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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.

PublicEngines Named to Inc. 500 List of Fastest-Growing Private U.S. Companies.

Rapid Growth Attributed to Innovative Law Enforcement Technology  

We are really excited to announce that PublicEngines has been recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S. with reported growth of more than 1,247 percent! We’re blown away by the revolution that has taken place within the 5 years since the launch In all, more than 2,500 law enforcement agencies, school districts, and nonprofit organizations worldwide have adopted at least one of our platforms. Astonishing.

The Inc. 500 list ranked PublicEngines as the fourth fastest growing company in the security category and 297th fastest growing private company in the country.

We’d like to congratulate all of our customers. You believed in us to deliver what you needed even when we were a whole lot smaller and totally unproven. In complete honesty, you deserve more recognition then I’m sure you get for your desire to be more open and communicative with the people you serve and willingness to adopt new technologies that help accomplish those goals. You took a big risk. Thank You.

William Kilmer, CEO of PublicEngines, notes  “Moving forward, law enforcement agencies can expect PublicEngines to deliver a robust set of solutions with new capabilities that will continue making their jobs easier and their communities safer.”


First Time Visiting? Here’s a brief introduction to what we do

PublicEngines’ products include, the industry’s most popular online crime mapping and engagement solution as well as the free CrimeReports mobile app for iPhones, used by law enforcement agencies to publish crime data and increase public information flow and interaction; CommandCentral, the leading cloud-based crime intelligence and data visualization tool, providing law enforcement agencies with insightful analytics used to solve and prevent crime; And TipSoft, the industry’s most widely-adopted tip information and workflow management platform developed for gathering anonymous tips from the public and disseminating alerts.

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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Keep Up With Your Reading

Part of what makes a profession a profession—and not just a job—is that a professional is, or should always be, trying to grow in their job knowledge and skills. For me, part of this growth process involves lots and lots of reading. The web has exploded the availability of professional reading for crime analysts.

A while back I posted on using Google Alerts to search the web for news stories that interest you. Tools like Google Alerts, RSS feeds and email lists can generate tons of articles that you need to read. For me, I find that my workflow is best if I segregate activities like professional reading to certain times of the workday. But it seems like new stuff to read comes at me all throughout the workday. How best to generate a reading list for later in an easy, non-intrusive manner?

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