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What Open Architecture Systems Mean to a Field Cop

Part one of a three-part series

I recently spent some time with two LAPD officers and their actions reminded me that when field officers have real communications work to do, they reach for their smart phone. After receiving several messages over the radio, the officers used cell phones to make calls and get more information. They even used Google Maps, once to view the house they were going to and another time to direct responding units to the precise part of the house and block to cover.

It’s ironic that while these officers can engage in social media, watch videos and browse the Internet on their personal smart phones, they aren’t provided the same – or better – wireless technologies out in the field. In fact, these officers asked me why they couldn’t access criminal records, photos and printing capabilities – all tasks that smart phones are capable of accomplishing. When I explained that the type of systems integration they’re looking for exists, I had their attention.

Everyone in law enforcement is all too aware that as budgets continue to shrink, departments are being forced to make some tough decisions. During times like these, understanding the basic systems of communications that link officers to each other and to the information they need in the field can take a backseat to what is seen as more pressing budgetary issues. But once decision makers realize what field cops instinctively know – that smart phones are the future – departments will move quickly to adopt the technologies that already exist.

Long Term Evolution (LTE) technologies will soon offer exactly what field officers are looking for, with open architecture that lets any communications device work on a secure network.

With this type of technology, police officers would see multiple changes in their daily operations, including:

  • Better interagency communication during major events;
  • The capability to communicate with any public agencies on any system;
  • Public communications systems that could be set to operate with public safety in emergencies;
  • Effectively operating and connecting any type of communications devices, from cell phones to radios and telephones, on the same system;
  • The ability to connect officers to any communications network through an open architecture gateway that is not propriety. In other words, you could have more than an original equipment manufacturer has available on their system alone; and
  • A software drive that can be updated to future LTE, 4G and 3G technologies.

This is a technology overhaul that’s long been needed in the area of public safety. It’s time to start the revolution.

This post is part one of a three-part series.
Part two is here: “Brave New World: Wireless Access Technologies and the Impact on Policing”
Part three is here: “3G, 4G, LTE – What Does It Mean?”

Mike Bostic

Mike Bostic was with the LAPD for 34 years. He held every significant command up to Assistant Chief. Mr. Bostic is currently working in communications technology/public safety at Raytheon. He will also provide the closing keynote address on Wednesday Jan 12th at The SMILE (Social Media the Internet and Law Enforcement) Conference in Santa Monica. Find him on Twitter – @mikebostic

Creating a Social Media Engaged Agency

Kicking off The SMILE Conference is an honor, but my real pride rests with the Social Media presence of the Arcadia Police Department.  There is no doubt it is imperative for law enforcement agencies to participate in the world of Social Media, but moreover, if we are to participate – we must engage!  Sitting on the sidelines listening or creating accounts only in name, simply scratches the surface of Social Media.  Our naysayers believe that law enforcement acts like “big brother” and only uses Social Media as the latest intelligence tool to gather information.  True engagement with your community and beyond is what today’s law enforcement needs.  Law enforcement leaders can discuss credibility and transparency, but the true testament to these traits can only be shown through action.

I will give SMILE participants a brief look into our version of an engaged agency.  There are many ways to conduct business, many ways to research and develop strategy, and many ways to then implement your plan.  However, this process can be a difficult one for many reasons: “old school” peers or administrators; lack of source information and working examples; fear of the untested; or simply saying, “let someone else do it first.”  These are just a few of the reasons that Arcadia’s presence began with a rogue police association blog.  Over the course of the following year or two, our administration began to see the value in Social Media as a developing tool for law enforcement.  Today, we continue to build our presence in Social Media by participating with an official agency blog, Twitter and Facebook pages, on-going construction of a YouTube channel, and through networking with other active Social Media participants in many fields, not just limited to law enforcement.  Other tools are also being used to compliment and extend our community engagement, such as Nixle (instant communication), Crime Mapping, and traditional avenues like newsletters and in-person presentations.

Law enforcement tools and technology are ever-changing and evolving.  The differences in training and tools of the trade in my short 25 plus years as a police officer are immense: the revolver and “speedy loaders” have been shelved; every officer in the field now has a portable radio, and some, a department PDA or smartphone; we no longer use a ticker tape style machine to conduct warrant checks; our police units have computers with Internet access; training is mandated and standardized; introduction of community policing theory has led to new practices; crime analysis is now the norm and predictive policing is the future.  The list could go on, but the point is that Social Media is simply a new tool and application that is available for our use.  The difference is that Social Media is not limited to law enforcement, it is now a standard in society, and its use has become an expectation by our community members.  Unlike jury duty – we are not exempt.

By providing some examples of my experiences and the journey of the Arcadia Police Department, I hope to make you better prepared to lead your agency along the road to truly creating an engaged agency in today’s world of Social Media.

Sgt Tom Le Veque of Arcadia PD is the first presenter at The SMILE Conference. Le Veque is a law enforcement social media pioneer. He has successfully developed a social media presence for Arcadia PD and has provided example and encouragement to fellow law officers. Sergeant Tom Le Veque has served with the Arcadia Police Department since 1987, promoting to Sergeant in 1991. Prior to that, Tom was a Police Officer for the City of San Marino Police Department from 1984-1987. Tom has been a driving force behind many of Arcadia’s innovative programs such as Video Parking Enforcement and Neighborhood Speed Watch. Most recently, Sergeant Le Veque has taken the Arcadia Police Department to a new level of community interaction and involvement by developing a web presence with a Department Blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Nixle pages. Arcadia is one of the first agencies in Los Angeles County to truly enter and embrace SMILE. He was recently a panelist at the California Peace Officers’ Association, 2010 Training Symposium.

Dear Law Officer,

This post is dedicated to Detective Brown and Detective Burke of the West Haven, Connecticut Police Department.

You can save a life. You may not be aware that it is happening—it could be a simple conversation, a violent interaction, or just your presence in a situation. Some small part of your day-to-day that you wouldn’t normally blink at could be the life changing moment for someone else. It was for me.

I was dragged into the station on two counts of mail fraud. Who knew that sending threatening letters to people through the mail would be a federal offense? I had already stolen (or in my words, “borrowed’) two cars and had been caught shop lifting, “that’s the last time I train a newbie”, I thought to myself. To me, I was there to get my hand slapped and sent on my merry way. Detective Brown had other plans for me. I was thirteen years old.

The police in my town had become common house guests at Chez Duane. Mom had been dating a very violent man who thought that a good time was blacking out and trying to kill us. That was a typical Monday night. I hated this man with every fiber of my being, to the point of contemplating his demise, which preoccupied much of my time. How could my mother allow for this man to pound on her like a bakery kneads fresh dough, while her babies watched in helpless horror? How could she take the money my dad provided so that she and Jon could get so drunk and high that they wouldn’t remember anything the next morning? And how could this woman invite the cops into our home every night and pretend like everything was fine? I was convinced that this was the eighth wonder of the world.

The cops knew everything was far from fine; but honestly, what could they do? Even when I would speak out against her, I had no clout. It was her house and I—I was a prisoner in what seemed like a minimum security prison. Of course, I could always leave. But at that point, where could I go? My father was in financial ruin from the divorce and living with my grandparents. Plus, I wouldn’t go alone. There were three of us at the time and I refused to split us up. It just wasn’t an option.

So, here I am, sitting in the interrogation room of the West Haven police station waiting for the slap on my wrists. The tangerine colored plastic chairs were extremely uncomfortable to sit in, yet alone squirm. I found myself wondering why eternity was so long.

Finally, a tall, svelte black detective came in. I don’t remember him, I thought. When you have cops in your house every day, you think you know everyone.

“Ja-Naé, I’m Detective Brown and you, my dear, are in a lot of trouble.”

“Please! Tell me something I haven’t heard before”, I said. “God, I am such a bad ass”, I thought.

“Well, ok. Let’s get to it. This is it. You have two federal offenses against you right now. The family you’re harassing originally wanted to press charges until we explained your situation at home. Their hearts go out to you and they’re willing to drop the charges.”

“Wait a F*&^ing moment! Who’s talking? It’s no one’s business. What the F*&^!!!”

(NOTE: I had some anger! But honestly, could you blame me?)

“Ja-Naé, listen up! This is it. If you ever breathe wrong, we have to turn you to the state. You’d be owned by them until your eighteenth birthday. That means no regular school, no friends, nothing. It’s juvenile detention, missy.”

I remained as still and silent as I possibly could. I didn’t give a rat’s ass, but I liked creating a pensive affect. Listen, just lock me away. It doesn’t matter. Then I could actually have some peace.

Detective Brown could tell that he was far from penetrating my stoicism. I was sitting across from him, working on my best statue imitation and trying to turn my eyes into two icy daggers that would pierce his heart. Refocusing my eyes I would look. Was it working? “There must be a secret way to do that”, I thought.

After a short staring contest, the detective leaned in putting both elbows on the table and lowered his head. Then very softly, he spoke:

“Ja-Naé, we are all so sorry for what you’ve been going through at home. It sucks. It really does and many of us wish there was something we could do. J, if you go away, what will happen to your siblings? Who will feed them or protect them from Jon? It won’t be your mom. I know he hasn’t gone after you guys, but honestly, it’s only a matter of time. It you’re gone, what will happen to them? You are their protector. They have no one else. You have a choice to turn your life around, to make something of yourself, and help those kids out. They need you. So, what are you going to do?”

It was a sobering realization for me because he was right and I knew it. What would happen to them if I got put away? How could I live with myself if I allowed that monster to hurt them? Yes, a change needed to occur.

That conversation sparked a ton of revolutions and changes in my life. I changed who I was hanging out with, I began going to Alateen meetings to find ways to cope with the insanity. I even lost 65 pounds. And though those were my immediate changes, they allowed me to make better choices throughout my life.

Things did not get better at home, but much worse. Jon had been imprisoned several times for his abuse and attempted murder. I continued to let our guests in our home on a regular basis until I left for college. But I had changed and I always made sure the kids were ok.

Detective Brown and I never spoke again after that day. It does not change the fact that a simple conversation with a detective that really cared, saved me and has helped shape the woman I am today.

Thank you to all of you who work so hard and may not understand how and why sometimes you touch and shape more lives than you know.

Ja-Naé Duane

Ja-Naé Duane is a strategist, artist, creative economist, and author of “How to Start Your Business with $100”. Ja-Naé has been written about and seen in dozens of media outlet, including the Associated Press, NPR, Classical Singer Magazine, Boston Globe, and Business Week. Mostly recognized for her diverse skill set and unwavering commitment to improving the quality of life for our global community, Ja-Naé was nominated as one of New England’s “Most Innovative Leaders of 2007.” She is CEO of Wild Women Entrepreneurs, CEO of Ja-Naé Duane Ventures, Co-Founder of the Massachusetts Artist Leaders Coalition, and Founder of The Leaders. Ja-Naé is also a professional opera singer, social media strategist, and a faculty member at Northeastern University.

Note from Lauri Stevens: I met Ja-Naé Duane at a #140Conf Tweetup in Boston a couple months back. She told me this story when she learned of my work and I invited her to tell it here. While it doesn’t have anything to do with social media or the Internet, I thought it would be appropriate to use social media to deliver her appreciative words to Detectives Brown and Burke. Because of the men and women in law enforcement who work every day to keep their piece of the homeland safe, we have much to be thankful for. #tacop (Thank-A-Cop-Thursday) this Thanksgiving Thursday, and every day.

Social media at a crime scene: a Police Inspector’s story

I’m really grateful to Inspect Lee Lyons, Sussex Police (@Insp_Lyons) for sharing with me his recent experience of social media use at the scene of an incident, and the subsequent national media attention that generated. His story raises a number of key organisational and operational issues which I will explore later in this post.

First, his story…

Hastings Pier Fire

“Hastings was originally a Victorian town, and like many Victorian towns it has a pier.  Now in recent years the pier at Hastings has become embroiled in ownership disputes and fallen into a state of disrepair and neglect.  The local authority together with a local community group recently announced plans to renovate and regenerate the pier, funding was in the process of being secured and the future was starting to appear bright.

At 1am on 5th October 2010 everything changed. I was the duty police Inspector in East Sussex that morning that morning and vividly remember the first reports from units arriving at scene, the exclamation in their voice when they reported that “Hastings Pier is on fire”.  Within five minutes I was on scene, with the duty sergeant from Hastings, to watch a little bit of local history disappear.

My first instincts were entirely professional, there were road closures to get in place, suspects to detain and transport to custody and important and necessary liaison with East Sussex Fire and Rescue; but if the truth is told there came a point where I found myself with 30 seconds to myself and in front of me a sad but amazing spectacle.  In those few moments of reflection I whipped out my mobile phone and took a couple of snaps and a short video, I then tweeted (with link to photo):

Hastings Pier is on fire. http://plixi.com/p/48792824

Then a short while later –

“More Hastings pier. http://plixi.com/p/48795577”


some video for you

Now I sent these images with very little thought and certainly not prepared for the sudden on-rush of media interest; my tweets started being re-tweeted. I received a couple of polite enquiries from some followers, then suddenly a phone call from BBC news.

BBC – “Can we use your photos?”

Me – “Er, I don’t see why not….”

Within moments my photos were on the BBC website, and then Sky News wanted in on the action…. Except they wanted the video, again I agreed.

Less than thirty minutes later my video formed part of a breaking news segment on Sky News, slightly embarrassed my mind turned to whether I had actually done something that I should not have done.  I was there to perform an important function and would the public, colleagues or my bosses think that I had nothing better to do than hang around shooting video and taking pictures?

I have had much time to think about this since, and I have discussed with the head of Sussex Police media relations and had a short conversation with my BCU commander (You can follow both on Twitter – @ChiefSuptSmith and @nickcloke).  Both of whom are very relaxed about the fact that my photos were used in this way, in fact one of my pictures made the BBC ‘photos of the week’ featurehttp://bbc.in/9pEExD.

What were the ramifications of my tweets?  Without a doubt the media were able to respond to events in a way that satisfied the local communities clamour for information, there was a risk that a ‘flash mob’ would arrive at the scene but this didn’t really transpire.  My photos were very well received by journalists on local, regional and national levels.

Would I do the same again? Most definitely; to refuse to engage with the media when something so visible and obvious was happening would have been folly.  The truth is a lot of police, firefighters and other people were working very hard to save the pier. Did my actions hinder that effort? Not one little bit.

The one lesson I have learned is that if you push stuff into the public domain you must be prepared to talk to the people that receive that information, don’t be precious about your comments but if the media start to get pushy (and they will!) be firm and hold your ground.  Remember, you have done them a favour, not the other way around.”

So. Questions and observations…

Lee states that he ‘sent these images with very little thought’ and only afterwards did he think ‘whether I had actually done something that I should not have done’. He is fortunate that he works in a Force that takes a progressive approach to media relations, in some forces it is possible that the support that he got from his BCU Commander and Head of Media Relations may not have been so forthcoming. Bullet dodged. Certainly our police colleagues in America are facing a very different organisational approach to social media use by officers at crime scenes (and let’s not forget that this was a crime scene. Two men were arrested on suspicion of Arson and are currently on bail until early December). Dallas Police Department, for instance, recently introduced a policy which forbids officers from taking pictures at crime scenes and then e-mailing them to each other, and the issue of officers using social media at crime scenes is a hot topic amongst law enforcement agencies across the US.

The broader issue for Chief Officers and Force Communication and Engagement Teams is, do you actually have a policy, is it know about and understood and, more importantly, have you reality tested people’s knowledge of it recently?

I’m a huge fan of one page ‘don’t do it if your mum wouldn’t approve of it’ policies, so I’m not advocating anything lengthy, but the reality of our world is that social media is now ubiquitous. Just last week the co founder of facebook was quoted as saying “Two to five years from now, the whole question of what other social networks you use will be moot, because it will all be social”

So, is your policy progressive or defensive? Whilst you’re thinking about that, bear in mind that even the Pentagon has changed its stance on social media from a position of  ’a fortress to be defended’ to ‘a battlefield to be navigated’. Quite frankly, the defensive position is untenable. The Pentagon found that they were being left behind and left out, unable to communicate effectively. Hence the change.

Secondly, just issuing a ‘thou shalt not’ policy won’t cut it. What training, support and advice are you providing? Some forces are and do, some don’t, won’t and should!

Thirdly, and potentially more importantly, what tools are you using to monitor and engage your staff, your public, your supporters and your detractors. Data from 3 month old surveys, by itself, probably doesn’t provide anymore the speed of organisational insight that you need to make effective use of diminishing resources and to effectively position the organisation around emerging issues. There are a range of free tools that you can use, but if you’re serious about effective ‘strategic listening’ you need to make use of the professional platforms and services that are now available. Social media is a strategic tool which should inform and be ‘owned’ at the most senior levels in a force, not just a communications channel, and forces need to see and use it as such.

Social media touches everything and the world is much faster now. If you aren’t sure just how fast, ask Lee Lyons.

This post was previously published on the Open Eye Communications Blog

Advancing Data Sharing at the Local Level and Beyond

Sharing information across jurisdictions is essential for law enforcement to keep pace with criminals and terrorists who are not limited by geographic boundaries.  More so than anyone else, local cops see this played out on their streets every day.  For example, there may be a burglary that takes place in one town and the perpetrators sell the stolen goods to a pawn shop in another.  While some policy and process hurdles remain to make information sharing a larger reality nationwide, the technology exists today to make it happen.

“Using this technology is what our community expects of us,” said Irvine, Calif., Police Chief Dave Maggard.  “If we have the technology available to keep communities safer and catch more criminals, that’s what our mandate should be as law enforcement personnel and it’s something we can all rally around.”

Chief Maggard participated in an i2-sponsored information sharing panel discussion at the recent International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference.  Irvine is a key partner in Orange County’s information sharing system, which is managed by the Integrated Law and Justice Agency for Orange County (ILJAOC).  Built with i2’s COPLINK, it connects the County with Oregon, San Diego, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Police Department, Mesa, Ariz., Tucson, Ariz., Spokane, Wash., Sacramento, Calif., and Boston.  With almost a quarter billion records, it’s arguably the world’s largest law enforcement information sharing system.

“Information sharing is no longer a technology issue,” said Bob Griffin, i2 CEO.  “Those barriers have come down.  We’re seeing our customers make great strides in making sharing a reality.  It boils down to overcoming the cultural, political, protocol and process issues.”

The panelists stressed different ways to overcome the non-technology hurdles that still exist.  All agreed that technology is no longer the issue.  The keys to success revolve around people, resources and sustainability.  And it begins with engaging key stakeholders.

“In Alaska, setting this up for success depended on strong advocates at all levels, including those that were persuasive and persistent throughout the process,” said Bob Griffiths, Executive Director of the Alaska Association of Chiefs of Police.

As the Director of the US DOJ, National Institute of Justice (NIJ), National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center in Alaska (NLECTC-AK), Griffiths was instrumental in helping implement Alaska’s Law Enforcement Information Sharing System (ALEISS) that includes 80 agencies.  Using COPLINK, it was the first statewide information sharing program.

Aligning the stakeholders can include experts you would not necessarily expect.  Chief Maggard and the ILJAOC involved city mangers, city attorneys, records personnel and even the public defender’s office.  The goal was complete transparency of the process.

“A major key to success is to identify the full scope up front and have a sustainability plan for information sharing projects,” said Tim Riley, former CIO of the Los Angeles Police Department and now a Senior Vice President at i2.

While with the LAPD, Riley played a pivotal role in implementing a sharing initiative within the Department that brought together four disparate records management systems and linking it with the ILJAOC.

In Alaska, according to Griffiths, they were really smart about getting the technology up and running, but a “key lesson learned was the lack of a true sustainability plan to keep the system going well into the future as it is challenging to go back to the table and get the additional funding.  You want to do that up front.”  That said, Griffiths is confident that he and his peers can leverage the success they’ve had to keep the program intact.

And speaking of success, immediate ROI is achievable once the technology is up and running. Examples include:

  • Alaska — One of the smaller agencies had a pawn shop report about two individuals that stole two rifles and disappeared.  There was limited information including a tattoo that said “Alaska.”  That information was entered into the COPLINK system and only two people came up, with one living nearby.  Since that person had an extensive record, officials were able to identify his associates easily.  The search only took four hours.
  • Los Angeles – There was a serial robbery case that became increasingly violent with every incident.  The only data had been a partial license plate that was inadvertently transcribed.  That information was put into COPLINK. Two of the plate letters – even though they had been transcribed incorrectly – led to identifying a suspect who was caught in the act.  Twenty robbery cases were closed that day and would have otherwise remained unsolved without information sharing in place.
  • Irvine – A donation box for a non-profit was stolen from a fast food restaurant.  CCTV footage caught a video of a suspect that had a tattoo.  A flyer was created based on the CCTV image.  A dispatcher taking initiative entered the distinctive tattoo information into COPLINK and found a match.

“The great thing about sharing is that you can look at relationships between individuals who may have only spent a fraction of time together, but creates additional leads that you would never have had with a single or multiple record management systems,” said Griffiths.

The panel at IACP was moderated by Lauri Stevens, founder of LAwS Communications and the ConnectedCops blog.

For more information about i2, visit www.i2group.com.

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