The Constantly Evolving Technological Needs in Community-Police Relations
Community policing, and the idea of law enforcement building strong ties and positive relationships with communities, is not a new practice in public safety. Since its inception and growth in popularity, community policing has evolved from the simple notion of increased officer visibility toward an emphasis on accountability through intelligence, to the point that an agency’s credibility is only as good as the data it can provide the community. The creation of data-driven policies and building relationships by sharing information with community members is now of the utmost importance.
In January, 2015, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) released a report, IACP National Policy Summit on Community-Police Relations: Advancing a Culture of Cohesion and Community Trust, based on the findings of a summit concerned with police and community relations. In the news release announcing the report, IACP President Richard Beary said, “The report stresses that law enforcement leaders should strive daily to build strong, trusting community-police relationships and recognizes that, in many areas, more can be done.” A major point of emphasis throughout the summit report, released in response to community-police relation issues in Missouri, New York, and Ohio, is how community-policing efforts can be advanced with better, more efficient technological tools.
The section titled, “Capturing data to promote community-police relationships,” summarizes the history, benefits, and shortcomings of various crime, criminality, and law enforcement reporting systems like the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS), which are implemented nationally. In addition to national initiatives, local agencies can also use their own analytics tools and work to eliminate perceived bias through data-driven policing. Pulling data from law enforcement records can be difficult, which is why an analytics software platform could be key to promoting relationships with the community. With a map-based tool, agencies can analyze their crime and calls-for-service data to create geographical profiles to see where crimes are being committed and reported. With these profiles, agencies can better see where officers need to be more visible and to interact with the community as a crime prevention tactic.
In addition to using analytics tools in the field to determine hot spots and allocate resources where they are most needed, an agency’s management team can gain valuable high-level insights through the use of a CompStat program. With an innovative CompStat Management Dashboard, agency management can use their data to calculate crime trends and patterns, then present the information in an easy-to-analyze format so they can make informed decisions and compare statistics over time to improve public safety. CompStat reports can also be disseminated during publicly held meetings to promote accountability and improving relationships with the community. A good dashboard also acts as a management tool to help agencies monitor the health of their organizations and track employee performance.
Another way to use analytical data to build trust within the community is to make information readily available to the public, within the bounds of the law and current investigations. A community-facing mobile app can give the public a way to submit tips on open cases or non-emergency incidents, as well as receive alerts to their devices. Additionally, a public-facing, map-based analytics tool can help community members see where crime is happening within their community.
As national and local law enforcement agencies continue to emphasize community-police relations with the use of analytics and data-driven information sharing, the key is having the right tools in place to help agencies increase transparency and community trust. For additional ideas and resources about police and community relations, read the full IACP report and visit the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) website established by the Department of Justice.