Cover: Keeping Law Enforcement Connected

Keeping Law Enforcement Connected

Information Technology Needs from State and Local Agencies

Published Dec 5, 2012

by John Gordon IV, Brett Andrew Wallace, Daniel Tremblay, John S. Hollywood


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Research Questions

  1. How effective are the efforts of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center?
  2. How are law enforcement technology needs currently communicated, and to whom?

The National Institute of Justice strives to assist criminal justice practitioners on behalf of the Department of Justice through the scientific research, development, and evaluation of technologies and methods. Given that there are nearly 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies in the United States, this is a challenge of great complexity, breadth, and depth. Thus, it is crucial to be aware of agencies' technology needs, as well as how they might learn about promising technologies and applications. To this end, RAND researchers conducted interviews with an extensive sample group to determine criminal justice technology priorities at the state and local levels, as well as the means by which these agencies commonly receive information on technology and the effectiveness of outreach efforts by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center. Interview results indicated a strong across-the-board desire for knowledge management systems and low-cost, easily maintained surveillance systems, and further indicated that the Center needs to expand its outreach efforts to professional associations.

Key Findings

Knowledge Management and Cost Top Priorities List

  • The most-cited technology priorities were for basic information technology (IT) — knowledge management systems (notably records management systems [RMS]), basic communications infrastructure, and, to a lesser extent, camera systems.
  • There is a strong and consistent need to reduce the end-to-end lifecycle costs of these major systems.
  • There are strong and consistent needs to improve the interoperability of IT systems. Further, respondents commonly stated that NIJ should play a leading role in improving interoperability.

Technology Information Tends to Be Shared Laterally, Rather Than From a Federal Entity

  • Respondents consistently relied heavily on law enforcement associations (e.g., police chiefs' associations) to gain information on new technologies and to share information. Vendors were also reported as a significant source.
  • In contrast, few agencies reported significant awareness of the activities of the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center, whose primary mission is to assist with addressing the technology needs and challenges of state, local, tribal, and federal law enforcement outfits, as well as those of corrections and criminal justice agencies.


  • Priority decisions should focus on low direct cost, low lifecycle cost and interoperability.
  • The federal government should play a lead role in setting technology standards, a role that could be played by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center (NLECTC).
  • NLECTC outreach must be improved. One way to go about this is to increase visibility at conferences held by professional criminal justice associations.
  • R&D investments should address three priorities: improving internal departmental knowledge management capabilities; supporting departments that share information externally; and considering how R&D investments could go toward best practices for reducing acquisition and lifecycle costs for both basic communications infrastructures and camera surveillance systems.

This project was sponsored by the National Institute of Justice and was conducted in the Safety and Justice Program of RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment.

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