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Realizing the Potential of Technology in Policing: A Multisite Study of the Social, Organizational, and Behavioral Aspects of Implementing Police Technologies

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2015
336 pages
Using a multi-method approach in four large law enforcement agencies, both urban and suburban, this study examined many of the social, organizational, and behavioral aspects of implementing police technologies, so as to make recommendations for optimizing the use of technology in policing.
The study consisted of officer surveys, field observations, interviews, focus groups, and experimental and quasi-experimental evaluations. It assessed the uses and impacts of several information, analytical, surveillance, and forensic technologies, including information technology (IT), mobile computing, crime analysis, and license plate readers. The study determined how these technologies affected policing operations, management, agency structure, culture, efficiency, effectiveness, citizen interaction, and job satisfaction. Overall, the study found that technology's effects on policing are complex and often contradictory. They do not necessarily produce improvements in communication, cooperation, productivity, job satisfaction, or officers' effectiveness in reducing crime and serving citizens. Intended effects of a technology may take considerable time to occur as agencies adapt to them and refine their uses over time. This is often due to implementation and operational problems with a new technology. Thus, technological changes in policing may not achieve easy, rapid, and substantial improvements in police performance, depending on whether there is proper planning, effort, infrastructure, and norms that maximize the technology's benefits. The recommendations for police agencies include a broad base of participation in the planning and implementation process for a new technology, involving those who will be affected by the technology; providing pilot testing and refinement of early versions of a technology; ensuring appropriate training in the characteristics and uses of the technology; and having a systematic and continuous follow-up, in-service training, ongoing technical support, and adaptation to lessons learned. 10 figures, approximately 150 references, and appended methodological materials

Date Published: December 1, 2015