(Ed. Note: This blog is adapted from a presentation delivered to the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police’s (MACP) summer conference on June 25th, 2019)
For almost two centuries, police agencies have served with an unchanged mission: to protect the community, prevent crime, and maintain public order through courteous service. In order to continuously support this mission, agencies have implemented best practices and the latest technologies of the time. The arrival of fingerprinting in the 1900s and crime laboratories in the 1920s revolutionized how police solved crimes. The 1930s introduced the two-way radio and use of automobiles to expand police productivity. (Source:The National Committee on Criminal Justice Technology National Institute of Justice. (1998). The Evolution and Development of Police Technology. Washington, D.C.: Seaskate, Inc.)
By the 1960s, policing went through a technology lull, addressed by President Johnson’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice which issued a report that found, “The police, with crime laboratories and radio networks, made early use of technology, but most police departments could have been equipped 30-40 years ago as well as they are today.” This same commission developed what we now know as a 911 system for fielding emergency calls, and police agencies benefited from technology innovation once again.
As time went on, it became more imperative to apply innovative solutions to more than crime-fighting. This led to early warning systems and other personnel management platforms that help police executives evaluate, train, and support their officers.
Present Day Police Technology
Fast forward to 2019: police departments operate with support from advanced telecommunication systems connected to modernized vehicles, radios and firearms. Interestingly, much of this updated technology resulted from innovation in the commercial marketplace.
On the personnel side, new technology has emerged to provide agencies with the ability to improve processes through the collection of data and use of analytics. For example, innovative police force management systems streamline personnel workflows, becoming smarter and more efficient over time. Using a system that improves with use, agencies have access to reports and dashboards that provide insight into individual officers, stats for every unit and flexible data analysis for the entire department.
Yet, agencies across the country are at different stages when it comes to managing police force data. Similar to the circumstances uncovered by President Johnson’s Commission, today’s agencies are equipped with outmoded processes for police force management, lagging decades behind the technology used in other industries.
Agencies that want to avoid falling into another technology lull need to understand where their current systems fall on the spectrum of available technology. At Benchmark Analytics, we refer to this as Transformative Management. There are five stages to Transformative Management: Undefined, Manual, Digital, Analytic and Transformative.
Navigating the 5 Stages of Transformative Management
Transformative Management is how agencies oversee processes and data, related to police force management, to improve the effectiveness of both their civilian and sworn personnel. The stages start at Undefined and move up to Manual, Digital, Analytic and Transformative.
An agency is at the Undefined stage when they do not have policies or consistent processes in place to collect officer information. This stage is often characterized by the absence of a clear command channel review for use-of-force policies.
An agency is at the Manual stage when they have defined processes managed through paper-based systems. These “systems” might be the template forms officers use to write reports or officer information tucked away in a closet.
Manual processes present many challenges, including the loss or misplacement of paper documents, as well as storage limitations. Beyond that, storing paper records in filing cabinets limits an agency’s ability to retrieve information quickly. Paper is also inherently insecure, and open desk drawers or file folders left on tables create opportunities for compromised information.
At the digital stage, agency’s capture personnel data and information in a police force management system. Some agencies at this stage use digital spreadsheets or even multiple programs to help automate some data management workflows. During the digital stage, agencies have an easier time tracking processes and tasks, eliminating messy paper trails while adding robust audit trails.
Most agencies think the digital stage is the finish line, however, it is not. Transformative Management is not only about automating traditional tasks but asks agencies to take the next step towards using data to understand officers, not just manage them, in the context of the whole department and other agencies.
In order to analyze data, agencies need to be able to “read” it. Agencies may be collecting data in their police force management system, spreadsheets or other programs, but those silos preclude the easy discovery, organization and comparison of dozens of variables and data types.
In the analytic stage, agencies have the ability to aggregate data in one place and generate easy-to-read reports that can benefit every level and role at an agency.
The Transformative Stage is when agencies use the data, reports, and analytics to make meaningful decisions – optimizing the outcomes they aim to achieve through transformation. For instance, agencies may see trends in specific units and, based on those trends, roll out new or custom training for officers in that unit.
Recently, at the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police (MACP) Annual Conference, Benchmark Analytics shared what it means to become transformative. You can’t just purchase a police force management system and call it a day. The key to transformative management is a system that captures essential data in one place, while having an intuitive user-interface easy to navigate and interpret. For example, the Benchmark Management System (BMS) features analytics-driven modules for capturing officer information and departmental reports.
The team also shared steps agencies can take to become Transformative, including:
- Understand what stage your agency is in.
Is your agency currently Undefined, Manual, Digital, Analytic, or Transformative?
- Outline a blueprint toward becoming Transformative.
For instance, if your agency is in the digital stage, what steps are needed to aggregate all data and generate reports that provide insights into officers and departments? Do your software systems integrate with one another? Do you need to replace end-of-life systems?
- Find a trusted technology partner.
A trusted technology partner will help your agency accomplish its blueprint toward becoming transformative. Dependent on what stage your agency is in, partners can help plan a realistic time frame, understand how much data cleanup and migration will be needed in legacy or current systems, anticipate and minimize any productivity disruptions, and ensure your agency is set up for success once the project is complete.
Learn more about the long-lasting impact technology can make on your agency in our blog post, Why and How (Most) Police Departments Should Go Paperless