Big data and analytics are impacting industries across the board from telecom to health care. Insurance companies are using data not only to reduce fraud but also to provide faster analysis for claims and targeted programs for their members. Advertising has morphed into a networking relationship, using data collected from social media to partner brands with celebrities and athletes who use their own personal platforms for mutually beneficial partnerships.
One study published by Forbes reported that 84% of companies see big data analytics changing their industries’ competitive landscape and another 89% believe not adopting a big data analytics strategy would result in losing market share and momentum.
Clearly, data analysis isn’t reserved for just tech companies and IT teams any longer.
So if data is moving and changing nearly every professional and personal landscape, where does law enforcement fit into this movement?
Data (Missing) in Police Work
In general, law enforcement has been slower to adopt new developments using big data. And since the stakes are higher than just a few points of market share, it is with good reason there is a hesitation to implement the latest data use on the market without careful consideration.
One early criticism of data use in law enforcement is the integrity of data being collected. In some scenarios, data sourced for law enforcement software is mined from a CAD (Computer-aided Dispatch) or 9-1-1 calls. But these systems are designed to record every call that comes in- regardless if those calls are later verified as any sort of criminal activity or simply a false alarm from an overly cautious citizen.
It would appear the old computer science adage “garbage in, garbage out” applies in the public sector as well. If the data being mined is skewed with invalid or incomplete information, any analysis of that data is going to be compromised as well.
A bigger hurdle for law enforcement is the public perception of data being used to target people, race, or demographics. Thanks to science fiction movies and dystopian plots, the idea of law enforcement using data to further their police work often gets misconstrued into a version that plays well on TV but has little truth to it.
Unfortunately, this has only contributed to the strain placed on relationships between law enforcement and our communities in recent years. Identifying solutions that support efforts like community policing without using unnecessary data like personal information is crucial to improving law enforcement transparency and strengthening community relations.
The uncertainty in adopting data use is compounded by the pressure of understaffed departments with limited resources. One of the emerging trends facing agencies is the diminishing number of experienced officers due to the retirement rate of baby boomers. This equates to agencies that are understaffed and a force that is gradually becoming a younger and, therefore, less experienced group.
With the issues facing law enforcement in today’s social climate and the vagueness that can sometimes surround big data use, it is easy to see why law enforcement hasn’t been the first to jump on board.
But is that reason enough to disregard the benefits and increased efficiency that data CAN offer to our police forces?
So what’s next...
Some agencies are beginning to see the value in using data to re-focus efforts toward community policing and improving community relationships. A study released by the Police Foundation in 2016 highlighted various positive results from an increase in foot patrol, the most notable effect being an improvement in relationship building between police and citizens.
Using data to focus on neighborhoods or city blocks that are most vulnerable, allows agencies to make the most impact, even with limited officer resources. That’s where PredPol comes in.
Departments are discovering how data can fill in the gaps for a newer, younger emerging police force. New officers using PredPol can receive compressed data about a patrol beat that normally might take months or even years to gather on their own. They can now enter their shift with more knowledge and the ability to use that information to better engage with their community.
Seasoned vets can review data showing gradual changes in criminal behavior or activity that can redirect them from what might have become less effective, routine patterns.
Agencies now have access to systems that can overcome many of issues that originated with early adopters in data use for law enforcement. PredPol has eliminated the “garbage in/garbage out” issue by using only data sourced from a department’s records management system (RMS).
Since RMS records are entered by officers and detectives (as opposed to CAD records that account for all calls for service), the data is cleaner and more complete, solving the problems associated with data integrity from other sources.
Big data not only provides valuable information on its own, it exponentially advances the work an officer can do. Learn more about how Predpol can help your department or agency.