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Police: Organization and Management - Information Technologies And The Police

agencies calls data officers

Police organizations collect and store a vast amount of information. Traditionally, this information resided on sheets of paper stored in file cabinets. Today, police organizations are being transformed by the information age. Most have implemented management information systems (MIS) to record, store, access, and analyze data on calls-for-service from citizens, the nature of the police response to these calls, reported crimes, arrests, gun permits, motor vehicle stops, and many other types of data. Some agencies maintain centralized control over access to information, while others have adopted integrated management systems that can be accessed by law enforcement officials at any level (from patrol officer to chief). This "all access" approach allows employees with different needs to access the data without having to wait or file a formal request. Some agencies store and access data electronically, but do not use it as a means for improving the organization. Others use data as a tool to improve management and operations. While most large police agencies today have made enormous improvements in their capacity to collect and store large amounts of data, many have made little progress in using the data they collect. Developing the ability to use data for improving operations and management represents an important challenge for police organizations today. This section introduces some of the information technologies used by police and discusses their potential for improving police management.

Computer Aided Dispatch systems (CAD) are now commonly used by many police departments. CAD systems prioritize calls-for-service received by the communications center, "stacking" less urgent calls so that police officers can respond to those calls requiring more immediate attention. Once a call is prioritized by the CAD system, it can be broadcast to an officer in a patrol car through either the radio or a computer. CAD makes it easier for human call-takers and dispatchers to remain abreast of what calls are being answered, where officers are located, and how long they have been out on a call. This reduces the likelihood of dispatching errors and enhances officer safety (George). CAD systems are also useful for collecting and storing data. Once a call is received at the communications center, it is categorized by the CAD system. Depending on the agency's information storage capacity, the data are then integrated into the information system for some period of time, after which they are archived for long-term storage.

Many police agencies in the United States now have Mobile Digital Terminals (MDTs) or Computers (MDCs) installed in their patrol cars (hereafter referred to as MDTs). MDTs have a number of uses, not all of which are available in all jurisdictions. First, they allow an officer to receive "silent dispatches" over the computer rather than through the radio, so that police scanners can not be used to monitor police communications. Second, officers can check motor vehicle registrations, drivers' licenses, and outstanding warrants directly, without having to wait for a dispatcher to run a computer check. Third, officers can enter police reports into the computer while out in the field, rather than having to return to the police station early to complete paperwork. Fourth, officers can send e-mail to other officers, including those who are not on duty at the time. Finally, officers can sometimes retrieve information on arrests, criminal backgrounds, and calls for service from databases that are networked between agencies at local, state, or federal levels. According to the 1997 Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) survey, 78 percent of large municipal law enforcement agencies in the United States use some type of mobile digital terminal or computer (Reaves and Goldberg).

Using statistical methods and geographic mapping techniques to analyze trends in crime, disorder, arrests, and calls-for-service (hereafter called crime analysis) is now becoming popular in many agencies. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are useful for visually plotting the occurrence of particular offenses within a jurisdiction. By combining statistics on crime, disorder, arrests, or calls-for-service with descriptions of land areas, crime analysts are able to "map-out" those areas in the community with concentrations of particular problems. The police can then focus their efforts within these relatively small "hot spots." The maps produced by GIS are more than a fancy replacement for the old-fashioned "pin maps" used by police for years. Ideally, they should be able to track crime trends (or trends in calls or disorder) as they evolve. Thus, if a police sting operation in a particular neighborhood results in the displacement of offenders to the surrounding areas, the GIS maps should reflect this movement. Few agencies have reached this ideal state yet due to problems in linking separate databases and computer systems. Once these problems are ironed out, crime mapping will represent an increasingly important tool used by the police to analyze and respond to crime trends. According to the 1997 LEMAS survey, 60 percent of local law enforcement agencies with one hundred or more officers use computers for crime mapping (Reaves and Goldberg).

Other information technologies have more direct application for conducting investigations and tracking offenders. For example, digital imaging allows "mug shots," suspect composites, and other photographs or images to be stored electronically and transmitted to other police agencies. The Automated Fingerprints Identification System (AFIS) stores pictures of fingerprints in a national database of over 30 million fingerprint cards (Peak). AFIS allows investigators to solve criminal cases that are several months or even several years old. According to the 1997 LEMAS survey, most local and state law enforcement agencies that employed one hundred or more police officers had access to AFIS in 1997 (Reaves and Goldberg).

Because management information technology has become so valuable to police departments across the country, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has created the Law Enforcement Information Management Section (LEIM) to create long- and short-term goals for the use of computerized information systems in law enforcement agencies. Members of LEIM believe that the dramatic increase in the use of computers by law enforcement officials will also increase the need for computer training at every level of law enforcement in the future (International Association of Chiefs of Police). Police agencies face a number of hurdles as they struggle to embrace the information age. Finding qualified and trustworthy information-technology professionals is often difficult for police agencies. Those who are qualified can usually find much higher-paying positions in the private sector. Analyzing information for operational purposes (such as crime analysis) is one step above simply collecting and storing it. Analyzing information for management purposes—to enhance accountability and improve the responsiveness of the organization—represents a much more dramatic step. Both steps are necessary before police organizations can truly become "learning organizations" (Senge).

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about 7 years ago

this writeup has helped me grately in my research work. Thanks

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over 7 years ago

thx, this helped a lot with my homework

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over 2 years ago

May I ask who are the programmers who work on this project thanks :)

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over 6 years ago

This is useful info. it has helped. Thanks

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over 7 years ago

is this about america or britain?

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about 8 years ago

I am a student of MBA and in concern to that I was searching the
useful material related with the Role of MIS in police department. I have gone through the material and my search ended. Thanks