- What are the law enforcement community's most pressing needs related to information technology?
- What are the common themes in those needs?
- What are promising ways ahead to address those needs, for both the National Institute of Justice and for external developers in the government, academia, and the private sector?
This study reports on strategic planning activities supporting the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in the area of information technology, collecting and analyzing data on law enforcement needs and offering potential solutions through technology assessment studies, extensive outreach and liaison activities, and subject matter expert panels. Strategic planning will help NIJ make the best investments to leverage its limited funds and help the range of technology developers supporting law enforcement better understand the law enforcement community's needs and priorities. By looking across the top-ranking needs, the authors identified 11 crosscutting themes in total. These themes are further grouped into three overarching keynotes — a broad need to improve the law enforcement community's knowledge of technology and practices, a broad need to improve the sharing and use of law enforcement--relevant information, and a broad need to conduct research, development, testing, and evaluation on a range of topics. The latter category includes research on both the "nonmateriel" side of technology, including policy and practices, and more traditional technical development.
Law Enforcement's Knowledge of IT and Its Dissemination Can Be Improved
- A wide range of efforts have been undertaken to disseminate technology information to law enforcement practitioners.
- A strong desire for help in technology use and management remains, implying needs for improvement in technology dissemination and education.
Sharing, Displaying, and Using Information Effectively Is a Major Challenge
- Enabling the sharing of information across law enforcement systems is a difficult problem — technically, organizationally, and commercially.
- Information-sharing efforts to date have had limited coverage and can be inconsistent with each other. Further, it is difficult for new developers and users to learn about all of the available information-sharing tools and technologies.
- Tools that display situational awareness information to law enforcement users at all levels are lacking.
- In addition to sharing information within law enforcement, there is a need to improve mechanisms for communicating with the public.
Additional Areas Need Research and Development
- There is a need to improve systems for monitoring and protecting the health of officers, including both physical and mental health.
- There is a need to improve security, privacy, and civil rights policies for using IT.
- There is a need to improve the affordability of law enforcement IT systems across their entire life cycle.
- There is an overarching need to identify promising practices that can leverage IT effectively to reduce crime. There is a need to improve IT, along with supporting training and policies, to help law enforcement respond to major incidents.
- There is a need to improve, and improve the use of, a range of deployable sensors. These include body-worn cameras, field biometrics, electronic evidence collection systems, and video surveillance systems.
- A federal coordinator for technology-related outreach should be designated; this coordinator would work with various offices involved to develop and monitor a dissemination strategy capturing who will do what, for whom, and when.
- This coordinator should maintain and monitor a master list of outstanding needs and development tasks to address them.
- The coordinator should also capture which information-sharing projects are addressing the required tasks and disseminate all gathered information in an information-sharing strategic plan.
- Work on providing common operational picture/dashboard displays to law enforcement officers should be undertaken.
- Communications between the public and law enforcement should be improved.
- The emotional state and physical health of officers should be monitored.
- Federal efforts to provide tracking systems for responders during major events should be undertaken.
The research reported here was conducted in the RAND Safety and Justice Program, a part of RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment.
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