As a patrol officer working the field for a small municipal police department in Ohio, Officer Mark A. Brooks often encountered situations in the field that defied clear-cut legal answers. Gray areas often emerged that were out of the purview of his standard operating procedures.
He could legally scan license plates of vehicles in motion, but what about a car or truck parked in a private driveway or in a strip mall? And if the niece of a city official told him her relative possessed child pornography on a computer, could the subject expect privacy?
To give himself a reliable legal resource, Officer Brooks began maintaining a binder of case law as an easy reference guide for himself, fellow officers, or even less-than-fully-informed supervisors who gave him instructions that resulted in courtroom dismissals of his cases.
"I got tired of FTOs or supervisors advising me that certain powers were within my scope and when I executed those powers, I didn't know what case law granted me the authority to do so when asked by the prosecutor," says Brooks. "There have been countless times that prosecutors didn't know the case law relevant to my justification for a stop or search."
Officer Brooks eventually took his binder into the digital realm, by learning software development for the Android smartphone platform. He first produced the Ohio Cop "app" as a reference for case law in his own state. And because so many other officers responded favorably to his app, he later created U.S. Cop to bring resources to field officers outside of his own state. U.S. Cop is now one of the more widely used law enforcement apps.
Including Brooks' app, POLICE Magazine has identified 10 smartphone apps that provide potent tools for patrol officers. These 10 law enforcement apps should keep you engaged in your investigations and may just save you a trip back to the station.
We also surveyed POLICE readers to find out which apps you're using that help make your job more efficient. We've picked apps from the two most popular platforms—Apple's iOS and Android operating system—and provided details below. We've also included feedback from officers on several of the apps. We've elected not to print the names of respondents, only their agency and role.
After you read our picks for top apps, please e-mail us with your own choices at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us about your favorite app, and what you like about it.
Top 5 Apple Apps for Law Enforcement
Police Partner: Clickz Designs' app enables officers to input field notes to take away the need for clunky notebooks. The interface is easy to navigate and provides fields to fill in such as witnesses, vehicles, suspects, case numbers, and other information you'd expect to be included in a police report. Seek legal guidance before using this one, as your notes may be considered exculpatory evidence and subject to discovery by a defense attorney. Cost: $1.99.
Spanish for Police: Exact Magic Software's app provides Spanish commands and questions organized in basic law enforcement categories such as Officer Safety, Arrests; Searching Suspects; Miranda Warning; DUI/HGN and others. Phrases in the Officer Safety category include "Hands out of pockets," "Do not resist," and "Drop it." Cost: $2.99.
MobileArms for Glock: MobileArms' Glock Edition app provides details of every Glock model, search by model or caliber, photos, company history, and a list of gun dealers and shooting ranges for every state. It also includes quick-schematics, including field and armor. Cost: $1.99.