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Five Areas Certain to Shape Law Enforcement in 2013

Author: Dale Peet

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2012-12-20
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As a new year approaches, law enforcement officials across the nation are undoubtedly aware of many of the trends affecting their work.  Here is a look at five issues certain to shape law enforcement in 2013:

1: Law enforcement personnel will become tech savvy by necessity

With scant resources, new technologies aren’t as readily available to law enforcement employees at various levels.  That makes existing tools of paramount importance.  Agencies have to make do with what they have, and are striving to get more out of their officers and other personnel using outdated technology or trying to force what they have available to meet their needs.  Consequently, personnel are being evaluated on their effectiveness and ability to use technology to discover connections and patterns of criminal activity in an effort to disrupt or prevent the actual crime from being committed.  This is the new paradigm that law enforcement is experiencing, which differs from the old ideology of just responding to events after they have been reported.  This shift in thinking has a tremendous impact on the costs of crime – in human and economic terms. These costs are directly related to society, the courts, insurance, and the tragedies to families, as public safety is seen as a cost center, but its goal is to be a cost avoidance center.  If agencies can forecast the probabilities for criminal activities based on solid data, and thereby disrupt crimes and terrorism, then they can reduce costs across the spectrum.  It doesn’t have to be just crimes either.  For example, if an accident shuts down I-94 in Michigan for one hour, it is estimated to have an economic loss of six-million dollars.  The idea is that with better analysis of data, officials can better allocate resources and mitigate problems.

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2: Social media analysis and sentiment analysis will help thwart more crimes

As a retired commander of the Michigan Intelligence Operations Center, I still have a lot of colleagues with whom I stay in touch.  Many tell me that they’re learning more about new analytical tools available and their abilities to provide the probabilities of certain criminal activities as referenced above.  The private sector, and specifically fraud-fighting entities, uses social media analytics (SMA) and sentiment analysis tools in their commercial endeavors to mine customer data, build relationships with customers and strengthen brands.  Law enforcement sees real possibilities for these tools. Law enforcement agencies and first responders are already seeing the need to use SMA to canvass Twitter, Facebook and other social network feeds as an early-warning system for threats on officials, and other potential trouble spots or issues.  Even the agencies that are monitoring social media are now finding that they still require enormous amounts of time from analysts to monitor the feeds.  Look for automation of the technologies to ease the burden on analysts. And as systems analyze the massive amounts, they are sending alerts to analysts when certain thresholds or business rules are met.

 

3: Confidential Informants won’t change, but how they’re managed and handled will at the state and federal levels

The handling of a single confidential informant by multiple agencies is fraught with risks to officer safety and the possibility of manipulation. It is not unusual for operations run by different agencies involving CIs and undercover officers to clash, sometimes with dire consequences.

Look for tools in 2013 that provide capabilities that automate multi-jurisdictional de-confliction of informants.  Such tools will give law enforcement greater latitude in their use of, and better management options for, confidential informants while reducing the overall risk to the agency when using informants. In addition, confidential informants have their own motives, not all altruistic in many cases.  The de-confliction of confidential informants among different law enforcement agencies involves getting all the data about a CI in one repository, providing a single view of an informant, so different agencies know they aren’t being “played” while protecting the true identity of the informant.

4: State and local law enforcement agencies will tap more open-source information to connect crimes and criminal elements

The use of open-source data – from stories in the news to information on the web to what the general public has access to – is a growing trend.  Improving its use and access are top goals.  The Deep Web also is a new source of interest among law enforcement, and is an area that is not widely understood but can increase the open source data that is available.  The Deep Web is defined as information on the web not indexed by traditional search engines.  While a new font of information is a welcome develop ment, its privacy ramifications aren’t clear.  We could see some interesting lessons learned and new policies as agencies explore the ramifications of the Deep Web as it pertains to privacy and due process.

 

5: Real-time situational awareness, on mobile devices,  becomes (closer to) reality

CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) systems and RMS (Records Management Systems) are growing in sophistication. CAD data offers near real-time information. Combining that data with historic pre-incident, incident and post-incident information would give officers in the field a new level of situational awareness. As the use of mobile technologies, such as iPads, smart phones, and tablets grows, those devices become ideal delivery devices for the automated strategic and tactical information. An officer responding to a call could know what else has taken place in the area to which they have been dispatched, presented to them on their mobile device in narrative, geospatial and/or graphical formats. For instance, a patrolman responding to a domestic violence report at an address could pull up a map and see that there has been repeated gang activity across the street, The officer could request back up before responding. This depth of information gives officers improved risk assessment and a better ability to identify possible threats. 

Keep these trends in mind as we enter 2013, and let me know of others as I am always interested in what others are thinking and the future direction of law enforcement.  I welcome your feedback.

Lieutenant Dale Peet is a 23-year veteran of the Michigan State Police and the retired commander of the Michigan Intelligence Operations Center, Michigan’s largest and primary fusion center for homeland security. He now serves as Senior Industry Consultant at SAS. Peet can be reached by email here.

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