Police and technology
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This article is written by Meera Patel from Maharaja Sayajirao University, School of Law, Vadodara. This article discusses the various problems faced by the law enforcement system and it also mentions the solutions and technologies needed for the police forces for a safer future.

Introduction 

We live in a world where the crime rates go up every single day, where humanity is questioned after every act of crime happens, where the gravity of the crime is shooting up in the sky, where stricter law enforcement policies are more important than the religious squabble we observe around us. In a world like this, new methodologies, technology, and new ideas are the need for the hour. The law enforcement agencies began with taking up new ideas, technologies, etc were enforced that embarrassed new concepts introduced to the world of crime.

Problems faced by the Police 

The idea of democracy has been widely conceptualized and in it, one of the most important problems that a country can face is the crucial task of maintaining law and order. The inspiration for the concept of law enforcement did not only come from western laws. It came from our ancestors too. The treaties known as Arhtashastra which was written by Kautilya highlighted the concept of administration of justice which conceptualized civilly as well as criminal law accompanied by the punishments and sanctions according to the gravity of the crime. 

Such an archaic concept needs to keep up with the time because with the coming of the new era, comes the need for more powerful law enforcement forces. The following are a few major problems faced by the law enforcement agents which makes it more important for the government to pass stricter laws for a safer future: 

  1. As a part of the executive body, the police can never get rid of the political intrusion. Therefore even though the affiliation with the government has its perks, the police body as an individual will always be tampered by the manipulative overshadow of dirty politics. 
  2. Adding weight to the above-stated point, being a part of a corrupt economy the police fall under the realm of politics, and the police forces would be used to take undue supremacy by the rich and powerful.
  3. Police force’s internal management does not have a clear and transparent accountability system in the context of bribery, fake encounters, custodial deaths, wrongful conviction, etc. It is a vague and ambiguous management system.
  4. The police efficiency keeps deteriorating in the context of ethics, responsibility, etc. For example, the extending gap between the FIRs registered and the rate of crimes committed, irresponsible police staff who do not address the public complaints properly, etc.
  5. Lack of fundings for the equipment, weapons, technology, etc results in the deterioration of the investigating standards. Investigations are tampered with due to the lack of organized communication between the various departments.
  6. Modern technology is not used as much due to the lack of skilled police officials which eventually deteriorates the training standards too. Lack of skilled officials also leads to the excessive workload on the handful of efficient officials. 

The need of the hour: changing police ecosystem for a safe future

Law enforcement was created to make sure that every citizen abides by the rules and regulations so that the eventual result would be to keep society safe and the world a better place to live in. New technologies do not only mean technological advancements. The new strategies, plans, ideas, methods, etc to form an essential part of the new developing technologies. New technologies can only be enforced if the police have a sense of selfless community services, a sense of responsibility, sacrifice, and morally stable integrity. 

In today’s tech-savvy world, the advancements are tearing the roof daily by inventing new technological devices and services daily. Along with the code of ethics, the law enforcement body needs to savour the new developing environment around them with dynamic enthusiasm and a realistic action strategy to shape the society towards a new, different and positive direction. New strategies need to be formulated while keeping in mind the impact of both proactive as well as reactive policing on the community and the crime. For example, weapons buyback programs. The program includes the inputs of the community as the person who returns lost weapons back to the police receives a cash reward. Firstly, this program was enforced to convict all the illegal weapons off the streets and at the same time engage the community into making their surroundings and community a safe place.

The media has been very vocal to express its disappointment towards the super ineffective accountability that the police tend to bring into the play of policing. And even though efforts are being made, there hasn’t been any compatible person to drive our law enforcement body into a stable improvement. Hence keeping the above-stated points into mind, it is very necessary to bring about a change in the policy ecosystem which will generate a safer environment for everyone. 

New policing strategy to meet the challenges of evolving technology: the new era of policing

New policing strategy involves not only implementing new ideas but also to work on itself. In simpler words, the police system needs to rectify its past mistakes and take accountability for their actions. Therefore the main focus of the police system should be on: 

Emphasize on Demanding Functional Autonomy 

  • Similar to the antibodies in a human body, the government needs to constitute a State Security Commission, an antibody for the police system so that the influence of political interference is reduced comparatively. 
  • This body should lay down its guidelines for the smooth operation of the police system. Individual evaluation should be enforced so that no aspect of the police functioning should go unnoticed. Along with the guidelines, this committee would have the power to appoint the police officials and decide their tenure for a smooth justice system.
  • New officials should be appointed based on merit and merit only. Each police officer should have a minimum tenure of service so that more people can have employment opportunities.
  • Individual authoritative bodies need to be established under state commissions so that postings, promotions, salaries of officers can be decided beforehand by these officials and that corruption, nepotism, or favouritism pointers can be eliminated to an extent.

Increase strict policies to ensure a smooth flow of police accountability

  • Similar to the State security commission, there should be an individual body that should be established just to entertain the complaints against the police authority. This can be a state-level authority which can function to work and investigate cases that involve the wrongdoings of the police authority such as wrongful convictions, custodial rape, encounters, warrantless investigations, misconduct, etc.
  • This body should have the authority to investigate officials who are at the highest post to the officials on the lowest post. They shouldn’t be manipulated by power or money.
  • Law and orders should be separated from the process of investigating. The investigators should solely follow the guidelines and rules set down by the commission so that the political interference could be segregated completely or to an extent.

Mobilizing tools for future work

Good policing strategy and technology are complementary products. One will be of no use without the other one in a time like this. With the evolving law enforcement policies, it is crucial to acknowledge the pace at which the technology is evolving too. With the help of the technology, the core aspect of how the public reacts to the different strategies and tools used by the law enforcement bodies to control the criminal activities determines the efficiency of the new tool in our society and whether it would work or not. 

For example, there is an app used in the US known as US Dept. of Justice NSOPW App which detects registered sex offenders in the radius around you and that is a very helpful tool to keep the police as well as the general public aware of their surroundings. On the other hand, even though India has a sex offender registry but the police haven’t made it public yet. The secretiveness of the police to protect the privacy of sex offenders is a disadvantageous strategy for the community. The above-stated example also shows that the police need to adapt themselves with the new strategies and policies that can meet the challenges of the evolving crime rates around us.

What can be the new possible law enforcement innovation

Distributing virtual and sensing patrol

  • Using technology and putting efforts to obtain substantial results rather than investigating dead ends without the proper equipment will not only save time and energy but will also deteriorate the number of crime rates around us. 
  • Even if separate departments are created with an equal workforce to prevent crimes, the possibility of being physically present at the scene of the crime when the crime is happening is next to impossible. Therefore, technologies such as the Internet of Things, smart sensors, security cameras are the need of the hour so that with lesser man force and more technology, the police can still keep an eye on the society and allow access to unparalleled awareness. These commodities can provide raw data that can be used for detailed studies and analysis to make the investigation quick and efficient.

Technology as a partner in the field

  • After the investigation, the technologies should be smart enough to assist the police officials on the physical crime scene. Tech devices like the electronics miniaturization, 5G communications, AR Glasses, surveillance drones, etc allows the police to open up various proofs that can go unnoticed past human eyes. Things like previous call logs, locations, crime history registry, etc are some examples of things that are used to strategize and execute raids, missions, etc. The perks of new technology also include digital back up in the field. In simpler words, drones and cameras are used on fields as a security backup. 

Artificial intelligence and predictive police

  • Data and information are the most crucial part of any investigation. Therefore promotion of the use of AR glasses, license readers, body scanners, smart sensors, drones, surveillance cameras, etc is very important as these commodities will help the police generate information with speed and correct accuracy. With the help of such technologies, the amount of information that will be generated will be able to begin to collapse the number of unsolved cases but also help in expanding the law enforcement actions. 
  • The real hero out of all these commodities is Artificial Intelligence which will be used as a future investigative tool. When other technological commodities generate such a humongous amount of data every day, it becomes impossible for humans to comb through that information therefore, Artificial intelligence should be an important part of the law enforcement body. It does not only help us go through the information but it may also be used for pattern analysis, going through the records of the databases and sensor feeds, identifying critical information like secluded places, key links between two random information, facial recognition, etc.

Evidence-based policies

  • Technology can be used to derive information but with the use of simple methods and ideas, it is necessary to test the usefulness of the new ideas and tools. To put such actions into effect, the process of proof-based policing is required. Exclusive forensic research techniques, professional opinions, etc are required to dig the results. This will not only help the police to tackle the testing hypothesis but will also filter out the unaccounted actions of the police.
  • This method can help the police figure out the data outcomes and eventually lead them to efficient and effective solutions. With next to meagre resources, the evidence-based policing method affiliates the police with external professional help so that their efforts are put into the right place and could use their energy to combat the complex criminal activities.

New modes of communication involved

  • The end goal of law enforcement is to develop a safe community. Therefore to create a safe space for the community, a stable connection, communication, and relationship with the people is crucial. New technologies can help create a bridge between the community and the police so that a safe space is developed where the community can open up about their needs. This helps the police to cater to the needs of the people more faithfully.
  • For example, apps can be made a tool for the people where they can report minor issues to the police giving police the knowledge of the gravity of the situation. With every aspect in mind, even with the latest tech commodities, the relationship between humans cannot be bridged via technology therefore with the use of the commodities, new innovative ideas such as evidence-based research can help the community in various ways to create more healthy and happy relationships between all.

Issues and challenges 

With such great innovations comes their own set of issues and challenges too. To address these barriers, it is obvious we need to understand that in general, any organizational framework will have its own set of problems and obstacles that can get in its way therefore in this case, the law enforcement agencies have to overcome the obstacle of adopting new technology and then using it in the morally as well as technically correct way.

When it comes to making changes on a large scale, the difficult part begins with the generalizing of the change. For example, rural police systems aren’t even equipped with basic technological support such as computers or internet, therefore, it is more likely that they will not adapt themselves with such new tech support such as drones and AR glasses, etc. therefore if we consider India’s population, with these barriers the new policing strategy will prove to be counterproductive.

Even though law enforcement desires to use various new technologies to build up its organization, various huge barriers are in its way of enforcing and implementing such ideas. Listed below are 3 such barriers that the government needs overcome to make this possible for law enforcement: 

  1. Finance: it will put a huge hole in the pockets of the government if they run the cost of enforcing and implementing these new tech ideas as compared to the use of other resources.
  2. Failure Risks: The risk that the new technology will not fulfil its purpose after pursuing has always been one of the major challenges for the government.
  3. The risk associated with the mon power: another challenge that the police system faces is the risk that the different departments and officers would not either accept or adapt with the new tech support so the results wouldn’t be as efficient as anticipated. 

Critical analysis

Changes are inevitable. Some happen naturally and some need to cope up with those natural changes to survive. In the context of law enforcement bodies, the crucial part about the changes required for the police force is that they are all interdependent.

One cannot survive without the other. In simpler words, if you give a police official all the technological powers without any ethical restraint, it would end up in the same disastrous way if the situation is reversed. The law enforcement leadership needs to recognize the grassroots problems that include hiring the right and qualified person and managing those hired people correctly.

Even when the changes that are required seem to be implausible, the government will have to play a very important rule because making these changes would bring about a revolutionary change in the government. The criminal activities would not be eliminated. The activities will fall for sure though. Moreover, the authorities need to understand the history of law enforcement bodies as that will help the law enforcement agencies to understand how potential these changes are for the future and will learn to use these changes to their advantage which will be used for the greater good. 

The technologies, ideas, innovations will keep innovating as time passes but the primary goal of the law enforcement agencies will always be to create a safe environment for public safety. Such innovations will surely bring glory to the country but at the same time only if they are used while using the moral compass of professionalism, being faithful towards the ethical code, and religiously following the discipline guidelines set by such law enforcement authorities.

Innovations used by law enforcement agencies

The following are a few examples of various technologies adopted and used by many law enforcement bodies around the world: 

  1. Softwares for Facial Recognition 
  2. Biometrics: software that recognizes fingerprints, DNAs, voices, etc
  3. Robots or Bots: used for surveillance, storage of police records, etc.
  4. Shotspotters: this device locates the exact location from where a gun was fired.
  5. Thermal imaging
  6. Artificial intelligence
  7. Smart cruisers: Smart cars with inbuilt surveillance technology
  8. License plate identifiers
  9. Drones: used for better surveillance and spying
  10. Creative versions of body-worn cameras.

Conclusion

New technologies, methods, ideas, and strategies can bring significant changes to law enforcement. Police agencies have been running back and forth to implement the new changes, developing new ideas, trying to adapt themselves with the new tech commodities, and incorporating ideas from officials of different posts and community leaders. The innovations that are meant to shape the future of the country using new technology that can be implemented on police operations should also be used for community engagement and bridging the gap that has been created by years of negative connotation the police force has been carrying because of the incompetent police officials the government entertains even now.

References 

  • https://abcnews.go.com/Technology/AheadoftheCurve/story?id=8187394&page=1#:~:text=App%20Pinpoints%20Registered%20Sex%20Offenders%20in%20a%20Neighborhood&text=The%20app%20prompts%20users%20to,offenders%20have%20said%20they%20live.
  • https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/public-sector/articles/future-of-policing-and-law-enforcement-technology-innovations.html
  • https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/238011.pdf

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