many technological problems and created additional demands for better technology and equipment for law enforcement agencies. As a result, the police need new competencies and partnerships with the private and government sector since computer-related crimes have increased. This paper aims to identify, assess and prioritize relevant and cutting-edge technologies. A comprehensive review of contemporary ways of technology usage in criminal justice management helps to identify its impact on police effectiveness and outcomes, and technological issues that law enforcement agencies are likely to encounter in the future.
Technological developments offer a tremendous potential for improving police operations and bring efficiency in their day-to-day work. They strengthen the police in controlling crime rates, for instance, through improving the ability of a law enforcement agency to identify and observe movements of offenders, especially recidivists. It facilitates the identification of conditions and places, which promote crime, helps in the detection and investigation of crimes without the loss of time, and enhances evidence collection Chari, Devaraj, & David, 2008). Moreover, the new technology improves police deployment at critical places that are prone to crimes, improves organizational efficiency, enabling effective internal and external communication in police departments, enhance confidence of citizens in the police, increase awareness of convictions, and strengthens the capability of the police to cope with IT-related crimes, such as terrorism and cybercrimes.
Furthermore, the use of technology by law enforcement agencies will be analyzed relying largely on police reports and national surveys. The most comprehensive information on the application of technology in the law enforcement system has been obtained from the PERF, an organization of sheriffs and police chiefs, which has been actively involved in exploiting technological advancements for increasing capabilities of its employees (Fischer, 2007). The inclusion of such technologies in police operations has revolutionized the functioning of law enforcement to respond to crimes by identifying problems, investigating and examining their causes, and designing strategic plans for enhancing crime prevention strategies (Fischer, 2007).
Information technology has enhanced data sharing, records management, crime investigation, and performance management in the law enforcement field over the last three decades. Police officers now widely use computer technology to maintain a wide collection of data and information. As of 2002, most of the police departments stored electronic data on arrests, incident reports, distress calls for help, stolen vehicles, thefts and burglary, and traffic violations. Other forms of data, which the police often stored in computers, included criminal histories, warrants, sex offenses, traffic accidents, and summons. Nearly 45% of the police department officers used electronic technology (including data devices, computers, wireless transmission, and telephone lines) as the primary source of sending incident reports (Fischer, 2007). Besides, enforcement agencies utilize information technology opportunities to strengthen day-to-day operations to combat terrorism and cybercrimes.
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Undoubtedly, computer technology is now widely used by almost all police departments. Most of the law enforcement agencies also provide their services with mobile devices, commonly known as in-field computers, which allow direct access to data systems while working in the field. These computers can be mounted on vehicles, such as digital data terminals, laptops, digital computers, and digital assistants. In-field computers help to retrieve information about stolen vehicles and driving records, criminal histories, and arrest warrants.
The system development for data sharing within police departments is an IT issue, which has received considerable attention for the last few years. Recent concerns over terrorism have initiated the development of many software packages to promote data sharing and analysis across police agencies. For instance, after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the world tower, the federal government established fifty-eight state fusion centers and data sharing systems around the country to share intelligence and other information (Falcon, 2005).
Dispatch and Communication
Practically all law enforcement agencies in the United States follow the 9-1-1 emergency telephone reporting system. As of 2002, over 65% of police departments practiced this system. It displays caller’s address, telephone number, and purposes. Most of the police agencies serving in remote areas with the population of at least 11,000 persons also used computer-based communication systems for managing calls and reducing response times. Improvements in the 9-1-1 system that have been recently incorporated include tracking systems of vehicles, which can identify locations and actual time of stolen things and patrol cars. Six speech translation devices are used for the translation of calls. Moreover, the development of additional 3-1-1 systems is another innovation to manage routine, queries, and non-emergency requests (Reed, 2008).
Investigation and Identification
New technological advancements have also aided in criminal investigation. Almost all law enforcement agencies use an automated fingerprint identification system, which includes data of digitized fingerprints. New mobile fingerprint scanners also enable field officers to conduct on-the-spot checks of fingerprints. Besides, the latest chemical technique for the identification of the latter also permits officers to determine substances consumed by offenders. However, the DNA examining technique largely depends on the determination of a unique genetic character using biological evidence, for example, semen, blood, saliva, and hair. Nowadays, it plays a crucial role in offender identification. The DNA technique has been extensively used in investigating and solving sex and heinous crimes. Digital imaging has also gained significance with an increase in gun-related crimes. The Federal Bureau of Firearms and Explosives provides the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (BIS) to police agencies that helps them in comparing ballistics evidence and imaging (Roman, Reid, Reid, Chalfin, Adams, & Knight, 2008).
Surveillance Camera and Sensors
A network of surveillance cameras enables the police to watch high-risk locations, airports, roadways, railway stations and interactions between the public and law enforcement officers. Police agencies frequently use video cameras in vehicles, where they do not only record offenders’ behavior, but also monitor police professionalism in criminal investigations, traffic stops, and arrests. To a larger extent, agencies also attach video cameras to officers’ uniforms and use wireless surveillance systems for traffic enforcement and the surveillance of critical spots. It has been observed that many law enforcement agencies have begun using gunshot detection systems with an increase in gunshot crimes. They consist of sensors mounted on buildings or other critical locations, which recognize gunfire and immediately detect its location with the help of the GPS technology (Koper, Bruce, & Bruce, 2009).
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Other new advancements in the surveillance system and sensors include the application of the GPS technology to track stolen vehicles and suspects and the use of license plate readers (LPR) with the aim to read license plates of vehicles and verify them against data of stolen cars. Moreover, electro-optic, night-vision, and “see through” devices assist police in apprehending culprits in darkness. Police agencies also widely use sensor devices for the detection of contraband and hazardous materials of the biological, chemical or nuclear nature for combating terrorism (Lipscomb, 2008).
Comparison and Contrast of the Impacts and Issues of Technology on Criminal Justice Management
Impacts of Technology on Criminal Justice Management
Having reviewed some of the key technological devices used by law enforcement agencies, it is important to explore evidence of how technological advancements have impacted the effectiveness and outcomes of law enforcement work. In principle, many widely practiced technologies possess a potential to enhance police efficiency and effectiveness. They include computers and IT, geographic information system (GIS), video surveillance networks, and global positioning system (GPS) used for tracking patrol cars and stolen vehicles, as well as DNA testing equipment, wireless access in patrol cars, automated fingerprint identification system, and the gunshot detection system (Gascón & Todd, 2010). However, the degree of an impact of any technology on police effectiveness can be restricted by several factors. These include technical problems, complications in adopting technological developments, additional costs associated with the implementation of the technology (costs of training, technical and skilled staff, and maintenance), unexpected effects on citizens, officers and organization, common occurrence of misunderstanding in information sharing, or incompetency in the use of technology, as well as the unawareness of its benefits and outcomes.
For any of the reasons indicated above, some technical devices will demonstrate better performance than others, and some may fail to produce desired effects. Some technologies can create political and economic liabilities for law enforcement. Recognizing which devices are the most beneficial to police agencies and why they have a distinct value is extremely necessary. However, demonstrating and understanding cost-effectiveness and impact is easier for some devices. Hence, technologies, which reduce crimes and improve everyday police operations, are easier to implement than the ones developed to address high-impact events and low-probability, for instance, CBRNE attacks. Another obstacle is that the success of one particular device may depend on the availability of other supporting technical innovations within a police agency. With respect to biometric and surveillance technologies, there has not been much scientific research on their effect on police activities. Only few agencies have carefully studied before-and-after impacts of technology adoption. Thus, evidence clearly fails to demonstrate that technology has delivered quantifiable improvements in the law enforcement system (Gascón & Todd, 2010).
Issues of Technology in Criminal Justice Management
From the beginning of the twenty-first century, law enforcement agencies have adopted several technologies, including information technology, to avail many of the compelling benefits that developments have promised to produce. These technologies have become supporting tools to deter, investigate and prosecute criminals and have offered significant operational advantages in improving criminal justice management. Despite the adoption of the latest devices, the law enforcement system have faced unexpected challenges. Some of these critical issues are given below (Koper, Bruce, & Bruce, 2009).
Training and Skills
The first issue confronting the law enforcement system is the need for training and skilled officers. Law enforcement agencies realize the necessity of training because they believe that recipients can bring efficiency in police operations by utilizing technology. Besides acquiring technical devices, agencies also need skilled staff for implementing an innovation. This prime issue of a shortage of skilled staff can reduce the gap between policing needs and technical issues. Upgrading or adopting technology gives rise to a variety of issues concerning funding, personnel and planning (Koper, Bruce, & Bruce, 2009).
Data sharing is also one of the critical issues within police agencies. Finding effective techniques to disseminate data more swiftly and provide faster access to all police officers are desirable. However, data sharing and integration raise many technical concerns, like the integration of software and hardware, compatibility, and the standardization of procedures across all police agencies (Koper, Bruce, & Bruce, 2009).
The third issue facing police departments relates to funding and grants. Funding has always been a major topic of debates in the police sector. The procurement of grants for a longer period, consideration of introducing new technology and ongoing costs challenge enforcement agencies. The latest devices may be procured through various funding sources. However, if their utilization is not planned properly, on-going costs, which departments will bear, will affect the future sourcing of the required technology. Bureaucracy also creates hurdles in grants and obtaining technology. The reason is that it involves time to get approval for purchases, and the technology purchased often becomes obsolete by the time it is implemented (Koper, Bruce, & Bruce, 2009).
Knowledge and Usage of Computer Technology
The fourth issue revolves around the knowledge and use of computer technology. Police officers use the latter extensively, but gaps continue to remain in their capabilities and performance. The need for the enhancement and development of integrated data systems, as well as equipment, which offers easy access to field officers, is of the highest priority. The improved efficiency of police officers, particularly when joined with crime analysis abilities, can be utilized to manage resource allocation, ensure managerial control, and to create an effective strategy (Garicano & Paul, 2010).
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Law enforcement agencies emphasize the need for improving external and internal communication, as well as the synchronization of police officers in communicating information and messages. Enhancing the interagency ability of communication is the primary issue of many police agencies. It improves the capability of officers to receive and transmit information from citizens and develop locator technologies (Garicano & Paul, 2010).
The last issue is how to prevent, investigate, and summon criminals who have indulged in IT related crimes across the world. Such offences can pervade political boundaries and damage legislative policies easily. For example, according to Garicano and Paul (2010), via a computer crime, “A person living in New Delhi, India, can steal money from a bank in America.” In such cases, it is extremely difficult to apprehend and prosecute the culprit. As a result, controlling Internet crimes demands international treaties (Garicano & Paul, 2010).
Limitations and Strengths of Technology Use in Criminal Justice Management
Strengths of Technology in Criminal Justice
The key strength of law enforcement agencies is their skilled personnel, which recognize their duties and create strategies that help them to focus on crimes, problems, and difficult situations, maintaining law and order and providing safety to citizens. The IT knowledge of police officers promotes this orientation by enhancing the integration and dissemination of information and data sharing within and across police agencies. Technical advancements and attractive emoluments attract more and more young and skilled people joining the police force. Hiring and retaining skillful officers has become the key strength of police agencies for the last few decades. The law enforcement system attracts and recruits personnel with skills and offers an opportunity to use and enhance their technological knowledge, as well as offers a compelling career in the law enforcement sector.
Efficiency and effectiveness in the utilization of resources also contribute to the strength of law enforcement agencies. Responding swiftly to emergency calls is a routine task of the police. It is a resource-intensive one, which can largely increase the ability of the police to utilize more resources in crime prevention operations. Police officers realize that long delays in responding to calls and apprehending culprits can also severely affect the satisfaction of citizens with police work. Hence, their capabilities to coordinate and communicate actions to first responders have been complemented by the local communities.
Several technologies such as DNA testing equipment, GIS software, video surveillance networks, inter-agency radios, integrated databases, investigative software, computer-aided dispatch with GPS, and computer-based training equipment help the police in their day-to-day operations. These devices have a great impact because of possessing a high potential for becoming a major strength in preventing, investigating and apprehending criminals. The federal government continues to encourage law enforcement agencies to embrace the latest technologies for the protection and safety of citizens. Wide application of force computer simulators, video surveillance networks, wireless devices in patrol cars, GIS software, inter-agency radios, and computer-aided dispatch with GPS has helped in the reduction of crimes (Chari, Sarv, & Parthiban, 2010).
Limitations of Technology Adoption
There are many barriers to pursuing and utilizing technologies that are desired by police agencies. These are identified as costs, risk of technology, human-associated risk, and political, economic and legal issues. When considering the implementation of law enforcement technologies by police agencies, costs are considered the primary restriction to the implementation of new devices. Such apprehensions cannot be denied given that any technology can be attractive for purchase at some price, and, until it assures desirable results, cost stands as the initial obstacle in its implementation. Labor-intensive activities of the police demand the acquisition of useful technologies at a competitive price. Thus, police departments can enter into a partnership with those vendors, who can design technologies according to their budget and needs. It will also reduce costs to a large extent, as well as the exchange of devices with other police agencies will benefit police officers. It is not merely the cost of technical devices, which governs their procurement, but also perceived advantages and desirability associated with purchase.
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Besides costs, police agencies are also concerned about some technical risks associated with some technologies. The effectiveness and reliability of an innovation can pose a barrier to its acquisition. Moreover, if police agencies desire to adopt particular technology, appropriate procedures must be followed to develop it to that point where all concerned officers are satisfied. Human factors are also associated with technology adoption. The issue of training, imparting technology, and updating information from other sources are also significant for both forensic science laboratories and police departments. The limitation of sufficiently trained officers challenges the efficiency of forensic science laboratories. The scarcity of forensic experts causes hindrances to collecting evidence of heinous crimes resulting in delays in prosecuting criminals. Presently, technology implementation efforts made by law enforcement agencies are greatly affected by public concerns and their opinion. Citizens are always cautious about their safety and security and expect the police to reduce crimes by using the latest technology. Keeping in view the interest of society in law and order and crafting policies which reduce limitations are beneficial both for citizens and the police (Koper, Bruce, & Bruce, 2009).
New technological advancements have transformed every component of the law enforcement process. It will potentially make police agencies more effective and efficient. In the investigation of crimes, identification of suspects, and evidence collection, technologies, especially the ones based on electronic devices and those that include social and biological devices, continue to improve operations of police officers. When capabilities of the police are enhanced, the possibility that power may be misused either inadvertently or deliberately cannot be ruled out. Lawmakers need to reconsider constitutional limitations to police power and their authority to use particular technologies and procedures. Technological advancements reviewed above offer compelling social benefits, which include crime reduction and the equitable management of justice. The present time demands specific and improved technologies that will satisfy the needs of the public and provide them with the sense of security and safety. Similarly, law enforcement agencies should deeply evaluate technical devices that are cost effective and the most valuable for police officers work. Unfortunately, these recent technological developments also include tools, which widen the network of social control and produce chilling effects of constitutional rights. If coupled with tackling challenges and obstacles inherent in the adoption of technology, its specific objectives can change the work of the law enforcement system, making it more efficient and reducing crime rates.
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