PLI Podcast: The Three Golden Rules of Law Enforcement Technology

Posted on 31 March 2011 by


While it’s mainly about intelligence, by definition this blog is also quite often about how technology is used by law enforcement professionals to advance intelligence. As we gear up to launch our podcast, Henderson and I thought we’d start looking at something pretty fundamental: how do cops view technology?

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Many people regularly state that cops hate technology. We think that’s a red-herring. Cops don’t hate technology. Cops hate technology that makes their job harder. And cops hate technology that looks to solve problems we didn’t know we had, as opposed to processes which drive us crazy.

Stuff? We Got Stuff
To get a sense of how your technology will be welcomed in the squad car, let’s have a brief look at the stuff that a cop is looking at after a half hour briefing, before an 8- to 12-hour shift. He steps out into the parking lot and before starting the squad car, here’s a partial list of the stuff a cop needs to check:

  • Fuel and fluid levels
  • Lights, siren, spotlight, flashlights function
  • Flares, cones, fire extinguishers
  • Automatic electronic defibrillator
  • AR-15 and/or shotgun function; made patrol-ready
  • MDT and Internet connection
  • Dash cam and body mics synced
  • LIDAR, RADAR self test
  • Basic crime scene kit
  • Radio check, handheld radio check
  • TASER spark test
  • Handheld digital camera, tint meter
  • Traffic vest
  • Crash, incident reports, ticket books, pool/tow slips, parking violation stickers
  • General orders, Penal code, traffic code reference books
  • Etc, etc, etc.

Realize, our local flatfoot hasn’t even put the car into Drive yet, and those things have already been gone through.

And for each of these things there’s at least a four hour training session required before you can use it – for some, like NCIC and patrol rifle, a lot more than eight hours.

Now, who wants to give this guy more crap to interact with?

Stuff Doesn’t Go Away
When administrators and vendors say that cops don’t like technology, I think they have in mind a specific piece of tech – like in-car NCIC access: who could not want that? So now when administrators say, ‘Oh, they have NCIC in the car, so cops should run LP checks and regional hit searches themselves,’ it assumes that the technology changes everything else about the job. Of course, it doesn’t – it’s now one additional thing that the cop has to do.

Nothing ever goes away when something is added; instead, things just accumulate. The squad car looks like a storage unit. When we move from pepper spray to TASER, now we carry pepper spray and TASER; when dash-cam video entered our windshields, nothing was taken away – so now our windshields look like those Google StreetView cars.

So cops think to themselves, why do we need more stuff? When do things become easier, when can you do more with less?

Simply put, cops don’t like being forced to learn yet another thing that won’t work with any existing thing in the car, but must be used by him along with every thing he already has. And if he does it wrong or screws it up, he gets to get in trouble. And everyone knows that police agencies have rules about how to make rules, there’s a policy for everything.

So according to Dave and Nick, the keys to getting cops to want more technology and newer technology are the PLI Three Golden Rules for law-enforcement technology products are:

  • Integration, simplification, utility.

This may seem obvious, yet we submit that it obviously is not. If it were obvious, technology vendors would have provided this to us already. So here’s what we mean by Integration, Simplicity and Utility:

  • Integration means simply that System A can talk to systems B and C and D wherever possible and needed.
  • Simplification means that the technology is purpose-built and easy-to-use.
  • Utility is the combined condition arising from compliance with steps one and two – that is, when something is easy to use and purpose-built, and integrates with other technology products already in use by law enforcement, it is useful.

In an upcoming Police Led Intelligence podcast, Dave and I talk about this issue, and explore each of the Three Golden Rules. We hope it’s of interest to cops, command staff and, perhaps most important, vendors looking to sell to cops.