Policing In 2020
The year 2020 has accelerated the need for police departments around the United States to become more efficient and effective with fewer members to execute the mission of preventing and deterring crime. From budgetary shortfalls at the state and local level due to the global COVID-19 pandemic to the national call for defunding police departments in the wake of George Floyd’s death, police administrators will be looking toward technological solutions to help improve communication, coordination, and deployment strategies that will make our communities safer.
When I started in this profession over 25 years ago, the IT roles were filled by sworn officers who did not possess the necessary training to cultivate and maintain a mature enterprise technology platform required in a 21st-century police department. Since that time, qualified IT professionals have become more commonplace within police departments, allowing for the transition from a technology-averse institution that relied on an inefficient hodgepodge approach toward IT development toward a more mature structure to support the unique objectives and requirements of a modern police department.
With a more mature IT infrastructure and environment comes a more sophisticated model of governance.
IT governance can provide the necessary foundation a modern police department needs through formal frameworks for assessing, selecting, prioritizing, and balancing competing resources. Further, with a systematic governance structure in place, police departments have the ability to properly oversee the execution of new IT projects and quantify their benefits as a means to show enhanced productivity and to show how cost-effective proper technology implementation can be long-term.
As a result of structured governance, a police department can go from a large number of disconnected systems that never speak with each other to a fully integrated environment that connects Records Management, Workforce Management, Asset Management, Learning Management, Early Intervention, Geographic Information, Global Positioning, and Video Management Systems into one common operating environment. This will not only allow for enhanced operations and more data-driven decision-making, but it will also allow a police department the ability to be more transparent with the communities it serves.
The value of governance cannot be understated; however, it must be able to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. Governance cannot become a hindrance to slow down progress; it is a means to an end rather than the other way around. In order for technology to be truly actualized in a policing environment, the IT governance must deviate away from the traditional COBIT (Controlled Objectives for Information and related Technology) principles toward a more agile governance approach. In the traditional approach, IT managers focus on applying a single integrated framework across the entire enterprise in an attempt to meet the organization’s needs. This model has become the traditional standard for IT leaders, but in a fast-paced environment such as a police department, the emphasis on governance by control can hinder the ability to successfully achieve short- and intermediate-term goals.
By taking a more agile IT governance approach, a police department can be more collaborative, maximizing the net benefit of existing technological resources while still providing the ability for a longterm foundation. Moreover, agility in the overall enterprise allows for organizational synergies that cultivate ownership throughout each section of the agency and provides the ability for quick adjustments as new needs arise.