Mobile Technology and Action Teams

Assessing Blackberry Use in Law Enforcement Units

Published in: Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), v. 19, no. 1, Feb. 2010, p. 45-71

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2009

by Susan G. Straus, Susan G. Straus, Tora K. Bikson, Edward Balkovich, John F. Pane

This research explores the effectiveness of mobile wireless information and communication technologies (ICTs) for law enforcement teams. Law enforcement teams require real-time information access and rapid communication to diagnose potential threats, analyze problems, and coordinate actions. To meet these needs, two U.S. law enforcement organizations implemented pilot trials of RIM BlackBerries for approximately 650 squad members. These trials provided an opportunity to assess acceptance, use, and perceived performance benefits of the technology as well as factors influencing these outcomes. Data were collected from semi-structured interviews, user surveys, and system logs. Although the work teams and tasks were similar in the two organizations, the outcomes, while generally positive, differed markedly, with much greater acceptance and use in one organization versus the other. Results show how technical factors, functionality, and implementation processes account for these differences and illustrate how mobile wireless ICT can meet the unique needs for information access and communication in investigative action teams. We expect that these findings will generalize beyond action teams as more mobile workers in a variety of domains adopt wireless handheld technologies.

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