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The human factor of technology acquisition

Libby Stengel

While travelling through TSA lines at an airport, I often wonder how to make the process more efficient. TSA obviously has thought about this, too. Online pre-screening for frequent travelers and advanced imaging technology have been added to their repertoire to ease the screening process. Both advances are technological and both aim to increase efficiency and decrease human contact. Technology and humans cannot be on divergent paths in the homeland security and law enforcement arenas. They must work together.

Human need should drive technology strategy. Demonstrations of the newest and greatest technology can entice leaders. Thinking, “If I only had that whiz-bang technology, then we could really do our jobs better” is not correct. Looking at current processes, a leader should identify the on-the-ground problems that hinder officers from doing their jobs, and target those with new technologies.

For example, Sastown police, a fictional city law enforcement agency, does not have the capability to easily communicate with the six surrounding suburban police agencies. Even though crime does not follow boundaries, Sastown does not have any consistent coordination regarding regional warrants, investigations, intelligence and vice operations.

Therein lies the human problem. Regional collaboration is no longer a nice-to-have element at your agency. It is vital. How can technology make this human problem easier? The integration of six different Record Management Systems (RMS), Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD), intelligence and investigative systems gives officers great tools for searching. 

Seems daunting, but in reality, it is quite possible and actually exists in several U.S. states. This scenario shows technology making a current and relevant on-the-ground problem much easier for an officer through technology.

So how do law enforcement leaders decide what issues to address first with technology?

(1)   Ask your section leads what the biggest hindrance in technology is when doing their jobs.

What information do they worry about overlooking? What takes the most time out of their day?

(2)   What do these section leads wish they could do with technology in their jobs? In a perfect world, what sort of technology would they like to have?

(3)   Where can my department collaborate more with local, regional, state and national agencies? Often there are grants and state/federal assistance available to help law enforcement agencies to collaborate.

(4)   Take these human technology issues to a vendor that is willing to work with you. Out-of-the-box solutions often provided by vendors can work, but often have growing pains when attempting to relate to your best practices.

Humans are not perfect, and technology can help them do their jobs better. Using technology to remove obstacles and enhance an officer’s responsibilities will result in more efficient and effective police work.

Libby Stengel, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer with four years of active duty, is now a Principal Consultant for SAS. She can be reached at:

[email protected]


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