Smart Phones, Smart Cops

Reset SF Stories to FollowLast Tuesday, the Bay Citizen ran a fascinating story on how police in Santa Clara are using smart phones to apprehend criminals more efficiently than ever before. Standard issue for cops in DC now includes iPhones and Toughbooks. But San Francisco police are still making due with the equipment of the past. So what, pardon the pun, is the hold up?

SF cops do have radios and laptops in their cars, and officers with the rank of Captain and above are given BlackBerries. But as the Bay Citizen pointed out, smart technology is invaluable to modern criminal investigations.

Law enforcement using smart technology to apprehend criminals

“Honestly, smart phones and netbooks have become almost necessary to do our job,” said police agent Jason Jenkins, who owns both an iPhone and an iPad.

[Lt. Dan] Winter agreed. “Right now, there are two types of officers,” he said. “Those who have a smart phone, and those who want a smart phone, but haven’t gotten one yet. Pretty much everybody who works in law enforcement today knows how good a tool a smart phone is.” Source: The Bay Citizen (http://s.tt/12rBQ)

As budgets tighten and our policemen and women are asked to do more with less, it seems fair to ask why the SFPD isn’t getting tools that are proven to lower costs and improve safety. And how could a city as forward-thinking and tech friendly as San Francisco be getting left in the dust? 

Across the country, innovative police departments are reimagining how technology can help them work faster and smarter – with huge payoffs for public safety. For example:

  • In Brockton, Massachusetts, identifying a criminal is as easy as taking a picture with an iPhone. Facial recognition software runs the suspect through police databases and confirms whether or not he or she is wanted on any outstanding warrants or has committed past crimes.
  • Instead of taking witnesses down to the station to flip through books of potential suspects, police in Mountain View have used a Smart Phone to show witnesses pictures of potential suspects at the scene, minutes after a crime had occurred. According to Lt. Dan Winter, Santa Clara’s communications Lieutenant: “We had a positive identification of the suspect within minutes of the crime happening,” Source: The Bay Citizen (http://s.tt/12rBQ)
  • In Del Ray, California, police are using a new voice recognition system that verbally relays answers to questions the officers ask. This allows them to remain focused on an offender without having to look at a computer screen, improving officer safety.

Giving police better technology also makes it more convenient to be a citizen. In Del Ray, technology improvements have helped the department reduce the time an average traffic stop takes from 20-25 minutes to 10-15 minutes. Police there report that this has improved relations between the community and the police force, and frees cops up to respond more quickly to other calls.

San Francisco police officers put their lives on the line for us every day. At Reset, we think it’s time they had the tools they need to do their jobs.

What do you think?  Should smart phones and netbooks be standard issue for SF cops?

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