Twombly: I would say the implementation or the deployment of Tasers, And that's just been over the past roughly five years that they've come out. Because for the most part, the technology hasn't really changed. In the late '90s video hit, at least in our agency ... we started putting those in our vehicles.
As far as from a technology side, I would also say the information management systems as far as the ability to integrate the dispatch information with the records systems to allow street officers the ability to access that information out in the field, that would be a big one too. Rather than having to wait to go to the precinct or to go up to the main office to check records and get copies of reports. Now they have the ability to do that from the squad, which really helps if they are investigating incidents for background information or even trying to identify people that they are in contact with. They can pull up mug shots so they can relatively immediately identify someone.
Yaniero: Perhaps the most important change introduced during my 30 years in law enforcement is the computer and computer systems. As a police administrator, I have frequently looked to computer technology as a method for enhancing the effectiveness of police officers. As a proponent of the efficient practice of community policing, I believe that the use of high-technology equipment and applications is essential when addressing budget constraints in an environment requiring a high demand for service. Without effective technology, police officers would find it difficult to provide the level and quality of services that the community deserves. Technological tools such as computer-aided dispatch, mobile computers in vehicles, digital cameras, and automatic fingerprint systems provide effective support to police officers on the street. These tools also improve police officer efficiency with the overall goal of improving the quality of life for all the citizens they serve. In my experience, the use of pertinent technology results in quality improvements, an increase in efficiency and a decrease in costs. Service costs decrease because of fewer errors. Delays are less frequent, with an improvement in the management of time and equipment.
What do you see as the biggest future obstacles to the industry?
Twombly: Right now, the biggest challenges we'll run in to will be with budgeting. As an example, replacement of our new squads. Just equipment and maintenance budget lines ... have never been fully funded in our agency due to the way our county does budgeting. I see in the next year, that's not going to get any better. We could use additional staff, but that's also not going to happen with the current budget, so we're just going to have to continue to again look for more efficient ways of doing business with the resources we've got.
Yaniero: Budget constraints and issues will persist as the greatest obstacle to improved police services. The demands of the electorate will force legislative bodies to continue to cut governmental budgets. Police services will be challenged to improve services in this anti-tax environment. Another obstacle facing our police department and many others is the "CSI effect." Citizens and jurors expect highly technical forensic services in our investigation of crimes. In many cases, these services are not readily available or the technology is cumbersome and expensive. The need to improve forensic services, with little or no funding, will continue to be a challenge to police agencies in the next 10 years. In addition, the issues that surround recruitment and retention of police officers and support staff will continue to be a challenge. As a new generation of police officer enters the profession, police administrators will be required to adjust in competing for this most important resource. Technology will be the key, as this generation has been raised in a technology-rich environment. These individuals will demand a police agency that keeps up with current technology or they will seek employment with an agency that does.
Do you see better or worse economic times ahead?