With tightening budgets, and recruitment and retention always a struggle, law enforcement departments need to look to technology to swell its ranks. Los Angeles (California) Police Department (LAPD) Chief William Bratton has long spoken of technology as a "force multiplier."
In a message to officers in November, Bratton emphasized the importance of technology, stating, "Technology is truly the key to increasing the department's effectiveness as we continue to fight and reduce crime with limited resources."
Through Bratton's leadership and partnership with technology vendors, the LAPD grew its already substantial ranks — 9,300 sworn officers, 3,000 civilians and an annual budget of more than $1 billion — to better serve the sprawling community of Los Angeles.Eyes in the park
The first technology project initiated under Bratton was a CCTV installation in the MacArthur Park area. "MacArthur Park had fallen into disarray," describes Sgt. II Dan Gomez. "Only people who wanted to commit crimes went to the park."
The Rampart area has 400,000 people, and for that densely populated area, MacArthur Park is one of the few places where families can go. Unfortunately, because crime was so bad, Gomez says, good people tended not to go there.
"Over the years, the department would throw a lot of resources into it," says Gomez, a 14-year veteran of the LAPD. "Several officers would go and clean up the park. It would be safe for the time we were there, and shortly thereafter, but because there was no permanent presence other than the standard patrol, things would quickly go back to the way it was."
For this technology project, the LAPD partnered with General Electric to bring in CCTV cameras and install them throughout the park and surrounding community. The LAPD also assigned a small, but dedicated, force of officers to partner with the community, the business community and social services. Gomez says the initiative was a success with a 46 percent reduction in Part One crimes.
"Most importantly, we saw that the technology modified the behavior of people in the area," notes Gomez, supervisor of the LAPD's Tactical Technology Unit. "They realized they could no longer commit crimes there due to the officers and the technology."
Gomez further explains that beyond the camera installations, they later introduced facial recognition and automatic license plate readers into the project. The LAPD received funding from the Department of Justice to finance this initiative.
"It was a combination of all these things that reduced crime and sustained that level," he says. "We found not only were we able to reduce crime, but we were able to slowly reduce the number of officers working in that area as the cameras modified the behavior of the people. We were able to patrol a larger area with only two officers, as opposed to the much larger number of officers that were needed prior to the installation and use of technology.
"This is a good example of how technology can be a force multiplier," says Gomez.Driving technology
Under Bratton's guidance, the LAPD has been "green lighted" to develop the 21st century's police car. Through the technology utilized in this vehicle, the officer is more effective and efficient in the field.
"To create the 'Smart Car,' we took state-of-the-art technology and installed it in the patrol car, making it a mobile office environment for the officers," describes Gomez. "This is especially beneficial in L.A. because we have so much area to cover."
Traditionally, the LAPD has two officers in a car with one officer typing in plate numbers as the other drives. After a 10-hour shift, an officer might get 75 to 100 plates manually inputted into the system. With the automatic license plate reader installed into the Smart Car, the officer can keep his focus on the community rather than a computer screen. Depending on the traffic, Gomez says they are getting between 5,000 and 8,000 license plate readings per shift.