- Barcodes are more than simply a way to check out faster at the grocery store. They can identify everything from vehicle operator's licenses to chain of custody on evidence.
- Expansion of geographic information systems and their implications for law enforcement have grown even more significant. Mapping crime trends in neighborhoods keeps both investigators and patrol officers on top of probabilities.
- Live footage transmitted from a scene by a helicopter, patrol unit or even a non-law enforcement source, allows the deployment and command of personnel to take place from the beginning of an incident, not after the first officer arrives on scene.
- Search capabilities that allow nicknames, partial names, descriptions, etc., to be run through a system that spans several agencies' information systems spur faster suspect or witness identification and data retrieval.
- Snag public interest in local law enforcement endeavors by using publicly accessible intranet features to promote safety and crime prevention. This is a great way to encourage public participation in police programs such as neighborhood watches.
- Consider the implications for anti-terrorism efforts. The ability to track people and vehicles in real time can be an invaluable aid in fighting terrorists' efforts.
- Deliver training and refresher course materials via the intranet. Police on differing shifts often find staying level with training requirements without sacrificing sleep or their free time challenging. Intranet independent study is no different from the online degree courses offered by many colleges and high schools.
- Immediate dissemination of information relating to missing or abducted persons is not only possible, but provides much-needed reassurance to families that a department is doing its best to locate a loved one.
- Internal e-mail systems provide quick and confidential communication with officials in other agencies as well as between officers.
The final word
Police intranet use is still basically in its infancy. Where once a criminal investigator had to hand compile mugshots for a photographic line-up, that job is now accomplished using computerized programs accessible through the departmental intranet. Where in the not-so-distant past officers lugged enormous files to and from the district attorney's office to prepare for trial, now they slip a CD into their pockets. And where police once were dependent on communications for cross streets when running calls in unfamiliar neighborhoods, now they can pull up real-time directions without missing a beat.
Technology has proven a boon to criminals, it's true. They have better access to their victims, they can find information on making and procuring weapons and have turned the World Wide Web into a bonanza of new crimes revolving around the twin hubs of identity theft and fraud. But that doesn't mean law enforcement is playing a game of catch-up.
With intranets linking agencies and officers, many are finding that there really is strength in numbers and even more strength in what those numbers have already learned.
A 12-year veteran of police work, Carole Moore has served in patrol, forensics, crime prevention and criminal investigations, and has training in many law enforcement disciplines. She welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.