Anybody who watches television can conjure up some image of the interior of a police station. "CSI: Miami" fans picture the offices of a police department as having gleaming hallways in which extremely handsome officers use state-of-the-art technology to crack convoluted murder cases with ease before the next commercial break.
In contrast, fans of grittier shows like "The Wire" or "Law and Order" probably picture a crowded office filled with overflowing file cabinets, where detectives work cases that are not always so clear-cut and easily resolved. Of course, no one television show—no matter how gritty— could capture the full scope and variety of policing in the real world.
Police departments vary widely in their equipment and infrastructure. But what we can say for certain is this: the departments we charge with maintaining the peace and investigating crime face enormous logistical problems as complex as those facing any private sector business. Instead of shareholder price or profits, police measure success in lives saved and crime and property damage prevented.
In this era of tight scrutiny of government expenditures, law enforcement agencies operate under the pressure of increasingly tight budgets. And they do so under legal pressure that in most cases far exceeds that of the private sector–if police do not have their t's crossed and i's dotted, convictions disappear and criminals return to the street.
Officers by their nature are not the types to complain–they have made the choice to serve the public and make do to the best of their abilities. But if the problems they face are as complex as any private sector company, don't they deserve solutions as cutting-edge as those of the private sector? In every sector, industry leaders increasingly turn to cloud software to meet their needs.
Cloud software connects the end user directly to the technology provider, it updates instantly, evolves constantly to the user's particular needs, and is both secure and reliable. A cloud model also allows software companies to roll out new capabilities in seconds rather than months or years. The result is not just fast-paced technology, but significant cost savings as the entire technology distribution chain is simplified to real-time online connection.
There's a running joke derived from a recurring scene on the television show "CSI: Miami." In that scene, the detectives have managed only to gain grainy surveillance footage of the crime in question. But that's no problem because all one of them has to do to sharpen the image is simply issue the following order to the tech expert: "Enhance!" Then the tech touches a few magic buttons and makes a couple of key strokes, and the grainy image updates into a crystal clear, HD image, and the police have their suspect red-handed.
Over the years I've heard different versions of this witticism from police themselves, and it always has an undertone of annoyance that Hollywood thinks police work could be so simple and easy.
Maybe we can't "enhance" every image. Maybe we can't deliver the gee-whiz technology of Hollywood. But, if we begin to leverage the Internet the same way it has been utilized in so many other industries and professions, at least we can see a day where the technology used in law enforcement will be as fast and easy to use as we the technology experience in our personal lives.
Rick Smith is CEO of TASER International. The company's EVIDENCE.com product is cloud-based evidence management software designed to work in tandem with its AXON Flex officer worn video system. This is the second in a series of blogs discussing the cloud and its potential for revolutionizing public safety IT.