App magic

If you’re tiring of the phrase ‘There’s an app for that,’ you may want to cover your ears for the next couple years or so. As it happens, the apps keep coming. And they are evolving to become handier—and smarter—than ever.

Many sheriff and police departments are even creating their own. Late last year Tampa PD came out with a brand new agency app in an effort to better connect with their handheld device-loving community. They currently have tens of thousands of downloads, and the number is climbing.

Consider an agency-specific app to be like your PD website on steroids. Yes, all the directory and contact info is there, but so are videos and photos of suspects in unsolved crimes. When someone downloads the app they can send in tips, questions and requests from wherever they happen to be.

Citizens using Tampa’s app also have the option to list valuables in their home, along with serial numbers and photos, and store the info on their phone. In the event of a robbery, this itemized list can be forwarded to police and the insurance company. In addition, the Florida agency is working on GPS locations for the homes of area registered sex offenders.

Some companies make it their business to focus specifically on helping create apps for law enforcement agencies. Even more help law enforcement harness the power of apps with customized programs specifically created for public safety efforts. We list a few of these in “Apps on patrol” (page 24).

In the story “4 industry trends to watch”, (page 36) Veteran Chief William L. Harvey mentions a couple of his personal favorites, including a hazardous materials guide that replaces the beloved (but substantial) orange reference book. If the whole concept of smartphone as duty gear doesn’t pique your interest, maybe the idea of freeing up some valuable glove compartment space will. Then again, we realize you’ll never need to charge that big old reference book.

Love them or hate them, we can’t help but feel that smartphones do offer a bit of an advantage when it comes to quick-reference materials and communication at our fingertips.

Do you have a favorite go-to app? Tell us what it is and how it helps you on the job.