Research on the Impact of Technology on Policing Strategy

Research on the Impact of Technology on Policing Strategy in the 21st Century, Final Report
National Institute of Justice
Kevin Strom
Impact of Policing on Technology Report Cover

his study examined the types of technology that U.S. law enforcement agencies (LEAs) are acquiring and using, as well as the degree to which the use of technology is linked to strategy development and larger organizational change.

Using a survey of LEAs and interviews with knowledgeable LEA personnel across the United States, the study found that for most technologies, a greater proportion of large agencies (250 or more sworn officers) had adopted the technology than those from the entire LEA sample; however, a notable exception is the finding that large agencies were less likely to have used some technological devices, such as body-worn cameras, in the past 2 years.

Site-level data showed the difference in how ingrained different technology is from agency to agency; i.e., two agencies may have implemented the same technology, but the level of sophistication and use can differ widely. Overall, the findings suggest that the success or failure of technology can be multidimensional and can rarely be traced to a single issue. Thus, technology identification and adoption are complex processes, with factors that support technology success or failure being similarly multifaceted.

Generally, there was not a strong association between policing strategy and technology uses. Thus, at a national level, LEAs are not making decisions to acquire technology based on dominant policing philosophies or the activities they prioritize. A number of factors influence the prevalence and types of technology used by LEAs, including executive staff decisions based on perceived needs, community demands, and available funding.