According to Reichert, the contribution of technology in the last two decades has majorly been attributed to development in both the computer and communication technologies. The law enforcement has not been left out either. Reichert (2001) notes that the department has since 1990s involved itself in carrying out various researches while also trainings its staff in the relevant computer knowledge. Technology has enabled the department to improve the way it transmits data. Most significant, is the attractive and user friendly graphic interface.
These advancements have greatly increased the capacity of the department in collecting, storing, analyzing and sharing of the data within and across relevant departments. However, such technological advancements have not come without challenges to the law enforcement agencies. John and Champion (2007) also noted that technologies have as well been used by the law breakers to coordinate their illegal activities. This write up looks at the advancement in law enforcement technology over the years and their impact in law enforcement.
Positive Contributions of Technology to Law Enforcement
For any meaningful achievement in the work of the law enforcement department there must be a medium which could help increase cooperation between communities and the police. Mitchell (2002) denotes that prevention of crime is the responsibility of both the police and the community. The law enforcement department has today taken advantage of the prevalent use of the social network, the internet and state of the art communication technology. This has greatly helped bridge the communication between the police and the community (Mitchell, 2002).
According to John & Champion (2007), crime prevention is a multidimensional undertaking. It engages different groups starting with the police, members of the society, the law courts and the correction facilities. However, in order to prevent crime from occurring, there is a need to stop it at its source. According to Mitchell (2002), the best way of minimizing incidences of crime, is by developing a system that easily identifies and reports criminal activities. This requires an excellent law enforcement technology that would enable easier collection, storage, analysis and sharing of information relating to crime.
Reichert (2001) identifies two aspects of police work in which technology has played a significant contribution. These are crime mapping and information sharing. Over the past decade, the use of computers to map crime has continuously increased. According to Reichert (2001), this phenomenon is attributable to the developments in geo-information systems (GIS) and improvements in theoretical analysis and investigation of crime. Reportedly, a combination of GIS and mapping software in computers has significantly increased capacity to extract and analyze data. This technology has widely been used because of its ease in implementation and efficiency in data analysis.
Reichert (2001) noted that technologies have also allowed the concerned individuals within the law enforcement echelon to share the gathered information by other enforcement officers. This has been possible through a pull of information called a database resulting from the created networks and internetworks that connect all law enforcement officers within the given described region. According to Reichert (2001), technology has allowed a fully integrated system with careful planning, and coordination among the concerned law enforcement agencies.
With advancement in technology, the challenge of information security is quickly being addressed. Technology has presently ensured optimum security of the stored information as it makes it easy for the law enforcement agencies to control access and consistently manipulate the stored data. Ratchet (2001), notes that presently the department has developed a system in which access rights to the shared resource are defined based on seniority among the officers and urgency of cases tackled. He added that most law enforcement technologies have also provided a window through which members of the public can provide input relating to crime or suspects.
Examples of the Technologies in Use
Mitchell (2002) denotes that there are plentiful of such systems of law enforcement used globally to sponsor police work. In my view, the most outstanding system is one currently used by the Chicago Police Department (CPD). Reichert (2001) explains that, the CPD developed a computer based system called CLEAR which stands for Citizen and Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting CPD. The program has helped in tapping the information technology to guide in more effective management of different sectors. It has also helped reinforce the community partnerships while also enhancing the sharing of information with other criminal justice and agencies (Reichert, 2001).
Apart from this technology there has also been the public Video Surveillance which has widely been used as an effective crime prevention tool. It involves the use of CCTV to capture every action taking place within a give range of distance. The technology has been installed in various towns and cities across the globe to help in crime prevention.
Technology Related Challenges
In spite of the benefits it has afforded law enforcement officers, technology still poses significant challenges in their line of work. There are several technology related crimes which have posed great challenges to the law enforcement department because of their faster rate of advancement. The operations of criminal organizations like those dealing with drug trafficking have also been enhanced through the very technology. Though several attempts have been made to find solutions to such problems, there have been major draw backs emanating from issues relating to privacy, harassment by the established autocracies, security concerns and the overall cost of implementation.
In conclusion, though it has come with its costs, the proper use of law enforcement technologies has gradually increased capacity and effectiveness of combating crime.