Chiefs Discuss Challenges of Technology and Need for Transparency During Veritone Webinar

The moderator asked the chiefs if their greatest technology challenge was: interoperability, obsolescence, or the cost of acquiring technology.

David Griffith 2017 Headshot

If you want to know how police leaders feel about technology, you can get some strong clues by watching or listening to Veritone's latest webinar produced in partnership with Microsoft.

During the virtual panel discussion titled “US Law Enforcement Agency Transparency & How Technology Can Help,” moderator and retired chief of police Joel Shults posed a multiple choice question to three active chiefs participating in the discussion—Steven Casstevens, former president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and chief of the Buffalo Grove (IL) Police Department; Jorge Cisneros, chief of the Anaheim (CA) Police Department; and incoming IACP president John Letteney, chief of the Thomasville (GA) Police Department.

Shults asked the chiefs if their greatest technology challenge was: interoperability, obsolescence, or the cost of acquiring technology. The active chiefs on the panel gave the same answer: "All three."

Cisneros said one of his biggest challenges was interoperability. Listing much of the technology now in use by the Anaheim PD such as body-worn cameras, overt and covert surveillance cameras, facial recognition, drones, and department issued secure smartphones, he said getting it all to work together is a major challenge.

"That is the piece we often don't talk about," Cisneros said. "How do we create that blanket that brings all of this technology together?"

Throughout the hour-long webinar the chiefs discussed how technology and the need for transparency between their agencies and their communities are affecting their operations.

"There is a requirement on our part to educate the community about what the technology we are using can do and what it can't do," Cisneros said.

Letteney agreed. He said the key to community buy-in for the use of technology by a police agency is that agency's "culture of integrity" and the agency's willingness to provide transparent policy safeguards to prevent misuse and protect individual privacy.

Casstevens added, "Be upfront with your community about the technology you are using. You don't want them asking, 'Why weren't we told the police department is doing this?'"

Body-worn cameras were one of the specific technologies addressed by the panel.

Because of a new Illinois law requiring all law enforcement agencies to field body cameras by 2025, Casstevens is facing a major dilemma. His agency does not currently have body cameras and it will be expensive to add them. He says implementing the complete program—buying the cameras, setting up storage, acquiring redaction capabilities, and other expenses will cost his agency $800,000 and he has no grants or state funding to cover that bill.

Both the Thomasville PD and the Anaheim PD currently have body cameras. They are dealing with the ongoing expense for storage and public expectations for release of the footage.

Cisneros praised AI-driven redaction software for making redaction less expensive. He said that before using such software, every hour of video his agency released required four hours of redaction labor before it could be released.

Redaction costs was just one of the video release issues covered during the webinar. Letteney said that agencies have to be transparent with the community and their officers about what video will be released and when it will be released. "You need to educate them about what you can release, what you must release, and what you can't release," he explained.

The chiefs said that while the communities they serve need transparency from their law enforcement agencies, the agencies themselves also need transparency from the communities. It's important to know how the community feels about your agency.

In the past that information has been revealed in surveys conducted to meet accreditation standards.

"A community survey is required by CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies)," Casstevens said. "Often that data is two years old. We need data faster than that."

The chiefs all agreed that various social media platforms offer agencies more immediate feedback. And social media is the only way to reach large portions of the community who do not watch TV news or read newspapers or even news websites.

"With young people, if it isn't on their phone…they know nothing about it," Cisneros said.

Letteney said one of the greatest technology challenges facing law enforcement is one that affects every American, not knowing what technology will transform our lives in the near future and change policing from what it looks like today.

But he said agencies have an important tool to ensure that technology is used appropriately.

"We do not know what will be invented in the next six months or the next year or the next five or 10 years," he said. "But we know technology will advance and we will have to be in the forefront of using it appropriately." He adds that having the right policies and safeguards in place now is a way to assure the community that new technologies will used constitutionally.

This panel discussion was prompted by Veritone's report titled: "Transparency and Trust: Shining Light on Police & Community Relationships and How Technology Can Help." The report can be downloaded here.









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