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Using Technology to Fix Human Problems

Author: Libby Stengel, SAS

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2012-07-31
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You don’t have to look too far to see how technology has changed the way we go about our day.  From checking our email on our smartphones first thing in the morning to using GPS when we get in our cars, technology keeps changing and it keeps adjusting to the needs of the people who use it.  These solutions have grown out of a problem that people need to have solved, whether it’s a way to receive messages in a more timely manner or to find accurate directions.  Both of these technological advances are aiming to increase efficiency and decrease human contact.

Technology and humans cannot be on divergent paths in the homeland security and law enforcement arenas, though.  They must work together.  Human need should drive technology strategy.  Leaders need to look at existing problems that could hinder officers from doing their jobs and find technology that would make it easier.

For example, Sastown police, a fictional city law enforcement agency, does not have the capability to easily communicate with the six surrounding suburban police agencies.  Even though crime does not follow boundaries, Sastown does not have any consistent coordination regarding regional warrants, investigations, intelligence and vice operations.

This is what could be considered the human problem.  Regional collaboration is no longer a nice-to-have element at an agency. It is vital.  So how can technology make this human problem easier?   The integration of six different Record Management Systems (RMS), Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD), intelligence and investigative systems gives officers great tools for searching. 

Seems intimidating, but it’s actually quite possible and exists in several U.S. states.  This scenario shows technology making a current and relevant on-the-ground problem much easier for an officer through technology.

So how do law enforcement leaders decide what issues to address first with technology? They need to:

  • Ask your team leaders what the biggest challenge in technology is when doing their jobs.  What information do they worry about overlooking?  What takes the most time out of their day?
  • What do these leaders wish they could do with technology in their jobs?  What is their dream technology?
  • Where can my department collaborate more with local, regional, state and national agencies?  Often there are grants and state/federal assistance available to help law enforcement agencies to collaborate.
  • Take these human technology issues to a vendor that is willing to work with you.  Out of the box solutions often provided by vendors can work, but often have growing pains when attempting to relate to your best practices.

Humans are not perfect, and technology can help them do their jobs better.  Using technology to remove obstacles and enhance an officer’s responsibilities will result in more efficient and effective police work.

Libby Stengel is a Principal Consultant for SAS.  Stengel is a former U.S. Army intelligence officer with four years of active duty, and has served in Iraq working all levels of intelligence including debrief, interrogation, analysis, and also served as a criminal intelligence trainer.  She can be reached at Libby.Stengel [at]



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