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Connect with Your Citizens Anywhere They Want - CityConnect: New Mobile App for Law Enforcement

BYOD: Cutting Costs and Boosting Efficiency for the Cash-strapped Agency

So your agency is a bit strapped for cash. Sadly, its not surprising given the Great Recession’s far reaching impact on the operating budgets of law enforcement agencies across the nation.  In fact, IACP’s  2011 study showed that 1/3 of agencies surveyed  nation-wide expected budget reductions in 2012. Just this week, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck announced that his department would lose 500 officers without a $200 million tax increase to fill the department’s budget gap.  It seems agencies everywhere are challenged to do more with shrinking resources but for most communities taking cops off the street to cut costs [is a last resort]. So where else can you find cost savings?

Technology as a Force Multiplier

As cash-strapped communities are looking for ways to cut spending while keeping more officers on the streets, many agencies are cutting back on costly tech budgets while others are shifting their operational models to use technology systems that improve efficiency and cut costs. Take for example San Francisco PD, who recently developed a mobile application that enables officers to  file reports when out on patrol. Designed for use on smartphones, the new application eliminates the need to run back to the office to deal with paperwork which enables officers to stay on the streets up to 4 additional hours per day.

BYOD-Bring Your Own Device 

Unfortunately for the San Francisco PD, they can’t afford the $1.5 million necessary to put smartphones into the hands of every officer. Chances are your agency can’t afford to buy the department that needed batch of tablets, smart phones or other necessary mobile devices either. But why should [the agency] dish out, if those devices are already in the hands of the workforce? Today there are more iPhones are sold per day than babies born in the world; as mobile devices proliferate in the hands of consumers, corporations and government agencies alike are adopting policies that let employees use their personal mobile devices for and at work. In fact, according to a March 2012 GovTech study 40% of state and local IT government professionals say their agencies already have some sort of BYOD policy.

Cutting Costs and Boosting Efficiency

While there are many reasons an agency might consider implementing a BYOD policy, cost savings is chief. According to a May 2012 Cisco Business Solutions study of 600 U.S. IT professionals, savings based on reduction of IT costs and increased productivity ranges from $300 to $1300 annually per employee. So how are government agencies using BYOD to cut costs and boost efficiency?

  • Device Purchase and Maintenance: By letting the force use their own smartphones and tablet devices, IT doesn’t have to purchase as many (if any) smartphone/mobile devices. Additionally, BYOD reduces (if not eliminates) the time and resources necessary for maintaining a fleet of devices (software upgrades, hardware fixes) as the responsibility for device procurement and maintenance falls to employees who own their devices. 
  • Device Training: Specialized hardware and software can be a pain to get the force to adopt en masse. But, BYOD can enable employees to utilize the everyday devices that they are already comfortable using, eliminating the need for employee downtime for device training.
  • Phone/Data Plan Savings: Faced with a 15% IT budget reduction 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission decided they were paying too much for employee mobile phone service, noting that many users weren’t even using their company phones, preferring their own devices.  Implementing a BYOD policy gave employees access to agency email, calendars, contacts and tasks on their phones, monitored their data/phone minutes using mobile device management software and reimbursed them for work use. The result: the agency’s cost for phone service was slashed in half.
  • More Efficient Time in the Field: BYOD and the development of specialized applications (like San Francisco PD’s app to file reports on smartphones) can result in officers spending more time on the streets and less time in the office. BYOD gives police increased access to resources and communication when in the field, additionally giving mounted officers, cops on bikes and others mobile access they could only achieve previously by lugging around clunky ruggedized laptops.

Ready or not, BYOD is coming. Heck, it may have already arrived.

As more and more consumers get smartphones and tablets, its likely BYOD is already happening at your agency whether sanctioned or not; perhaps a detective uses his personal smartphone to check work email or maybe a crime analyst checks documents or pulls up on her iPad. Since people’s attachment to their mobile devices doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, BYOD is most certainly on its way if not already here to stay. Our advice: Don’t fight it. Leverage it. Save some dough to keep more cops on the street, and more streets safe.

Already Doing This?

Let us know how its working for you, what cost savings you’ve found, and what other hitherto tips and insights that can help fellow agencies successfully implement BYOD. Use the comments section below to share your best practices.



Debunking The Myths of Intelligence-Led Policing

During my many conversations with law enforcement executives, I am asked “isn’t Intelligence-Led Policing just for large agencies?” This is perhaps the largest misconception surrounding Intelligence Led Policing. In fact, there’s a few myths that feed the idea that ILP isn’t for every agency. So much so, that I’d compelled to put finger to keyboard to shed some light on the truth. Here’s some the top myths that persists in the market today.

Myth #1. Intelligence-Led Policing has roots in concepts from the FBI and other national level agencies, and well, the federal system is nothing like ours.
There is a long held belief, and generally rooted in truth, that national law enforcement agencies and local law enforcement agencies do not play well with each other. Along with that belief, and not holding with the truth, is that federal and local agencies do not deal with the same problems. We do deal with the same problems, just with larger or smaller quantities.

9/11 taught us that the communication break down between federal and local agencies caused a security risk that not only affected certain areas; it affected the nation as a whole. In the same way, we need to think of our agencies not solely in respect to their size, but as a part of a larger whole. The better each agency understands their crime and the patterns around those crimes, they are then able to share that information with neighboring agencies and thus work together to attack the bigger crime pattern in their geographic area.

Myth #2. “We are a small city, we know our crimes. We don’t need some new way of policing to tell us what is going on in our city.”
This is a very commonly held belief among smaller rural agencies. We all know that good cops with some years under their belt have a great sense of what is going on in their city. These are the folks that the rookies can rely upon to give them the best start on understanding crime in their city. I have found that within each department there are a number of these veteran cops with this type of good information and sense about their city.

However, I have also found that each of these cops have expertise and specific knowledge in different areas and very rarely do they come together to put this information in one location that everyone can access. I encourage the command staff of these agencies to choose one of these veteran officers as their Intelligence Officer, train them in Intel and give them what they need to gather that information and utilize it to better the department. I tell these agencies that they are already embracing the idea of intelligence led policing, now put it to work.

Myth #3. “Intelligence-Led Policing is an expensive money drain that takes a good officer off the street and wastes their efforts.”
Many administrators believe that creating an Intelligence-Led Policing division takes expensive software, extensive training, and the “loss” of a good officer. They see super large agencies with expansive computers systems and large groups of Intel Analysts and believe that this is the only way to accomplish Intelligence-Led Policing.

Not True! The size of your intelligence unit should reflect the size of your department. A very effective intelligence unit can consist of one officer if that is along the lines of the size of the department. Likewise, the software used to assist with the intelligence unit can be relatively inexpensive. The key is to find software addresses the needs of your agency and is easy to use. A cost-effective and smart solution utilizes the scalable and readily available infrastructure available to in a cloud-based setup.

A cloud-based platform allows an agency the flexibility of having a large, powerful data resource without the cost of owning their own servers, maintenance that comes with that, or the IT resource required to manage it all.

Intelligence-Led Policing isn’t about over-priced, uber-tech gadgets. It’s about utilizing the data that you’ve accumulated over decades of policing your citizenry to harvest actionable intelligence that ultimately allows you to make decisions that keep your community safer. Don’t let the myths remain. Debunk them by exploring tools that allow you to take your intelligence efforts to the next level.

Why Intelligence-Led Policing? The Answer Part 2

*This is part three of a multi-part series on Intelligence-Led Policing by Detective DJ Seals.

Compiling various information sources is key to making Intelligence-Led Policing work. Many times police departments are content with the information they currently have. Let’s face it, we tend to live in an informational world contained within the four walls of our departments, ignoring outside information sources. But for Intelligence-Led Policing to work, it is paramount to gather intelligence from three key sources.

1) Notebooks

Obviously the most immediate source of information will be your in-house records management system – which should be used in conjunction with those notebooks your officers keep with them on the road. Those little notebooks very rarely get included in your departments’ intelligence data, but are often the most accurate source of direct intelligence involving the daily workings of your community. Make sure your officers are transferring the detailed notes they’ve taken into every report they make. And I encourage you, if you are still a paper-heavy agency, move to electronic based methods for recording and sharing information whenever possible.

2) Other Local Agencies

It’s importnat to share information and crime data with neighboring police departments in order to pick up on crime trends and reduce the threat.

One great chasm that many departments still face is the divide between county Sheriff’s departments and municipal Police Departments; floating an ideal of “theres us and then theres them.” This must be broken down in order to compile the next most important data set — that of your neighboring agencies. The criminal element within your jurisdiction does not stop committing crimes because they come to your city/county limits. We all understand that our criminals are also our neighboring agencies criminals. Criminals are irrespective of jurisdictional lines and do not care what color uniform you wear. As a matter of fact, it is in their best interest to move their criminal escapades around. They know we do not share information as freely as we should. We must combat this by breaking down the informational barriers between departments. By sharing local intelligence, we can finally act as one law enforcement body and not individual agencies. One method for sharing information may include third-party systems that can import and codify data regardless of specific types of RMS or CAD systems that may be used by the individual departments. Once this happens, you can begin to discover crime trends that link criminal elements across geographic boundaries.

3) State and Federal Agencies

After you have a grasp and have taken full advantage of all of your local intelligence sources, it is time to…., yes I am going to say it……reach out to your state and federal sources. If we thought the perceived divide between local agencies was wide, then the perceived divide between local agencies and state and federal agencies must be the Grand Canyon. However, since 9/11, state and federal agencies have begun to understand the great impact local intelligence has on national security. Case in point; it was discovered, after the fact, that the terrorists involved in 9/11 drove through the state of Georgia. Not only did they drive through, but they were traffic-stopped a number of times. Even though some of the terrorists were already on a national watch list, they were never flagged because so many of our smaller local systems were not directly linked with the national system.

Reach out to your state and local agencies, join their intelligence sharing meetings and e-mail servers, and don’t just read what they send out – contribute!

I Have a Challenge for You

Would 9/11 have happened as it was planned had one of those traffic stops flagged the terrorists? Have we really moved on toward sharing intelligence? What steps are you taking to share your intelligence with local, state, and federal agencies? It is up to you to reach out to all possible intelligence sources, compile the information, make that information accessible to your stake holders, and put Intelligence-Led Policing into action!

In my next blog, I will explain what to do with this information after you have gathered it, and how to get it out to your officers and community. As always, feel free to ask questions as we move along on our Intelligence-Leg Policing journey.

“Why Intelligence-Led Policing? The Answer”

This is part two of a multi-part series on Intelligence-Led Policing written by Detective Daniel Seals of the Covington, GA Police Department. Stay tuned each Thursday for a new entry.

Why Intelligence-Led Policing 

Well, because you are probably already doing it and just don’t realize it. Ask any of your veteran officers, “where are our highest crime areas?”or “who do we deal with the most?” They’ll all have answers for you, and they’ll all sound pretty similar. This is what Intelligence-Led Policing is all about though — taking the information you already have and doing something useful with it. That last part is usually the gap in most departments; doing something with it. Officers have actionable intelligence, but rarely do they put it to use or share it with other officers and command staff. There is for a multitude of reasons. For instance, officers are told; “stay in your zone/beat”, “drive around and make sure the public sees you”, “don’t get in to anything so you can answer your calls.” These are all generally good tenants of policing, but they don’t allow for an intelligence-led, focused way of policing.

Focus on High Crime Areas

If you know where your crime is generally and where it isn’t generally, then why not focus your patrols in the areas where crime is? This sounds pretty obvious, but all too often policing turns into a game of, “drive around and see if you find something while answering calls in between.” This is akin to the “spray and pray” method of firearms, where you fire your weapon multiple times in multiple directions with the assumption that you will surely hit something. We would never teach our officers to do this. We teach them to be precise and exacting on the firearms range. How about using the same precision and exacting nature in the rest of their job? Why not go to where you know the crime is and hang out there until you get a call? I guarantee your mere increased presence in these high crime areas will at the very least disrupt the criminal element in these areas. By no means am I suggesting a neglect of the other areas of your city or township, but rather a focus on the higher crime areas. This is, of course, a very elementary break down of Intelligence-Led Policing — it’s also an illustration of a starting point.

Extract Individual Information and Compile it Holistically 

Intelligence-Led Policing starts with taking all of the information your officers already have, coupling it with other local, state, and federal intelligence, adding it to the crime data you have compiled in you records, and finally, mixing it together to create an intelligence product that your entire department can use. Again, this is not far from what you are doing now, it’s just a more structured way of putting it all together and most importantly getting it out to your officers so they can use it every day, all day.

Between now and my next entry, I encourage you to make a list of all the different information sources that you currently have access to. Because in my next blog, I will describe how to compile this information, make it accessible, and actually get your officers to “buy in” to this new way of policing.

Feed a Family, Feed a Community

Photo by Matt Hagen via Flickr

Remember Bozeman? The Montana city with so much social media controversy? First, the town was called out all over the Web for demanding not only access to its employees’ social pages, but also their account passwords. Then, a Bozeman police officer resigned after public outcry over his poorly worded Facebook status update.

Bozeman police are again in the news, but not for social media. This time, the highlight is for an officer who went beyond his sworn duties to help a fellow human being—after he’d arrested him.

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