Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do? Police services and the cloud

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Policing in the 21st century is complicated. Law enforcement is facing greater challenges at a higher volume than ever before. Sure, all the old favorites like breaking and entering, domestic disputes and petty theft are still in action; but some new issues like identity theft, cyber bullying and illegal downloading are changing the game and maxing out resources. Well, the days of pocket note pads and old-timey walkie-talkies are winding down and police services are evolving to fight crime with cloud computing.

We’re a long way from Mayberry

Andy Griffith didn’t have to do much to keep the good people of Mayberry safe. His files, reports and evidence surely fit in a single cabinet next to his fishing gear. Outdated TV references aside, law enforcement bodies using the cloud to hold and organize data need to take special care in planning and implementing cloud solutions. Luckily, the International Association of Chief of Police (IACP), a not-for-profit organization addressing “cutting edge issues confronting law enforcement though advocacy, programs and research” has produced a set of guiding principles for implementing cloud computing solutions within a law enforcement environment.

While the IACP guidelines acknowledge the cloud’s potential to deliver significant savings and increased access to information, they also recognize that police services must have harmonized (and iron-clad) implementation procedures including:

  • A service provider who can deliver a system that is compliant with Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) security policies—like, now and forever.
  • Clear data ownership agreements with their service provider. The kind that strictly prohibits any data mining, analysis and all other means of snoopery not explicitly ok’d by the cops.
  • Up to date security measures and audits. Duh!
  • Data sets that are portable and malleable enough that they can be move and integrated with other systems without posing a security risk.

COP, it means Constable on Patrol

Applications like iPatrol© Law Enforcement Wireless Village LLC, allows officers to search National Law Enforcement Telecommunications Systems (NLETS) and other databases for information concerning license plates, guns, VINS, etc. This little guy meets National Institute Standards and Technology protocols and is well enough encrypted to allow sharing of CJIS information. It even features a chat room where officers can collaborate and share information.

Whether they’re in Timbuktu or New York City, police officers are receiving, recording and processing huge amounts of information every day. Even though the technology and equipment varies from place to place, a central information database in the cloud makes cops better on the job and in the courthouse. According to Police Magazine, “Over 60% of law enforcement agencies reported a catastrophic loss of digital evidence due to technical or human error in a recent survey.” That’s good news if you’re a baddie but for the rest of us, its palm-to-face-time. Migrating police recorded data gets tapes, notes and pictures off of desks and warehouse shelves and into an organized and secure location.

The cloud polices the police

These days, many officers are sporting on-body cameras as a part of their uniform. The cameras provide a real-time, accurate, first person account of activities and incidents as they unfold. On-body video proprietor, Vievu (with a little help from Amazon Web Services) has recently launched a cloud storage system for on-body video footage that ensures events are promptly uploaded and stored for use at a later time. You see, according to IACP research “93% of police-misconduct cases in which video is available result in the officer’s exoneration; 50% of complaints are immediately withdrawn when video evidence is used”. That means they can’t lie about what happened and neither can you.

Accessible evidence, video records and real-time information access might make you feel like you’re living in a police state. But reliable evidence and properly recorded information might just keep everybody on their best behavior. I guess we’re not too far.

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