Data is becoming an increasingly important tool for law enforcement and public safety in recent years. The need for greater efficiencies while ensuring improved effectiveness in these crucial areas is driving this trend. Policy emphasis is a contributor too. The White House issued an executive order in 2022 to advance effective, accountable policing and criminal justice practices to enhance public trust and safety.1 This order was further supported in early 2023 with a call for public input to improve data collection, use, analysis and transparency best practices in policing.
With the rise of digital technologies, law enforcement and public safety agencies can collect and analyze vast amounts of data. These modern digital tools can aid in investigations, identify crime hotspots and build upon community policing initiatives. Additionally, data can be used to predict crime trends, allowing law enforcement agencies to stay ahead of the curve and adopt preventative measures.
The use of data in this sector is not without controversy, however. In this blog post, we’ll explore the ways in which data is used by law enforcement and public safety. We’ll also discuss some of the legal and ethical considerations that come with this practice. And we’ll identify essential capabilities to overcome these potential problem areas.
3 Ways Law Enforcement Agencies Can Improve Outcomes with Data
The use of data in this public sector community can take many forms. One common use is in predictive policing. Predictive policing uses algorithms to analyze data from various sources. These sources may include crime reports, arrest records, and social media that can identify areas that are at a higher risk of criminal activity. Law enforcement can then use this information to target their resources and prevent crime before it happens. Predictive policing has shown some promise in reducing crime rates. However, there are concerns that it could perpetuate bias and unfairly target certain communities.
Another use of data in law enforcement is facial recognition technology. Facial recognition technology uses algorithms to analyze images of people's faces. The information is then compared to a database of known faces, such as a criminal database or social media. This technology can be useful in identifying suspects and preventing crime. It is also highly controversial due to concerns about privacy and accuracy. There have been numerous cases of misidentification and wrongful arrests due to flawed facial recognition algorithms as well as incorrect addresses. Many argue that the technology should not be used by law enforcement at all.
Data can also be used in investigations to build a case against a suspect. Law enforcement can use data from cell phone towers, social media, and other sources to track a suspect's movements and gather evidence. However, the use of this data is subject to strict legal and ethical guidelines. For example, law enforcement must obtain a warrant before accessing certain types of data. In matters of gathering data for proof of crimes or wrongdoing, law enforcement must adhere to strict rules about what data they can collect and how they can use it.
There are also concerns about the use of data in law enforcement regarding privacy and civil liberties. As more and more data is collected and analyzed, there is a risk that individuals' privacy will be violated. There are also concerns about the potential for data to be used to unfairly target certain communities or individuals, perpetuating systemic biases and discrimination.
Leverage Modern Technology to Address Modern Challenges
Challenges are many but modern data management technologies can be leveraged to mitigate the risk of these controversial issues. Common obstacles include:
- Lack of a single view of high-quality law enforcement and public safety data
- Lack of data collaboration across various departments to effectively respond to crime
- Lack of contextual data insights
- Inability to automate investigative processes for timely responses
- Deficiencies in protecting citizen data and other sensitive information
- Lack of automated data workflows and a real-time view of incidents, case information and more
To overcome these obstacles, law enforcement and public safety officials should seek the capabilities of cutting-edge data management technology, allowing them to:
- Achieve a 360-degree view of crime — connecting the dots by integrating people, location, behavior and other data to provide context and a complete view of information
- Improve operational performance with artificial intelligence and machine learning — continually evaluating data from sources such as images, videos and devices to provide data-driven recommendations to improve operational performance
- Drive community-oriented policing initiatives — improving collaboration between government and law enforcement agencies by facilitating secure data exchange for community-based preventative measures
- Create smart cities for public safety — integrating trusted data generated from smart-city infrastructure to help monitor and prevent crimes
Cloud Data Management Is Key
The Informatica® Intelligent Data Management Cloud™ (IDMC) is a good place to start looking for the best that industry has to offer. IDMC provides one of the most comprehensive, end-to-end data management solutions. Its capabilities can assist with modernizing law enforcement and public safety initiatives to meet today’s challenges. The solution can also help mitigate some of the more controversial uses of technology in this sector.
Leverage IDMC to discover all the necessary data regardless of source or format. The platform adds value by cataloging and normalizing data so it can be applied quickly to the task at hand. Ensure data is complete and trusted. Govern data for compliance of privacy regulations and protecting sensitive data. Finally, create a golden record — a 360-degree view — of correlated and matched data of a person, place or object to drive unexpected insights and perform functions better.
Data has become an essential tool for the 18,000+ U.S. state, tribal, local and territorial law enforcement and public safety agencies. But it’s not without its legal and ethical challenges. As technology continues to advance and new data sources become available, it’s important for law enforcement agencies to use data in a responsible and ethical manner. Agencies must respect the privacy and civil liberties of individuals while leveraging the data that can protect them. Lawmakers, law enforcement agencies and the public must work together to ensure that data is used in a way that promotes justice and equality for all. Foundational to that success is effectively and efficiently managing the vast amount of data associated with this sector.
Informatica IDMC is ready to help.
To learn more, check out our video, “How to Advance Public Safety with Industry-Leading Data Management." Visit www.informatica.com/state-local-govt for additional resources.