Arming Responders with the Right Technologies
JONATHAN CALOF  |  Sep 19, 2016

Providing information that will help our frontline responders keep us safer and more secure is the overriding objective of FrontLine Safety and Security. To this end, I am always on the lookout for ideas, research, and other materials that can be presented to our readers. In our Winter edition of the magazine, we will be focusing on police analytics. For a primer piece, read the article in this edition about Data Analytics for Safer Cities by Nicola Davies). In our next edition, we will be delving further into how Big Data can be used for predictive policing, for helping to catch the bad guys earlier and quicker, and also how analytics can help police officers perform their dangerous duties safer.  

The opportunity posed by the amount of the data both in open sources (such as in social media), through sharing information with other safety and security organizations, as well as information in the community, represents one of the biggest strategic changes in policing in the coming decade according to many studies. FrontLine is interested in topics that are of importance to frontline workers and – given the growing importance of policing topics such as information/intelligence-led policingpredictive policingregional fusion centers, crime analysis and other such analytic topics – you can expect more on this in the future.

Readers may also have noticed more coverage of other technology-oriented topics that have the potential to impact frontline safety and security. Drones, for example, have been looked at in a few FrontLine articles, including the current one. Unmanned vehicles have the potential to significantly change the way in which first responders including paramedics, fire department and police manager and respond to emergencies. This issue looks at their role in disaster response, and prior issues have provided examples of their use in police situations (such as assessing the security of a site, searching for missing persons, responding to medical emergencies, and even fires).
As I have written about in past issues, technology can help make us safer and more secure, and has the potential to assist our frontline responders in many ways. Accordingly, expect more coverage on technology developments.

Here is a challenge to our readers: When you become aware of critical frontline technology developments, let me know about it and I will look for ways to include it in the pages of our magazine. We also look forward to your inquiries about advertising, which helps fund our work.

There are also many non-technology issues that must be examined and properly covered within the pages of FrontLine Safety and Security. One that I am growing increasingly concerned about, is Police-Community relations. In my research for the special winter issue on analytics, I had opportunities to interview many police officers.

What struck me was that several officers mentioned a growing concern that they do not feel as trusted by the public as they have been in the past – not as welcome in the communities in which they serve. That relationship, the trust between local community and the police, is crucial for many aspects of policing. The public in many ways provides frontline information and observations that can be invaluable to the police in the performance of their duties.  A strong relationship is key for this. Yet, we keep reading in the media about a growing distrust between the public and police, and certainly this was articulated in several discussions. What was particularly concerning to me during these interviews with members of the Ottawa Police Services, was the impact this is clearly having on police officers. What surprised me was how widespread the feeling is, despite the fact that, according to several surveys, citizens of Ottawa generally have a lot of confidence in their police. For example, a Statistics Canada survey reported (in 2015) that 81% of Ottawa respondents had some or a great deal of confidence in their police. Statistics Canada reported that this was top in the country. Across the country, Canadians responded that they had considerably more confidence in the police than in the school system, the banks, or even the courts. A 2015 public survey done in Ottawa confirmed the Statistics Canada results, with 82% indicating that they were satisfied with the Ottawa Police Service and only 3% saying they were dissatisfied.  When asked about the performance of the Ottawa Police Service in ensuring the safety and security of Ottawa Citizens, 73% indicated that the performance was good. This represented a significant increase from the 2012 study. Yet despite those survey results, police officers are voicing concerns.
A strong relationship with the public is crucial to policing, and if frontline officers are feeling a significant challenge in this regard, and changes in how they are being perceived in their communities then this is certainly something that must be addressed for the future.   Improved police-community relations have been linked with several benefits including policing more effectively, safer communities, quicker solving of crimes, and police feeling safer in their jobs. Certainly, proactive policing and intelligence led policing, two major trends for the future of policing are enhanced through strong police-community relations. Working towards improvement of police-community relations will therefore be critical for future policing directions and certainly remains critical for successful policing.

Jonathan Calof, Executive Editor