The digital past, present and future: police smartphones, tablets and laptops

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“It improves the entire department, and Memphis is a great example,” he says.

Bob Schassler, Sr. V.P. of longtime police radio giant Motorola, puts it all in perspective with his example of how Motorola’s present technological capabilities can help officers better do their jobs: An abduction takes place and a bystander snaps a photograph or video of the incident, which is then transmitted to the command center. “They can start getting real-time feeds from cameras on traffic lights and on posts and start turning those videos on and streaming (them),” Schassler says.

Police can also send the aggregated information out to the right people and dispatch officers within a matter of minutes. He adds that the dispatcher can relinquish control of cameras to officers’ devices in the area, so they can control real-time video feeds.

“They have instant recognition of all of the information out there and it allows the dispatcher to deploy whomever happens to be in the area; and we also can connect up the 911 information that’s coming in,” he says.

Using cameras with today’s technology can add tremendously to law enforcement’s ability to do everything from catching red light violators to finding an abducted child.

In one case, a child’s abduction was caught by a bypasser who saw two white or Hispanic males take the child into a red pickup truck. Although the department did not have a registration, thanks to computer technology they were able to isolate in a matter of moments a number of local individuals who might own a truck that matched that description. One was a registered sex offender. He had apparently been listening to the police band and heard an APB go out for him, so he dropped the child off and took off, only to be apprehended later. The child was found alive and safe.

On the horizon

What do these industry experts see up the road in terms of technology aimed specifically at law enforcement officers and their very specific needs? AccessData’s Lee Reiber says he believes police will find a bigger concentration on the mobile device itself. Reiber also believes desktops and laptops will disappear like the floppy disk, giving way to enhanced tablets and smartphones.

“I also see a lot more of electronic wallets, and I see that software is going to have to evolve to understand more about applications,” he says.

Reiber adds that many tools now focus on social media, but he believes software in the future will shift to applications for analyzing banking tools and tracking and resolving identity theft. For example, he says, law enforcement will be able to track where the individual was when he or she opened a certain application.

John Crupi, of JackBe, predicts the future holds “more platforms offering ‘self-service’ options for creating dashboards, maps, charts and graphs.” Once built, he says, they’ll translate to mobile devices with no additional coding.

Chriss Knisley from IBM tells LET that he sees a wide-open future with agencies using analytics to understand patterns and trends, and then to put that data into operation. “To me, that’s the most exciting thing,” says Knisley.

The future could belong to biometrics, according to Motorola’s Bob Schassler. He says it hasn’t been well explored, but fire departments are using the new technology more and more, especially to save the lives of their firefighters when they are caught in a fire.

Schassler says police officers in the future can look for wearable cameras on remote speaker mikes and lapels, low power cameras partnered with computers and increased safety for officers.

In general all of the experts agree: information technology will become easier for officers in the field to aggregate, access and deliver. And what’s good news for law enforcement is bad news for criminals everywhere.


A 12-year veteran of police work, Carole Moore has served in patrol, forensics, crime prevention and criminal investigations, and has extensive training in many law enforcement disciplines. She welcomes comments at

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