Can New Technology Improve Policing?


While new developments in technology have given law enforcement organizations potentially important tools, such developments will have a minimal impact unless police managers pay closer attention to how they are deployed and used at every level of their organizations, says a study conducted by researchers at the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy at George Mason University, the Police Executive Research Forum, and Southern Illinois University.

The multi-site study, supported by the National Institute of Justice, focused on four large U.S. police agencies in rural and urban areas to examine how police are using tools ranging from video surveillance and license plate readers to DNA testing, and new information and communications technologies . The research findings, according to an updated version published last month, showed that technological advances “do not always produce straightforward improvements” in productivity, job satisfaction, effectiveness in reducing crime, or citizen engagement.

“This is not to say that technological advancement in policing is undesirable, and will not bring improvement,” wrote Christopher Koper and Cynthia Lum of George Mason, the principal authors of the study. “However…substantial improvements in police performance (require) significant planning and effort, and…infrastructure and norms that will help agencies maximize the benefits of technology.”

The study listed 11 recommendations for incorporating the benefits of technology in police work, ranging from establishing “organizational norms” before introducing new technology to involving police personnel more closely in planning for how the tools can be used.

Read the full report HERE.

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