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Criminal Justice and the IT Revolution

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2000
56 pages
This chapter examines the impact on American policing of the information-processing revolution that has occurred since the invention of the transistor.
The chapter's objective is to assess the opportunities and challenges that this revolution has generated and to examine the responses that American policing has made. An organizing premise of the work is that although the information technology (IT) revolution promises an enormous increase in information-processing capability, the current reality is that too few police departments are using that capability effectively. The chapter begins with a short historical overview of legislation and commissions that addressed or influenced information systems development in criminal justice from the mid-1800's until the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Reviews are then presented of the current state of policing information systems in the following areas: records management, criminal histories, computer-aided dispatch, crime analysis, uniform crime reporting, and computer networking. The information system demands made by community-oriented and problem-oriented policing are then examined. The author argues that community-oriented policing differs in philosophy and approach from professional or traditional policing. The changes in policing that are required are strategic, not simply tactical. In particular, effective implementation of community-oriented policing depends on information-gathering and processing systems that are radically different and more demanding than those needed for professional policing. Seven information domains are identified and reviewed. The author advises that neglect of these domains, or failure to meet the IT imperative they assert, will impede, perhaps cripple, the implementation of community policing. The chapter concludes with a prescriptive and optimistic look at the prospects for the 21st century. 1 exhibit, 25 notes, and 63 references

Date Published: January 1, 2000