Technology is constantly changing, and real-time data is vital to law enforcement agencies like the Bloomington Police Department, Capt. Steve Kellams said.
“You’ve got to have real-time data and you’ve got to have it at your fingertips,” Kellams said.
To get that real-time data, BPD maintains technology-heavy systems, both at its station as well as in its patrol cars.
Each car is equipped with a laptop and a system called Street Smart, which shows the location of calls and officers. BPD was the second police department in the country to use this system, following the Tampa Police Department in Florida.
At first, Street Smart was designed to be the “officer’s notebook,” Kellams said. It allows officers to communicate and report on developments in real time with other officers through blogs.
Officers can also check through bulletins and alerts if they believe they have a suspect nearby or in front of them.
BPD was one of the first police departments in the country to use several other cutting-edge technologies.
The department began using body cameras on its officers a year before the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. After that incident, police departments began to use body cameras more. As a result of BPD’s early adoption, Chief Michael Diekhoff was asked to help create national guidelines for their use.
Because of the close partnership between BPD and the IU Police Department, they are both moving in similar directions. IUPD Lt. Craig Munroe said they already requested body cameras for their officers, and both departments have moved to an almost entirely paperless system to streamline their data keeping.
Both departments have a system in place for their officers to communicate in real time. BPD has its Street Smart System and IUPD has what it calls Interact.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s department is also moving toward a greater integration of technology, Chief Deputy Russell Brummett said.
“They, too, all have body cameras,” he said. “They have added Tasers to their equipment and they, with the city, use the Spillman app to communicate,” Deputy Brummett said.
Spillman is a mobile app that allows information sharing, which each law enforcement agency has stressed as one of their primary goals.
While new technologies are incredibly helpful, they do involve more training and maintenance for officers.
“Just trying to keep up with the technology, it’s more training that’s required,” Brummett said.
And while these new technologies do allow law enforcement to be more efficient with lower manpower, they present their own problems, as all agencies noted.
Maintenance for these technologies is a key factor and issue for IUPD, Lt. Munroe said. Recently, IUPD spent approximately $8,000 to update their portable radio systems.
“It’s more effective on one side,” Lt. Munroe said. “It’s a two-edged sword.”
The training required for learning these new systems can, and has already, eaten up some of the overtime for officers, Brummett said.
Those issues of training and maintenance are weighed against the continuing need for real-time shareable data continues to push law enforcement to adapt and embrace technology.
“We’ve really embraced technology,” Kellams said “Sharing that information is critical.”
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