The Future of Policing is the Connected Officer

“In 1829 Sir Robert Peel created the Metropolitan Police”[1] and the principles which should guide it. These principles became the ideological foundation upon which the future of policing was to be built, and their impact upon society cannot be overstated.  That is because these principles would not only force police departments to change how and why they operate; they would also shape the very nature of that change because the ideas we choose to embrace will ultimately define us.

The same is true for our technology.

Take police communications: “The advent of the police “call box” is considered to be the first technological development that actually changed policing.”[2]  Prior to their introduction in the late 1800s police officers worked in isolation, and the only way they had of communicating with each other was by means of a raised voice or by using signaling devices such as the lantern or whistle.  Police boxes transformed their level of connectivity and suddenly made it possible for them to respond to public calls for help, coordinate their efforts with other officers in the field, and communicate directly with their supervisors.

By the late 1920s the first radio systems were already beginning to replace call boxes.  These original systems were one-way only, but by the 1930s two-way communication was made possible and the subsequent introduction of the walkie-talkie finally allowed for the very first car-to- car transmissions.  These developments revolutionized real time information sharing and a truly coordinated response to policing within the community was now made possible. 

After radio communications came the introduction of 911, a service first provided by the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1959.[3]  This was followed by Computer Aided Dispatching (CAD) which “by the mid-1980s had become nearly universal in medium and large-sized police departments.”[4]  When cellular phones, mobile data terminals (MDTs) and GPS were also added to police vehicles in the late 80s and early 90s they became the fully wired, mobile offices that we rely on today.

Adopting these many technologies profoundly changed police departments for the better.  “Indeed, new technologies were instrumental in structuring the organization, modifying its area of responsibility, enhancing its expertise and changing their image.”[1]  The call box, the radio, 911, CAD, MDTs, GPS, and cellular phones all contributed to an evolutionary process whereby the modern police officer has become much more connected than their predecessor, and a much more useful and reliable agent of public safety. 

Intelligent Mobile Patrol (IMP), developed by Digital Mobility Inc., provides the next necessary step in officer connectivity. It allows for real time information to be quickly gathered and shared amongst officers so that immediate, important, and informed decisions can be made by an entire team of public safety professionals.

In 2022 the York Regional Police will roll out their aptly named Connected Officer program by deploying over 1100 smart phones and the associated electronic police notes apps to their officers.[2]  York Regional Police Chief (Retired) Eric Jolliffe describes the IMP eNotes platform as “surprisingly intuitive and easy to navigate” and explains that it “allows the organization to see a significant return on investment based on the time saved producing accurate, legible notes.”  The 2017 winner of the prestigious Transformation Award in the field of Public Service states that most importantly, these changes will be “allowing Police officers to spend more time serving their communities and making a difference.”

This is the future that Sir Robert Peel envisioned when he laid out the framework for the modern police service.  When he famously said that the police are the public and the public are the police he was talking about connectivity, and for departments that wish to provide better service and accountability it is abundantly clear that the future of policing is the connected officer.

[1] Ottawa Police Service online post, Peel’s Principles of Law Enforcement, copyright 2022 Ottawa Police Service

[2] Police and Technology: Historical Review and Current Status, Nicloe Soulliere, Ms. C., Canada Police College, 1999

[3] 60 Years of 911 in Winnipeg, Winnipeg Free Press, 2019.06.21, online post

[4] What-when-how In Depth Tutorials and Information, online post

[5] Police and Technology: Historical Review and Current Status, Nicloe Soulliere, Ms. C., Canada Police College, 1999

[6] Connected Officer Pilot Lauch, OfficialYRP, YouTube, July5,2022