The Paradox of Technology in Police Environments
At the recent International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference I spent a considerable amount of time with a police department chief and deputy looking at products for their new station. What I was taken by is the dizzying variety of technological tools available to law enforcement including digital fingerprinting in the field, or an application to instantly notify patrol units of teachers experiencing a budding active shooter incident. This technology included active, clickable maps to lead officers to the precise epicenter of an incident within a facility.
This cavalcade of advanced technology leaves law-enforcement agencies starry-eyed, but highly concerned about budget-busting impact. This doesn’t even take into account the potential expense of integration issues into existing networks and systems and the time for training that IT staffs and officers will need to understand these new tools.
The other aha moment that my police colleagues experienced was the realization that they weren't taking full advantage of technologies they already had. There is always a new module and a fast-talking salesman ready to let them know all they don't know, in exchange for a "free" cup of coffee in their booth. This reality sits against the paradox that while the integration of technology shrinks the need for physical space in many corporate environments, it often grows the demand for space in the police environments. For instance, the already bulky duty bags that officers carry must get bigger if it must accommodate such devices as Automated External Defibrillators and print readers. This in turn requires larger lockers, not to mention the ever- present need for additional chargers in patrol areas and personnel lockers.
Bottom line prerequisite before any agency invests in new technology is to make a full study of existing systems, space requirements and IT budgets necessary for integrating technology into a new or existing police station. The role that the architect plays in this process is to ensure that power and data infrastructure is in place in walls, ceilings, floors and antennas outside the building to allow for future flexibility in the integration of new technology by the department.