It makes sense for police to rely more and more on cloud computing to move and store data, says Ahsan Baig, the Oakland (Calif.) police department’s Division Manager-Public Safety Services and Business Applications. Law enforcement, he adds, can leverage other technologies to work with the cloud.

Baig notes that the cloud can help departments get a grip on data. On top of archiving it, departments go through and process and move the data across different networks and different buildings. It’s a monumental task. I can’t imagine putting all of it on a server at the station.” Baig’s department is currently testing a Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS)-compliant cloud platform to store body-worn camera video. Click here for details on the test.

Baig’s views mesh with findings from an International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) survey. More than half (54 percent) of responding police departments are already using the cloud or considering/planning to use it in the next 2 years, according to the survey. About 16 percent of responding departments are using the cloud already. A total of 272 agencies, including municipal and county police departments, sheriffs’ departments and state police agencies responded to the survey.

The IACP poll shows 10 percent of responding departments are currently using cloud applications for crime reporting/analysis, mapping, and records management. Almost half of responding departments are planning or considering using those kinds of cloud-based apps in the next 2 years.

Baig already see value in crime and emergency incident reporting via video in the cloud. “Situational awareness video or SAV can be so critical in any kind of police or emergency response, including medical emergencies, because situational awareness is extremely important for incident commanders. So having the video and having the capability to stream it back to the incident commander, that itself is just phenomenal and is quite valuable.”

Cloud-based and cloud-delivered data and video can be crucial in keeping officers aware of risks and danger, says Randy Gaines, a senior project manager for Decatur, Ga.-based Utility Associates and a retired NYPD detective. “The ability to send real-time BOLO’s (Be On the Look Out alerts) from a cloud-based system to and from a line officer(s) is a very valuable capability.

“Storing BOLO alert data in the cloud means it is available to one or all police officers in the field immediately, and to any police officer who later comes on duty and wants to know about recent BOLO alerts,” Gaines tells American City & County. He adds that the cloud aids in collaboration. “Cloud-based data storage provides the capability of being able to share video and other data between public safety agencies.”

Utility Associates provides critical mobile communications connectivity hardware and software systems.

The IACP also has released “Guiding Principles on Cloud Computing for Law Enforcement.” The report was developed in partnership with experts from SafeGov.org. Law enforcement subject matter experts from around the U.S. assisted in the report’s preparation.

The principles create a path forward for the exploration of cloud-based computing solutions and services by law enforcement. They also set up concise and clear parameters. The principles cover a variety of issues. For example, the principles aim to ensure that:

  • Cloud providers comply with FBI CJIS security policies;
  • Law enforcement agencies retain ownership of their data;
  • The cloud provider does not mine or otherwise process or analyze their data for any purpose not explicitly authorized by the law enforcement agency;
  • Regular audits are scheduled and conducted on the use and access to their data, and compliance with the terms of any agreement.

Next week, the second part of this story tells how police are conserving cash by moving applications and functions to the cloud. It also discusses securing police data and video in the cloud.

Michael Keating is Senior Editor at Government Product News, an American City & County sister brand.