Having been spoiled by generations of dispatchers telling us in no uncertain terms where to go and how to get there, we cops may have an unreasonable expectation of acquiring accurate responses to our online queries. But as any cyber-sleuth can tell you, ask and ye shall receive.

Unfortunately, what you will receive is 25,000 responses to your query.

For an insomniac with attention deficit disorder, this saturation approach might serve as an agreeable distraction. For the rest of us, however, a more streamlined approach is probably in order. Accordingly, we present this discussion of the best Websites for law enforcement officers.

But first a few words about our approach to this concept. At first we thought about creating a "top 10" list. But compiling a "top 10" list of law enforcement Websites is a less than thorough approach. Too many good candidates would be left at the road side.

Then we decided that 25 sounded like a nice number. But after negotiating the labyrinth of hypertext links to many a blind alley and dead end, we were not entirely sure that there would be enough great sites to reach 25. Some links were down; others were no longer available. Some of the links are still available-as in "for sale." For example, the domain name laws.com is for sale, with a one-time quoted value of $750,000 to $1 million.

So rather than organize these sites in any particular hierarchy, we decided to go with a listing of quality sites that might roughly parallel an officer's needs throughout his or her career. With that in mind, let's begin.

Getting the Job

It's been noted that the police are the only 24-hour social service in the country. But a good argument could be made that www.monster.com provides a valuable social service, 24/7. Certainly, "the Monster Board" as it was once known, is particularly handy for informing aspiring criminal justice majors about job openings.

Another haven for wannabes and would-be laterals is www.policeemployment.com. This site features federal, state, and local job opportunities, as well as helpful hints for helping you gain gainful employment.

Another great resource for job opportunities, www.LawEnforcementJobs.com posts openings at police agencies across the country, including positions in the federal government. You can search for job openings using dropdown menus that let you choose the sector, position, and region in which you wish to find a job. Or you can view all job postings by the date posted.

For police networking, which can make you aware of jobs that are out there, be sure to check out the forums at www.policemag.com. This rapidly growing law enforcement Website is the online presence of POLICE magazine, and it includes content from the print mag, Web-only features, and a free-flowing discussion of police issues.

Gear and Goodies

Once we've found ourselves employed, we'll probably want to hit the streets running. To cut sartorial mustard, we've got to look squared away. So let's go shopping online.

A really great shopping resource for officers is The Ultimate Law Enforcement Equipment Directory (www.geocities.com/cmalerts/). It features everything from uniforms, to night vision gear, to body armor.

The Ultimate Law Enforcement Equipment Directory is just one of a multitude of sites that can help you meet a variety of uniform needs. One advantage to shopping online is that it allows you to shop 24/7 in the privacy of your home. There's no need to lace up your shoes or gas up the car, and you can often find better bargains online than at your local store. One of the drawbacks of online shopping is that the plethora of online sales sites makes it impossible to thoroughly comparison shop all of your options.

Other online shopping concerns include safety and satisfaction. But don't worry. The Federal Trade Commission has an excellent guide for shopping online at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/online/cybrsmrt.htm that will virtually guarantee you a happy online experience.[PAGEBREAK]Rising Through the Ranks

Many cops lament the current state of law enforcement in general, and their departments in particular. And while it's always been fun to criticize ambitious administrators, one thing is inarguable: If changing department policies and practices are your desired ends, then you have to maneuver yourself into a position outside the usual claustrophobic sphere of influence of a line cop.

The following sites can put you on the path to promotion by helping you develop your interpersonal skills, obtain management insight, and gain practical law enforcement leadership knowledge.

The site of the National Tactical Officers Association (www.ntoa.org) is a great resource for police officers who want to move up the ranks. Yes, it costs money, but the information on the site can be particularly helpful in remedying the training deficiencies of cash-strapped agencies. If you want information about advanced officer training and tactics, this is the place for you.

FBI training programs are often a stepping stone for officers who want to advance their careers. And the official Bureau Website (www.fbi.gov) is a great resource for officer education. The site features an online law enforcement library with increasing emphasis on counter-terrorism. The site also offers several years of Uniform Crime Reports statistics if you've ever wondered what happens with the data from all of those reports you generate.

One of the keys to the quality research required for higher education and officer advancement is an authoritative source for numbers. The Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics (www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/) fits that bill, bringing together data from more than 100 sources about all aspects of criminal justice in the United States, from crimes and victims, to courts and sentencing, to corrections and other special topics. The stats are available online and in spreadsheets for easy data manipulation.

Tracking Down Grants

Sometime in your career, you may have an idea that you believe will help your department and your community, but one thing stands between you and your project, money.

The following are some excellent sources for law enforcement grants and funding.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance Website (www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/) offers information on everything from counter-terrorism training to partnerships and programs that can help departments with limited financial resources. Be sure to visit the Bureau's guide to grants at http://bja.ncjrs.org/g2g/.

Another great source for funding information is the Foundation Center (http://fndcenter.org). The site includes a "Foundation Finder" with links to more than 2,000 Websites, covering four categories of private funding: private foundations, corporations, public charities, and community foundations.[PAGEBREAK]Investigations

After you've put in your time pounding the pavement as a beat cop, you just might get a chance to gumshoe as a detective. Michael Hornbrook, a sergeant with the Marion County (Ind.) Sheriff's Department, says the Internet search engines Google (www.google.com) and Ask Jeeves (www.ask.com) have come in handy with his work in homicide and computer forensics.

For more specific searches, professional investigators can use the Black Book Online at www.crimetime.com/online.htm. This site provides reports from telephone directories, reverse telephone number searches, business and real estate records, news archives, death and criminal records, professional licenses, bank accounts, and other sources.

Next to terrorism and domestic security, the most ubiquitous concern in investigations is probably identity theft. If you suspect that someone may be using a stolen identity of a deceased person, www.ancestry.com will verify the Social Security number of the true holder. There are also a variety of other sites that make great resources for tracking down antisocial butterflies of all stripes and sizes.

For example, AutoTrack Plus (www.dbt.com) from Database Technologies provides per-minute pricing for access to a variety of sources. With just a name, you can obtain a subject's current and past addresses, telephone numbers, Social Security number, date of birth, and information regarding neighbors and friends. While the source of the information is not always apparent and AutoTrack does not provide direct links to civil and criminal databases, this is an excellent starting point for any identity search.

Sgt. Andre' BeLotto of the Los Angeles Police Department says he finds Accurint (www.accurint.com) a very valuable resource despite its pay-per-search requirement. BeLotto says the cost is negligible, considering the quality of the information. However, he notes that the data can be 30 to 60 days behind.

Even so, Belotto says the Accurint site saves him time and legwork on investigations and spares him from pursuing blind alleys and dead-end leads. For county, state, and federal court histories, the charge per report ranges from $12.50 to $44, although not all states are available. You can also find individual and business searches, comprehensive address reports, bankruptcies, motor vehicle and boat registrations, property, and other asset records.

If you're looking for someone's prison record, try the Federal Bureau of Prisons (www.bop.gov). This site features content about federal prisons, their locations, their practices, and their programs. And if you suspect someone of having served time in the pen, you can conduct a search by first and last name, several different ID numbers, age, and race. Ramesh Nyberg, a Miami-based homicide investigator, says that the site's recent addition of a searchable database means you can track down people you suspect are incarcerated, or may have been.

One of the toughest things to do in any criminal investigation is to actually find the individual involved in the case. But if you have a phone number you may be in luck. Lt. Richard Childers with the Bureau of Criminal Investigations says "fone finder," available through http://primeris.com/, is a great resource for cross-checking phone numbers.

If you're at a loss regarding how to start an investigation on the Web, try the Law Library Resource Xchange (www.llrx.com). This is a free Web journal that provides articles about how to conduct research on the Internet. Written by law librarians, attorneys, information technology specialists, and legal technology consultants, the reviews and links provide insight into research and database Websites that can help you draw a bead on companies and individuals of interest in your investigation. The site also provides the latest legal news about technology and legal research so that you can avoid becoming the subject of someone else's civil rights investigation.

So, we've wrapped up our career, we're pulling the pin and calling it a day. And that brings us full circle, back to the employment search site www.monster.com.

You didn't think you'd be able to afford the good life on a cop's retirement, didya?[PAGEBREAK]Homeland Security Sites

Today's cop has to worry about things that the previous generation couldn't even have imagined. Twenty years ago, international terrorists were not on the radar of most U.S. metropolitan agencies. Today, a common concern among street cops is what to do in case of chemical weapons attack, bioweapon release, or even nuclear terrorism.

To learn more about counter-terrorism efforts and how to cope with mass casualty incidents, you may want to check out the following sites:

  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security
    (www.ready.gov)
  • American Red Cross (www.redcross.org)
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency
    (fema.gov/areyouready/)
  • Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov)

Another valuable site for officers who need information on counter-terrorism programs is http://dhs.gov. This Department of Homeland Security site is still under construction but it is expected to soon provide links to homeland security funding offices such as the Office of National Preparedness (ONP) and the Office for Domestic Preparedness (ODP), recently transferred from the Office of Justice Programs of the U.S. Department of Justice. Funding program information still may be obtained from these offices' old sites, and from state emergency services offices that receive homeland security funding directly through FEMA.

Other federal departments and agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the National Highway Administration, and the Department of Commerce (Technology and Information Systems Opportunity Programs) also have Websites with links to their respective grant programs.

Finally, one of the most important tools for any officer confronted with the specter of international terrorism is foreign intelligence. A good source of information on foreign societies is the CIA World Factbook (www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/). This site provides maps and facts about people, geography, and governments of countries around the world.

PoliceSupplier.com

If you're looking for information on law enforcement equipment, take a look at PoliceSupplier.com. The Website provides a searchable database of law enforcement equipment and product manufacturers. You can search by keyword, by company, or by product category. Or you can search by subcategory to conduct a more detailed search for equipment.

If you're looking for services in the area where you live, you can restrict your search to a specific state or province. Let's say you need a holster and you live and work in Maine. Then you can click on Maine, and your search won't return a list of vendors in Missouri or Montana.

Whatever you're looking for, PoliceSupplier.com is constantly updated, so you know you'll have accurate contact information for all listed companies. And you won't get stuck trying to contact a manufacturer that is no longer in business or no longer sells the product you want to purchase.

In addition, PoliceSupplier.com is more than a vendor directory. Besides information on products, the site includes information on law enforcement associations and conferences.

Sgt. Dean Scoville is a patrol supervisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and a frequent contributor to POLICE.

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