The criminal justice world is like many others, and what this means for employees is that new technology will play a major role moving forward. Systems evolve, and police departments across the country have been a testament to this fact. Over the past ten years even, local police departments and sheriff”s offices have invested money in systems that allow for greater efficiency. Two systems in particular ” mobile data terminals and live scan fingerprinting ” have allowed police departments to more effectively operate over the last few years. This is not to say that all is positive when new technology overruns the criminal justice world. There are certain negatives and costs that must be counted, but overall, the introduction of new technology into the criminal justice world has been a major positive.
New technology has had an overall positive effect on the world of criminal justice. Today”s technology allows officers the ability to keep more detailed records. Because information does not have to be stored physically, officers are free to create reports that can better equip district attorneys when it comes time to process a case. In addition, new technology has helped to move things along more quickly. Digitalized systems allow officers to quickly check the background of a person who has been pulled over. Criminal processing goes much more quickly, too, as old, arcane fingerprinting methods have been replaced by systems that are more efficient and streamlined.
Certain evidence exists that new technology may also aid law enforcement in making more effective decisions. Often times, police officers are asked to respond quickly to sensitive situations. With new technology, dispatching is quicker and officers are able to respond to crime scenes in order to make arrests or diffuse situations when possible. As more police departments have moved to preventative policing, new technologies have allowed police departments to pinpoint areas where potential crime might be taking place. Though much guess work still goes into positive policing, the ability to manage data electronically and communicate messages quickly is critically important.
Perhaps the most important way that new technology has had a positive impact on the criminal justice world is in the way it has allowed different police departments to work effectively with one another. Now, data can be easily shared between different cities or even those law enforcement agencies that share a jurisdiction. Police departments can send information to sheriff”s departments without having to send a letter, and better communication can ultimately aid officers in making the right decisions.
Any time new technology takes over an industry there are bound to be certain negative aspects. One of the negatives is that there is often a steep learning curve with new systems. Within police departments and law enforcement agencies across the country, there are many individuals who have been with the department for many years on end. Those people have been forced to adjust to new technology, learning skills that they did not know they needed when they signed up for the job. This learning curve has been lessened by the efforts of criminal justice programs, as new students are better prepared to work with advanced technology on the first day of the job. This says nothing of the challenges faced by people who already exist within the system, though.
In addition, when law enforcement agencies depend on highly evolved systems for storing and communicating, any problems with those systems can have dire consequences. Effective record-keeping is a must, and protecting a person”s privacy is also very important. Law enforcement agencies have learned that there is a potentially ugly flip side that goes along with using high-end technology. That is, they have had to pay the financial costs associated with managing databases and protecting the data. Departments are now much more reliant on information technology services than ever before.
Two systems in particular show how the impact that new technology can have on the criminal justice world. Mobile data terminals are in-car computers that are often relied upon by police officers. Officers depend on their computers to look up information on potential suspects, and they can process traffic stops much more quickly (Roufa, 2013). In some cases, these terminals allow dispatch to communicate critical information in a hurry. In addition, many are equipped with printing capability so that officers can quickly issue citations, getting them back on the road to provide services to more individuals.
Live scan fingerprinting technology has also changed the way law enforcement agencies communicate with one another. In the past, criminals had to be booked with traditional fingerprinting, and police departments had to hang onto fingerprint cards in physical databases (Lee, 2001). Not only was this a cumbersome and burdensome system, but it hampered the ability of departments to communicate with one another. With fingerprints stored only on paper cards, police departments could not quickly share information digitally to confirm the identity of a suspect. This caused unnecessary delays in the process, and it was also a public safety concern. Live scan systems have changed that, giving departments the ability to share as much information as they want with only a single click. Though databases like these add to the burden for police departments and can add some costs, too, they end up being a huge positive over the long run, making policing more effective.
Technology has altered the way law enforcement offices work across the country. Even in small towns, officers now have the ability to look up a wealth of information from the computers in their cars. This is one technology that I am anxious to check out. The ability of officers to quickly input information and get a full profile of a person makes it much easier to detain any person who needs to be detained after a standard traffic stop. In addition, I look forward to the opportunity to utilize some of the eye scanning technology that is on the market today. More police departments are going with eye scanners in order to better identify individuals. This is going to create a large, shareable, nationwide database that will encapsulate tons of information about a wide range of potential assailants. These systems seem as if they would be fun to use, and I am interested to see just how effective they are at fulfilling their stated purpose.
- Lee, H. C., & Gaensslen, R. R. E. (Eds.). (2001). Advances in fingerprint technology. CRC press.
- Roufa, T. (2013). Use of Technology in Criminal Justice, About.com.