September 12, 2009

Mobile Phones and Applications Become More Prevalent in Law Enforcement and Investigative Services

This blog often addresses the opportunities mobile applications create in various sectors such as economic and trade development, telemedicine, and education. Mobile phones and applications are also used investigative services and law enforcement. Sprint Nextel recently announced that the Overland Park, Kansas-based company is collaborating with US Investigations Services, Inc. (USIS) in developing smartphones and applications that help Falls Church, Virginia-based USIS conduct background investigations for the federal government.

According to Sprint's press release dated September 2, 2009, "USIS is the largest commercial provider of security investigation services to the federal government, a leading provider of global commercial employment and drug screening solutions, and a top provider of information services to the insurance industry. Partnering with Sprint, USIS supplies its field staff with Treo™ PRO by Palm® smartphones as part of a program dubbed 'iCompass' to increase efficiencies in coordinating case work in a real-time environment."

In explaining the value of using smartphones for investigative services, Bill Mixon, Chief Executive Officer for USIS, said, "Not only does the Treo PRO streamline the investigative work conducted on our current contracts, it lays the groundwork for future opportunities. Functions like production control and master scheduling give USIS a tangible advantage when handling its varied contracts. This device provides a single interface for existing case management tools and is scalable for growth."

Another example of using mobile phones in law enforcement may be found within the Baltimore, Maryland Police Department. Ben Nuckols of the Associated Press wrote an article explaining that Baltimore's police department will become one of the first agencies in the nation to issue every patrol officer a BlackBerry that allows for instant warrant checks."

The city's police department will use $3.5 million provided by the federal stimulus to purchase 2,000 BlackBerries, known as "Pocket Cops." According to Mr. Nuckols' article, "The devices allow officers to run warrants, check vehicle registrations, and pull up criminal histories and suspect photos." The objective of using the Pocket Cop is to get officers to be more efficient and spend more time outside of their cars. Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said, "In the last 15 years in domestic law enforcement, we've trained cops around their vehicle. We've made their vehicle their mobile office. Except that now, they don't leave the office. This Pocket Cop will help move them away from that car and break that tether." Getting police officers to be more mobile outside of their cars will help "repair relationships with residents of the city's poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods, who are often reluctant to cooperate with police."

Already using 100 Pocket Cops, the Baltimore Police Department said, according to the AP article, "the 2,000 additional devices should be enough to equip every regular patrol officer with one, police said. There are more than 3,000 officers in the department. Early reviews for the devices have been positive. Officers using Pocket Cops made twice as many arrests over a 3-month period than those equipped with radios or laptops, according to statistics provided by the department. They also hauled in more offenders on outstanding warrants."

Furthermore, the BlackBerry devices will allow officers the ability to pull up photos of wanted individuals, which make it easier to obtain suspect descriptions and confirm identities should a suspect provide a false identification. Sgt. Shawn Edwards of the department's Violent Crime Impact Division said, "In several instances, it's been great with just identifying people."

Pocket Cops will also allow the City of Baltimore to save money. With an annual service plan, the purchase price of a BlackBerry is $1,700, Mr. Nuckols writes, "compared with $7,800 to install a laptop computer and software in a police car, city officials said. BlackBerries, which are made by Research in Motion Ltd., are likely to take the place of computers for officers who don't have them in their cars, and laptops may not be replaced after they become obsolete, Bealefeld said. The devices are also equipped with global positioning software that will allow commanders to pinpoint exactly where officers are."

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