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Technology and Policing Through the Eras

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Technology and Policing Through the Eras

Philip Smith

Kaplan University

Computers, Technology and Criminal Justice Information Systems


Dr. Denise Womer

September 15, 2015

We live in a time of rapid and amazing technological advances. We see them every day from our cell phones, to medical advancements, and especially in our police forces. Even in its most basic form, technology has been a huge assistance to police. When technology started advancing and police agencies started using it in ways some never thought possible, it started to create rifts between the public and police. Since the birth of the police, we have seen many changes in the way police interact with the community and the way they use technology. Many who study criminal justice break this time-line down into three different eras; political, professional, and community-oriented (Foster, 2005, p. 112).

The political era saw the birth of the police officer. These officers were mostly recruited for limited terms by local politicians (Foster, 2005, p. 112).  The benefit of these officers being recruited by politicians was that they usually got to stay in their community and so rising to this position of power had some influence with the citizens. This allowed an easy flow of communication between the police and the public because they were already friends and the police were there to assist them. The police got their power and authority from the politicians that had hired them and used that power to influence elections and occasionally rig elections (Kelling and Moore, 1988, p. 3). During this era the police had very little technology. Most information was gained by police walking the beat and interacting closely with the community. Some of the first technology to be used was the printing press to create a basic guideline document for use by police and Colt developed the first multi-round revolver to be carried by police (Foster, 2005, p. 112). Eventually police would start using the automobile in a limited capacity to move police from beat to beat and call boxes to communicate with the local municipality (Kelling and Moore, 1988, p. 3).

        With the introduction of the automobile and advancing technologies, policing shifted from the political era to the professional era. No longer were police stuck using call boxes, but some of them now had one-way radios so that they could receive calls, but not respond to them (Foster, 2005, p. 114). The combination of one-way radios and the use of the automobile presented an issue though. Police were no longer walking the beat and were not as present in the local communities. If the public wanted an officer they would have to call into police headquarters and have headquarters dispatch an officer to their location (Foster, 2005, p. 114). During this time, technology started making huge advances. With the public calling into headquarters and the introduction of one-way radios, we saw the introduction of dispatch systems including the modern day 9-1-1 (Kelling and Moore, 1988, p. 7). With these advances in technology and the removal of police walking the beat, the professional era started a shift into what was seen as the incident-driven era (Foster, 2005, p. 116). With this shift, success was now measured by how fast officers would respond and the amount of calls handled instead of resolving a crime fully (Glensor and Peak, 1996, p. 2).

        Modern day police have started to notice this shift and that it poses an issue. The issue being that they are responding to the same types of calls repeatedly (Foster, 2005, p. 117).  So now many agencies are taking a community focused approach which is starting to shift policing into the community-oriented era. Many police agencies have adopted the term community-oriented policing or problem-solving policing, but they are both interrelated (Glensor and Peak, 1996, p. 2). With this era of policing, agencies are attempting to get back to their roots when they were closely involved with the public but still making full use of current technology to aid in crime prevention. Part of this movement is an attempt to get police walking the beat again and interacting and gathering information from the public (Kelling and Moore, 1988, p. 10).



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