Field officers know that when you have real communications work to get done, you pull your smartphone from your pocket. I was reminded of this recently while riding with two LAPD officers. After receiving several messages over the radio, they reached for their cell phones to make calls to get more information.
They even used Google Maps twice, once to view the house they were going to and another time to direct responding units to the precise part of the house and block to cover.
These officers couldn't understand why criminal records, photos and printing capabilities were inaccessible to them when they know cell phones are perfectly capable of accomplishing these routine (yet essential) tasks on patrol. When I explained that the type of systems integration they're looking for exists, I had their attention.
The real issue doesn't involve technology at all. Instead it lies with "who" — as in, who is making the decisions regarding the type of technology that's available to field officers.
As police departments struggle to make ends meet and budgets shrink, very little thought is often given to understanding the basic systems of communications that link officers to each other and to the information they need to be effective in the field. Once these decision-makers accept what field cops instinctively know — that smartphones are the future — public safety departments will move quickly to adopt technologies that already exist.
But there's a caveat. This will only happen if those decision-makers are willing to consider alternatives to the same old decision they've been making in favor of basic voice radio systems.
Long Term Evolution (LTE) technologies will soon offer exactly what field officers are looking for with open architecture that lets any communications device work on a secure network.
With this type of technology, police officers would see multiple changes in their daily operations, including:
- Better interagency communication during major events.
- The capability to communicate with any public agencies on any system.
- Public communications systems that could be set to operate with public safety in emergencies.
- Effectively operating and connecting any type of communications devices, from cell phones to radios and telephones, on the same system.
- The ability to connect officers to any communications network through an open architecture gateway that is not proprietary. In other words, you could have more than an original equipment manufacturer has available on their system alone.
- A software drive that can be updated to future LTE, 4G, and 3G technologies.
This is a technology revolution that's long overdue in the area of public safety. It's one that at least two field officers would wholeheartedly embrace.