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First look: 2016 tech trends cops need to know

TASER and Axon have unveiled their first annual law enforcement technology report


The following is paid content sponsored by TASER International and Axon

By PoliceOne BrandFocus Staff

Policing is constantly evolving. Many of the services and products available for law enforcement enable cops to streamline workflow, protect them from false claims of excessive force, or strengthen their connection to the public they serve.

The city of Rialto (Calif.) determined for every dollar spent on body cameras and evidence management, four dollars in hard costs were saved. (AP Image)
The city of Rialto (Calif.) determined for every dollar spent on body cameras and evidence management, four dollars in hard costs were saved. (AP Image)

Here’s the problem: there’s a ton of innovation happening out there, and for even the most tech-savvy, it can be a substantial undertaking to keep up with it all. That’s why TASER International and its Axon brand have gathered facts and figures of current LE tech trends in what is the first of what will become an annual report expertly curated for your convenience. With over 20 years serving the law enforcement industry with cutting-edge products and platforms, TASER and Axon have deep first-hand knowledge of this ever-changing profession. They understand the importance of agencies staying educated about the exciting new products and services that can improve or even transform the way cops conduct their daily duties.

We’ve collected some samples of the company’s report, and you’re likely to find them just as surprising as they are informative. Be sure to download the entire 2016 Law Enforcement Technology report, which also features a checklist of important questions PDs should ask product providers.

Body Cameras
There is clear evidence that body cameras directly affect police use-of-force incidents and civilian complaints against officers in a positive way, but how substantial is the difference? According to police department studies cited in Axon’s report, use-of-force incidents after body cameras were deployed went down by a whopping 75 percent in Mesa (Ariz.), 53 percent in Orlando (Fla.), and 47 percent in San Diego (Calif.). Elsewhere, civilian complaints were down by 87 percent in Rialto (Calif.), 70 percent in Birmingham (Ala.), and 33 percent in Greater London after the tech was rolled out.

As police agencies continue to grapple with the tough questions raised by the technology while crafting their policies, it’s worthwhile to know the public’s opinion on some of these issues. The Spokane (Wash.) police department polled members of the public who were filmed during the department’s body-worn camera trial on topics ranging from overall support for the tech to more complex issues such as whether or not cops should inform a subject they are being recorded prior to a police-civilian interaction. Among the findings, 75 percent of those polled believe the public should be warned prior to a camera’s recording, and 72 percent believe officers should record even during sensitive investigations.

And what about the cost/benefit ratio? The city of Rialto (Calif.) determined for every dollar spent on body cameras and evidence management, four dollars in hard costs were saved. The need for software features such as automatic video redaction, which is already available or being developed by companies like TASER, will likely positively impact this ratio even more. The D.C. Metropolitan police department estimates video redaction to satisfy public records requests would take over 1 million hours — or almost 150 years — of work using manual editing software.

Mobile Phones
Smartphones play a huge role in our daily lives, and there is particular utility in using them in police work. In a recent PoliceOne survey commissioned by TASER, nine out of ten law enforcement officials reported using a mobile phone for work-related communication, including calls (94 percent), texts (92 percent), emails (80 percent), and sharing photos (69 percent). Despite this, very few cops have an agency-issued smartphone (17 percent). This hinders the ability for cops to take advantage of the plethora of ways phones can streamline workflow, given that many officers are hesitant to use their personal phones for on-duty activities for fear of the devices being subject to subpoena.

According to an estimate by the UK National Audit office, 18 extra minutes were spent outside of a police station per officer per shift after agencies there introduced mobile technology into their police force. Overall, one study cited in Axon’s report estimates over 50 million hours and $1.3 billion could be saved if all police departments had mobile data access. One example of the many mobile apps available to save agencies money and time is Calls for Service, which tracks crime and community activity in Oakland (Calif.) in real-time and offers an internal dashboard specifically designed for cops.

The Cloud and PD Security
With the amount of digital evidence being recorded by police agencies steadily increasing, the question of how to store this data (as well as the cost and security considerations that come with it) is weighing heavy on the minds of police leaders.

Given the difficult logistics of storing all digital evidence onsite, many agencies are considering or already using cloud storage. Among the reasons agencies are looking to move to the cloud, 61 percent cited cost effectiveness while 52 percent viewed the eliminated need to manage their own software as the main draw, based on data from an IACP survey cited in Axon’s report.

Despite the advantages to cloud storage, a predominant concern among agencies is the security of this solution versus keeping evidence onsite. But how safe is your police department from a cyber attack that could compromise or result in the loss of your data? According to a study referenced in Axon’s technology guide, 96 percent of public sector organizations have users with compromised identities, 6 percent of users at most organizations have at least one compromised user account, and 82 percent of companies have had behavior indicative of an insider threat. Given this, agencies must carefully analyze their internal security versus the security of an outside storage provider.

Changing Times, Changing Tech
We are in an age of widespread and rapid innovation, and with 64 percent of law enforcement officials TASER surveyed reporting that their technology at home is superior to what they use at work, it’s vital that agencies educate themselves on how they can take advantage of today’s tools and move away from outdated technology.

For more insight into the above subjects, information on other trends TASER and Axon are tracking, and key questions PDs should ask product providers, download the full report.

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