Law enforcement turns to new tech solutions to help cops in the field

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                It’s no secret – major tensions still exist between law enforcement and some communities, with frequent calls to “defund the police” from activists who feel cops are too quick to use violence.  But a new survey shows those opinions don’t represent the majority of America, and now a growing number of police departments across the country are embracing mobile technology, hoping it will help bridge the gap – and streamline the job for cops in the field. 

                The survey – by the public safety-focused software company Mark43 – shows most Americans are backing the blue.  72 percent of respondents say they reject the “defund the police” agenda, and actually want cops to have more resources. That’s where technology comes in. Mark43 and other companies are increasingly focusing on new tech tools that will make it easier for police to keep the peace.  Mark 43 co-founder Matt Polega says it’s a win-win, noting cops “can leverage all this mobile technology that they have, remain in the field, and get information more quickly.”

                And that information flow is now being managed in many cities by mobile apps designed to give police a leg up in the field. One program is a dispatch tool that gives police a better sense of what they’re walking into when responding to a potentially-dangerous call; information on the situation is automatically sent to an officer’s cell phone, ensuring they’re not diving in blind.  “They could know exactly where they have to get to, they could see the route they have to take,” according to Polega,”and then they can also maybe get a little bit of a preview of what kind of situation they’re going to be dealing with.” 

                But the company’s poll also exposed a significant gap between what most people see on the streets and what law enforcement officers are actually doing.  It’s not uncommon to see police on their phones, and most of the time they’re engaged in work-related applications.  But 32 percent of Americans say they didn’t understand that cops use their phones for work, doing everything from data entry to dispatch.  “In reality, a lot of those police officers are actually spending a lot of time doing things like communicating with other police officers, getting important information from headquarters,” says Polega.  And that disparity is creating a major misconception, leading to mistrust between police and the people they serve. 

                Ultimately, most police departments say they expect in-field technology like the apps developed by Mark43 to expand in the coming years.  And in 2023, law enforcement agencies around the world are expected to spend a whopping 18 billion dollars on new technology.  The hope is all that new tech will lead to improved policing, and hopefully, more trust in law enforcement.  And Polega says it’s already having a big impact, claiming “we’ve seen arrest reporting times down 50 percent, we’ve seen offense reporting times get driven down by about 80 percent, and that makes sure police are back in the field, serving their communities, and doing the job they actually signed up for, instead of paperwork.”