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Law Enforcement Technology--Are Small and Rural Agencies Equipped and Trained?

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2004
14 pages
This report presents results from a national survey of small and rural law enforcement agencies on technology and technology-related training needs and capabilities and the current criminal justice related technologies these agencies have in place.
Small and rural law enforcement agencies are susceptible to falling behind their urban and suburban counterparts in adopting and using computers and other new technologies. These new technologies can help reduce crime rates, apprehend criminals, and improve safety for officers, suspects, and the public. This study supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice examined nationwide the extent to which small and rural law enforcement agencies have adopted new technologies, as well as the value they place on these technologies and how competent and well trained the officers are who are using the technologies. The study received survey responses from 239 agencies with fewer than 20 sworn officers serving populations of 50,000 or less. The study results suggest that rural and small law enforcement agencies nationwide do not use most of the technologies. They tend to use a variety of communications-related technologies and personal computers. However, they tend not to use or be trained in the use of more sophisticated technologies. Respondents placed a high value on communication equipment, as well as personal computers, video cameras in police cars, and mainframe computers. Most small and rural police departments gave their officers a low rating for their knowledge of and/or competence in using new technologies with a no-competence rating most often associated with less-lethal weapons, car-mounted digital/data terminals, digital imaging for fingerprints and suspect composites, global positioning systems, mainframe computers, night-vision goggles, vehicle engine disruption devices, and stolen-vehicle tracking devices. Most agencies indicated that their officers needed training in the use of such technologies as global positioning systems, hand-held digital terminals, digital fingerprinting, and less-lethal weapons.

Date Published: June 1, 2004