The Role of Technology In The Smart Policing Initiative Program: Hardware Edition

Role of Technology Hardware Edition Cover

Effective use of technology is one of the core principles of the Bureau of Justice Assistance Smart Policing Initiative (SPI). Over the last eight years, SPI sites have deployed and tested a wide range of innovative technologies to support their crime reduction efforts, many of which have been documented in SPI Spotlight Reports. This SPI Spotlight Report, the first in a two-part series highlighting technology’s role in SPI, focuses on hardware technologies. The report provides case study reviews of three SPI sites whose initiatives implemented three different hardware technologies: body-worn cameras (Phoenix, Arizona), closed-circuit television (Pullman, Washington), and gunshot location and detection systems (East Palo Alto, California). 

Each case study review includes a brief description of the technology, the SPI site project goals, and the implementation of the innovation. The report then reviews the benefits offered by the technologies across sites, such as more efficient deployment of limited resources, enhanced understanding of high-crime places and people, and positive organizational impacts. The report also provides specific examples of the technologies’ positive contributions to the Phoenix, Pullman, and East Palo Alto police departments.     

In addition, this report delves into the challenges that come with technology integration. These challenges range from unrealistic expectations about technology’s impact to human problems that can inhibit implementation (for example, a lack of buy-in among line officers). New hardware technologies often bring their own set of barriers—from infrastructure requirements to ongoing costs associated with continued management of the technology. Finally, new hardware technologies are often difficult to evaluate, forcing researchers to explore creative methods for assessing implementation and impact.

The report concludes with a brief look ahead at other hardware technologies being deployed in recently funded SPI sites: specifically, body-worn cameras in Miami Beach, Milwaukee, and Phoenix. The report ends with some final thoughts on the important role of technology in contemporary policing.