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Back to Archives | Back to February 2014 Contents 

President's Message

Technology's Role in Policing

By Yousry “Yost” Zakhary, Director, Woodway, Texas, Public Safety Department

As law enforcement leaders, we recognize that technology plays a critical and increasingly important role in the daily work of our officers, equipping them with enforcement and investigative tools that make us safer, better informed, and more effective and efficient. However, despite the clear benefits of technologies like automated license plate readers, unmanned aerial systems, and video surveillance systems, many communities around the United States have or are considering limiting or even rejecting the use of some of these technologies.

Privacy advocates, elected officials, and members of the public have raised important questions about how and under what circumstances many of these technologies are deployed and about the retention, use, and sharing of the data that is gathered. To help agencies respond to these concerns, the IACP has released a Technology Policy Framework, available in the print issue on pages 36-40 and online, to aid law enforcement agencies in the planning, management, and use of new and emerging technologies.

To promote public confidence and address privacy concerns, the IACP believes it is imperative that law enforcement agencies create and enforce comprehensive policies governing the deployment and use of these technologies and the data they provide. The framework is a critical tool to help law enforcement executives establish effective agency policies regarding the use of technologies and to reassure the public that their privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties are recognized and protected. It highlights important factors to take into account when deciding whether to incorporate and integrate certain technologies. More important, it identifies nine universal principles that should be considered when developing agency policies.

Advances in technology and equipment, when properly deployed and monitored, are clearly beneficial to the law enforcement profession and greatly assist in fulfilling our mission to protect the public.

However, even while we recognize and incorporate the increasing role that technology plays in 21st century law enforcement, we must not forget the need to maintain and enhance the essential “human” skills that are critical to policing. Reliance on technology, coupled with other factors that threaten to separate officers from citizens, has raised concerns among law enforcement executives that the core communications skills required of police officers have diminished. Interviewing skills, report writing, critical thinking, problem solving, interrogation skills, and testifying in court are a few of the skills that may be eroding.

It is imperative that we not let technology replace the essential tool of human communications and basics of police work. Training, officer safety, report writing, fact finding, and interviewing and interrogating witnesses and suspects are all basic tools and essential elements of policing that we must impart to our officers. As law enforcement executives and leaders, we must ensure that the basic practices that start in the police academy continue in the training that we provide throughout the careers of our officers.

Farewell to James W. McMahon

James W. McMahon has retired from his position as Deputy Executive Director of the IACP. Mr. McMahon was a huge asset to the association, and I think I speak for everyone when I say we appreciate all that he has done for the association during his seven-year tenure.

Mr. McMahon was extremely involved in the day-to-day operations of the association, and through his efforts, he has left the IACP in a better place than before his arrival. I know many of you have a personal relationship with Jim, and you also respect and appreciate what he has done for the association, membership, and staff.

Mr. McMahon has been in public service for 43 years, starting his career in the U.S. Army and then joining the New York State Police where he served for decades in many operational roles before retiring as the Superintendent of State Police. He later became the Director of the Office of Homeland Security for the State of New York after the tragic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

In each of these roles he has served his country, his state, and the association ably and with great honor, dedication, and commitment. Mr. McMahon is the consummate professional, dedicated fully to the law enforcement mission in all that he does, and he has been a great mentor for me and many of you along the way. I have had the privilege of knowing Jim for years—first as General Chair of State Associations of Chiefs of Police (SACOP), and then as Deputy Executive Director, and he always served selflessly. He is a man of his word and has integrity beyond reproach.

I know each and every one of you will join me in thanking Mr. McMahon and his supportive wife, Joan, for all that he has done and wishing him well for his retirement. ♦

Please cite as:

Yousry “Yost” Zakhary, “Technology's Role in Policing,” President’s Message, The Police Chief 81 (February 2014): 6.



From The Police Chief, vol. LXXXI, no. 2, February 2014. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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