My take on why public safety technology lags
We live in an era of rapid communication and instant data sharing capability, yet many emergency police and fire personnel still rely on outdated systems. You don’t have to look any further than your cell phone to get a picture of the kind of innovation that’s missing in the public safety arena.
Your cell phone can probably handle a multitude of functions – from capturing data, to offering GPS navigation, to running an application to update your Twitter feed or Facebook status. Meanwhile, the radios used by our police and fire personnel have barely changed a wink from those I used more than three decades ago when I first joined the LAPD.
There is no technological barrier holding police radios back from being every bit as capable as their cell phone counterparts. It just comes down to a matter of user demand.
Cell phones work on a worldwide set of standards, published and committed to by the industry to allow application development and worldwide use. Consumers continually demand innovation and, as we see with latest iPhone applications and other advances, the market delivers.
However, we in law enforcement have not demanded similar development of our own emergency communications equipment. The military uses advanced command and control, interoperable communications, video and data systems – and many of these could have a direct application to public safety. Yet we have continued to stick with the manufacturers and systems we know. For some reason, we seem to relish the status quo when it comes to adopting new technology.
That’s why Requests for Proposals soliciting the same old technology continue to be issued and many law enforcement agencies balk at having a social media presence. This is slowly starting to change, but will require a unified shift to get the entire law enforcement community up to speed.
So, I beseech you: Learn about new technologies and platforms and how they can benefit you. Talk with others in the community about the technological advancements, services and vendors that could improve your capabilities. Avoid choices that lock you into technology that won’t adapt. Demand what you need to do your job well.
There will always be a natural resistance to change in favor of the “tried and true.” But as we usher in a new era of technological development, it’s our duty to make sure law enforcement is not left behind.