Interested in what’s next for law enforcement technology?

In our last blog on law enforcement technology we looked at some of the challenges agencies face when selecting and evaluating the right mobile computing technology for law enforcement based on a recent discussion with Michael McElroy, Director of the Information Technology Bureau at the Fairfax County Police Department. Now, we want to share some of Michael’s thoughts on what the future of law enforcement technology will look like in the years to come.

Q: What are departments looking for in terms of mobile computing solutions now and in the future?

Michael McElroy: As the jobs of officers continue to evolve and their technology needs change, law enforcement agencies need to evaluate new form factors and capabilities that can support their current requirements while providing a path to future needs. Some law enforcement agencies are starting to consider new 2-in-1 computers that function like a laptop, but have screens that can detach and provide the portability of a tablet. This offers agencies and their officers a lot of flexibility, and we believe these new form factors will continue to gain traction for use in law enforcement.

Q: What are the benefits of a 2 in 1 tablet versus a traditional laptop or tablet for law enforcement agencies?

Michael McElroy: As vehicle cabins get smaller and the amount of technology officers have at their disposal increases, real estate in the patrol car is shrinking. To make the most of their limited space, officers need a more compact device in-vehicle that can be quickly and easily removed and taken wherever the officer needs to go, while still providing access to real time data and information. Our officers prefer using a full size laptop over a tablet because they don’t like virtual keyboards for data entry. However they don’t want to have to carry a bulky laptop when they are out of the car or conducting accident reports. 2-in-1 tablets solve this problem for us because they provide our officers with the best features of both a laptop and tablet.

Agencies are also interested in handheld devices that include high-quality photo capabilities, e-summons, a scan barcode for driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations, and the ability to instantly tap into the law enforcement intranet out in the field. In the near future, officers will be looking for solutions that can perform all of these functions to increase productivity and efficiency with one multi-functional tool.

Q: As agencies are using more technology and capturing more data than ever before, how can they prepare for managing this data while also maintaining efficiency?

Michael McElroy: Our agency is working to digitize our record management system, so that all the information can be funneled into one centralized database that can easily be accessed out in the field. This gives officers the latest information and resources, helping improve safety and efficiency, no matter where they are located.

Anything that simplifies a process or reduces the time it takes to get things done will be important.  The Fairfax County Police Department is currently testing a system that will help an officer write a ticket in about two minutes, which has helped to streamline the process and reduce the amount of time they are put in a vulnerable situation. If you can accomplish everyday tasks like this faster, it improves officer safety. One of our goals is to get rugged mobile devices out in the field that can serve multiple purposes, and expedite tasks.

Q: How are analytics being utilized to help manage all the data agencies deal with on a daily basis?

Michael McElroy: There has been an increased interest from law enforcement in analytics and solutions like Microsoft Aware. This solution provides real-time communication, automatic alerts and video integration capabilities to help agencies investigate and collaborate across jurisdictions.

As agencies expand their use of digital management systems and analytics, they will be looking closely at storage systems that can provide cost effective solutions to safely maintain and store evidence and other valuable data.

Q: Agencies are constantly evaluating new technology solutions but continue to be faced with limited budgets. How can other agencies lower their total cost of ownership for the future?

Michael McElroy: Officers don’t have time for fragile computers and tablets that can easily break or crack.  Any technology used by law enforcement should be purpose-built to handle the demands an officer can experience out in the field, no matter where a call may take them. In emergency response, it is critical to have a reliable computing device to ensure the safety of both the officer and the community. Ask about testing processes and failure rate data to ensure the technology you select will reliably perform when it matters most, and minimize costly downtime and IT repairs.

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