By Captain Eddie Reyes, Sector Two Commander, Alexandria, Virginia, Police Department
ith summer here and the 32nd annual IACP Law Enforcement Information Management (LEIM) Training Conference and Exposition now past, some might think it safe to slow down and put some of their law enforcement technology projects on the “back burner” until the fall arrives. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Traditionally, the summer months are the busiest for most law enforcement agencies, and this year promises to be no different. In today’s economy, where every agency is asked to do much more with much less, many agencies are turning to technology to help accomplish this objective. Whether setting up a video camera surveillance system streaming in a wireless environment or giving officers the latest mobile latent fingerprint identification devices, law enforcement technology personnel are all stepping up to do their part.
The 2008 LEIM annual conference, held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, owed a large part of its success to Colonel Mike Walker, Superintendent of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, and Director Mark Gwyn of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations for the overwhelming support their agencies provided. The largest LEIM conference to date was outstanding, based on the feedback obtained through attendee surveys. Respondents were very pleased with both the lessons learned at the many workshops and the priceless opportunity to network with other law enforcement information technology professionals.
A Need for Improved Technology
As law enforcement veterans will agree, technology plays a very important role in the profession. Twenty years ago, cutting-edge technology meant officers on patrol with “bag phones” securely strapped with Velcro to the consoles of their police cars, next to the mobile data terminal (MDT) with a screen the size of the engine block. Back then, the monthly cellular telephone bill was bigger than some officers’ rent, and the tiny packets of data that barely streamed to the MDT offered very minimal information, such as driver’s license status and vehicle registration—and that was providing that officers were in a metropolitan area with coverage. How things have changed in such a short time!
Today’s generation of law enforcement officers—sometimes referred to as generation Y—demand to know everything about everyone all the time before they get out of their cars. Most of their own computers and cellular technology are far superior to what their agency provides, and, like the average citizen who watches law enforcement shows on television, they are absolutely amazed that agencies are not more up to date.
But high-tech expectations are not entirely the fault of this younger generation. The horrible events of September 11, 2001, brought an expectation from the U.S. public that the law enforcement community be all things to all people all of the time in order to prevent another terrible catastrophe. Before that horrible day, the public simply accepted it when police and fire agencies in a given municipality could not talk to one another, let alone their neighbors. And up until that day, they assumed—incorrectly—that all agencies shared criminal justice data, both internally and with others. Nowadays, failure to share data is simply not acceptable.
The focus of this year’s conference was to enhance law enforcement response and effectiveness using the latest technology. The LEIM conference is the only international law enforcement technology conference designed for practitioners by practitioners, in collaboration with the private sector—true law enforcement partners in the fight against crime.
This year the conference received 180 proposals for presentations from the practitioner community and the private sector, most of them in collaboration with each other. Projects mixed old-fashioned police work with the latest technology, such as data sharing and system integration, strategic response planning, mobile data computing, homeland security (license plate and biometric recognition), 700-MHz mobile broadband, and a sincere focus on standards and training.
For those who missed this year’s conference, many mainstream projects in law enforcement technology currently deal with detecting, capturing, and preserving digital evidence for criminal prosecution. Vehicles, cellular telephones, and license plate recognition systems all capture a great deal of critical data that can seal the fate of any criminal where this technology is available. For example, today’s motor vehicles provide more detailed information about their speed, occupant use of seat belts, and accelerator and brake pedal use than could a human witness. Any or all of this information could be vital to a prosecution when vehicles are used in the commission of a crime, especially when crashes result and defendants wish to dispute the facts about the vehicle’s actions.
Everyone has a cellular telephone today. The explosion of cell phone use has caused the law enforcement community to partner up with the commercial mobile radio service providers to collaborate in the fight against crime. Only those who work in this field regularly can grasp the amount of data available through cell phone use. Countless cases are now made against defendants as a direct result of data provided by their cell phone service providers.
As stated earlier, the summer months are no time to put technology projects on the back burner. Nominations will be due very soon for the fifth annual IACP-iXP Excellence in Technology Awards. This award program—an international competition open to local, tribal, state, provincial, federal, and multijurisdictional law enforcement agencies—recognizes a law enforcement agency’s superior achievement and innovation in the field of communication and information technology. For more information on this program and to apply for an award, readers should visit the IACP-iXP Excellence in Technology Awards Web page.1 The application deadline is July 25, 2008. This is an excellent opportunity to showcase the tremendous achievement an agency has made in combating crime by using less personnel and more technology.
The seventh annual IACP South American Executive Policing Conference in Curitiba, Brazil, on August 3–5, will give law enforcement personnel another opportunity to network with international partners to learn from their successes and share some of their own. Of course, not long after that is the 115th Annual IACP Conference, taking place November 8–12 in San Diego, California. This summer the law enforcement community will continue focusing on doing more with less, thanks in no small part to the continuing technological advances that help officers to do their jobs better. ■
1The page is accessible at http://www.iacptechnology.org/IACP-iXP%20AwardProgram.html.