New technologies that will most influence law enforcement in the coming year
By Dale Peet
As we close the books on another year,officials should be looking ahead to the key trends that will shape their work in 2013. Here is a quick look at five issues that are likely to have the greatest impact on law enforcement in the coming year.
Law enforcement personnel will become more tech savvy by necessity.
Agencies have to make the most of their resources and strive to get more out of their officers and other personnel. Consequently, personnel are being evaluated on their ability to use technology to discover patterns of criminal activity and disrupt or prevent specific crimes from being committed. This new paradigm in law enforcement differs from the old ideology of merely responding to events after they have been reported. If agencies can forecast the probability of criminal activities based on solid data — and thereby disrupt crimes and terrorism — they can reduce costs across the spectrum.
Social media analytics (SMA) and sentiment analysis will help thwart more crimes.
Many law enforcement agencies are learning about new analytical tools and their ability to determine the likelihood of certain criminal activities. SMA and sentiment analysis tools are used by commercial endeavors to mine customer data, build relationships with customers and strengthen brands. Increasingly, law enforcement agencies and first responders recognize the need to use SMA to canvass social network feeds as an early-warning system for threats on officials and other potential trouble spots. Even the agencies that are monitoring social media are finding that watching feeds requires an enormous amount of time from analysts. Look for automation of the technologies to ease the burden on analysts.
How confidential informants (CIs) are managed and handled will change at the state and federal levels.
The handling of a single CI by multiple agencies can put officers at risk and increases the possibility of manipulation. In 2013, tools will automate multi-jurisdictional deconfliction of informants, giving law enforcement greater latitude in their use and management of CIs while reducing the overall risk to the agency. In addition, CIs have their own motives. These tools will provide a single view of an informant through the deconfliction of CIs, so that different agencies know they aren't being "played."
State and local law enforcement agencies will tap more open-source information to connect crimes and criminal elements.
The use of open-source data – from stories in the news to information on the web – is a growing trend. Improving its use and access are top goals. "The deep web" — defined as information not indexed by traditional search engines — is a new source of interest among law enforcement, and is an area that is not widely understood but can increase the open source data that is available. While a new font of information is a welcome development, its privacy ramifications aren't clear. We could see some lessons learned and new policies developed as agencies explore the ramifications of the deep web as it pertains to privacy and due process.
Real-time situational awareness on mobile devices becomes more of a reality.
As the use of mobile technologies — such as iPads, smart phones and tablets — grows, those devices become ideal delivery methods for automated strategic and tactical information. Officers responding to a call could have information about what else has taken place in the area presented to them on their mobile device in narrative, geospatial or graphical formats. For instance, a patrolman responding to a domestic violence report at an address could pull up a map, see that there has been repeated gang activity across the street and then request back-up before responding. This depth of information gives officers improved risk assessment and a better ability to identify possible threats.
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Dale Peet is a 23-year veteran of the Michigan State Police and the retired commander of the Michigan Intelligence Operations Center, Michigan's largest and primary fusion center for homeland security. He now serves as senior industry consultant at SAS. Peet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.