Efficient public safety demands evolving tech
Modern cloud, mobile and data analysis tools are key to streamlined, professional police work, a new survey found.
The majority of first responders still must return to a central location to do much of their work, according to a new report, with most calling for more technology to improve workflow, address crime and strengthen community ties.
Sixty-eight percent of first responders surveyed by public safety cloud software company Mark43 said they file incident reports at a central location like an office, station house or headquarters rather than from their mobile devices in the field. Over 85% called for technology to simplify their federal, state and local crime and incident reporting, and more than half said their department would benefit from an integrated platform that streamlined reporting.
“No police officers signed up to do policing because they wanted to write a bunch of reports, get enveloped in administrative work and push paper around all day,” said Matt Polega, Mark43’s co-founder and head of external affairs. “Unfortunately, huge portions of the global policing population are spending a ton of time doing exactly that.”
While many police departments and other first responder agencies still house much of their data in legacy systems and on-prem servers, Mark43 said that strategy has shifted in the last decade as they have embraced cloud technology.
Having data in the cloud also ensures it is resilient in the face of natural disasters and other incidents, while it also lends itself to more granular analysis and greater transparency for the community. Mark43 found that 66% of survey respondents believe data collected by first responders should be more transparent, while 74% would like to see greater internal transparency at their agencies.
That transparency and data-sharing with the community can help build trust, especially through tools like online dashboards that give the public greater insight into their public safety agency operations. The Mark43 report noted that while data cannot be the only way for officials to show their work to the public, it is a “valuable asset” to help align police activities and community expectations.
Public safety departments’ IT modernization philosophies have been moving away from “duplicating paper processes” and toward new ways of thinking about how to use technology, Polega said. Leaders realized “they can no longer keep recreating the things that they did in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, ” he said. “Like any other large enterprise, they have to keep up with the pace of change.”
Indeed, more than 90% of those surveyed said they rely on their mobile device for communicating with emergency dispatchers, capturing evidence and connecting with the community.
The report also found major concerns about departments’ cybersecurity posture. More than three-quarters of respondents said they worry that their organization’s data is vulnerable to theft and ransomware, while 93% said they had experienced a cybersecurity issue in the last year.
Polega said police departments are especially vulnerable to attack, given the high value of the data they store related to criminal investigations.
“When we think about today's chief and agency leader, none of them signed up to fight hackers trying to access victim data and access witness data,” he said. “But just given where we are in 2022, it is a new responsibility that they have on their plate.”
Enterprise technology that improves processes and keeps departments secure can help officers “get back to the business of policing,” Polega said.