A good police officer is irreplaceable. No technology will ever be able to substitute for the skills, bravery, good judgment, and humanity of a well-trained law enforcement professional. However, various circumstances have placed agencies and departments all over the U.S. in a position where they don’t have enough officers and resources to meet the needs of their communities. Fortunately, Police Chiefs across the country are turning to the latest investigative technologies to supplement their workforces, improve their efficiency, and save taxpayer dollars.
Patrick Cheatwood recently retired as a Police Chief after 28 years in law enforcement. Now, as an Investigation Specialist with Voyager Labs, he helps law enforcement professionals find and implement the latest analytical tools to make their investigations as fast, accurate, efficient, and cost effective as possible. To put it simply, when the machines are working around the clock on the tasks that they can accomplish, the officers have the time to do the work that only humans can do.
According to Cheatwood, the two biggest problems that Police Chiefs face are staffing and public image. Of course, these two problems are connected in some ways. While studies indicate that fewer than 1% of police officers are “bad apples,” controversial incidents and shifting public opinions can negatively affect recruitment. In turn, depleted police forces are less equipped to protect their communities, which can lead to lower public opinion of law enforcement’s effectiveness. When one adds in the crucial factor of reduced funding, it’s easy to see that Police Chiefs have some of the toughest jobs in the world because it’s up to them to somehow make it all work. In the meantime, the public eye is always watching, and the community (understandably) expects quick response times, courteous interactions, and efficient investigations that lead to justice.
For many police departments, analytical technology can make a massive difference when a Chief doesn’t have enough personnel. Advanced investigations software is a one-time purchase that can fill the gaps in understaffed departments without ongoing expenses. As Cheatwood explains, it’s like having an additional investigation team on staff, one that works around the clock, every day. Unlike human personnel, this technology never requires sick leave, personal days, disability, or vacation. It also doesn’t require training, health benefits, special equipment and other expenses that are reasonable for officers, but sometimes difficult for a department to afford.
Cheatwood explained, “the best thing to me as far as the tech goes is the automated keyword search and monitoring. You can set them up for a week, day, or hour and they can notify you every time they get a match.” These keyword search features, often called “topic queries,” search publicly available content across the worldwide web, deep web, and dark web for specific keywords and phrases, slang terms, and even emoji combinations. The best investigative tools can search in over 100 different languages, so translation is no issue. This constant monitoring of open data on social media sites and other open sources is the equivalent of having at least three investigators conducting thorough searches of all available platforms. This capability is especially useful when preparing security for an upcoming event like a concert, political convention, demonstration, or sporting event. The software might flag certain combinations of words that could indicate a crime (bomb, shooting, kidnapping, riot, looting) is being planned at a particular place or event. If certain code words, slang, or emoji codes are known, they can be added to the system’s lexicon and spotted when they are used. Those who would disrupt or take advantage of such gatherings often coordinate their plans via social media, so officers can gain crucial information to help prepare for these events and prevent or minimize criminal activity. This provides a kind of ongoing situational awareness that never turns off and keeps law enforcement informed as new developments happen.
When budget constraints or a lack of qualified applicants leaves a department under-staffed, investigation technology can make all the difference by handling the tedious, time-consuming aspects of investigations and freeing up officers to do their main job, responding to calls from citizens.
To learn more about proven Police Chief strategies for addressing staffing and image challenges, sign up for the Police Chiefs webinar on July 12th – register here.