Police Chiefs Talk Priorities: Collaboration and Advanced Technologies

February 2019

Many of the pressing issues facing law enforcement today were discussed at the recent Major Cities Chiefs Association conference in Washington DC. The event, which featured talks by senior officials from various police departments and sheriff’s offices, as well as remarks by President Donald Trump, shed light on four key areas that chiefs of police see as top priorities – one of which is harnessing advanced technologies to solve crime.

Following the event, we sat down with Voyager Labs’ EVP Sales Americas, Amit Gavish, to hear all about the key takeaways from MCCA for Law Enforcement professionals.

Collaboration Between Federal and Local Authorities

If I had to pinpoint one overarching message from this conference, it would be the need for collaboration.

As we all know, it used to be that issues like counter-terrorism, homeland security and border security were strictly the domain of federal agencies. But it’s clear to everyone that there’s a need to investigate these threats at the local, municipal level as well, since they are on the ground and the federal agencies can’t be everywhere at once. But here’s the problem – only the very largest police forces have the resources to devote to these types of activities.

In addition, even the types of issues that police chiefs have been dealing with for a while – gun violence, drug trafficking, fraud – have all become far more complex. They nearly always span multiple jurisdictions, often cross borders, and certainly require cooperation among agencies.

So collaboration is a must, and there’s mutual recognition that this needs to happen. But this is more than just the post-9/11 realization that the different departments must share information; this is about enabling every police force to have the types of analytical abilities that will allow them to reach conclusions. We’re at the point already where without this capability, police chiefs are lacking the basic tools to do their job.

A related trend that I expect we’ll see more of is an increase in the number of fusion centers, not just sharing information but really working together in a federal/state/local partnership. We’ve seen this initiative in action already with the HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) program, and this model can be applied to other investigative domains.

Applying Advanced Technology To Solving Crimes

When you talk to police chiefs, there’s a growing understanding that the ability to analyze data from cyberspace is something that every agency should have in its toolbox. They see it as an integral information source, no different than analyzing search results, staking out a house, or using forensics and security cameras. Like any other investigative method, it needs to be used responsibly and should be held to the same privacy standard as any other investigative technique. But unlike other investigative techniques, there is a big question about how to effectively harness billions of dynamic data points that are constantly changing. This challenge is amplified by the growing number of cases being dealt with at once. This is where advanced technologies come in, since these data points are too vast and complex to be meaningfully analyzed any other way. Automated insights can provide a pivotal edge in the workflow.

Preventing Gun Violence Against Officers

Another major topic that was widely discussed was gun violence across the country and its impact on officer safety. Last year, firearm-related deaths surpassed traffic-related deaths for the first time in 20 years. Word on the street from veteran officers is that suspects have become far less hesitant to shoot a police officer for fear of punishment. So this casualty level among officers is very high and it’s a very worrisome trend. Chiefs of police are responsible for mitigating and preventing this violence, which is no easy task.

Bridging the Generational Gap

There’s a really interesting discussion going on among police chiefs about the generational change taking place. The chiefs understand that they need to embrace technology, and if they’re not conversant with the latest innovations themselves, they need to surround themselves with people who are. They know that the technological side of law enforcement is a powerful edge in the fight against crime, and is therefore a necessary trend to adopt. These chiefs are starting to see a new generation of law enforcement personnel who are very much at ease with technology and naturally inclined to incorporate as many data-driven insights as they can into their everyday work. On the one hand, it is well known that the rise of online activity creates more cyber threats, but on the other hand, it provides an additional layer rich with relevant information. The new generation of police officers, who were ‘born digital’, may be able to help drive change in their departments by combining great police work with powerful technology, and creating a force multiplier.

Chiefs of police have many diverse challenges to handle this year. But with better collaboration between departments and across jurisdictions, by bridging the generational gap and by embracing advanced technologies, they can make sure that they are leveraging every opportunity to overcome these challenges.

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