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Officer Connectivity: Where We Are and Where We're Headed

When officers are connected, they gain access to information that can save lives and streamline operations. Our expert explains what’s possible now and what’s on the horizon.  

 

With more than 80% of Americans owning smartphones, society today is more connected than ever. And yet, officers still rely largely on their radios to do their jobs and keep themselves safe.

“The majority of agencies are limited in their connectivity to the traditional computer inside their cars, and when the officer is no longer in the vehicle, they don’t have access to that technology,” says Donno Cole, subject matter expert, Axon Dispatch. “That means they no longer have access to the information that it provides or the ability to help inform their response. They have to consume all of it while they’re in their car, and then when they’re out of their car, they’re reliant solely on the radio.”

And that can put lives at risk. Say an officer is out on a check subject call, and radio traffic is heavy or restricted due to a serious incident in the same precinct. The officer on the check subject call has no idea the subject has a felony warrant. The officer would if they had a mobile device that allowed them to run a warrants check even when away from the vehicle. But, that’s easier said than done.

 

The challenges of connectivity

Some agencies are equipping their officers with connectivity in the field by issuing mobile devices.

“Deployment of things like smartphones that are connected to the computer dispatch system — it’s happening, but it’s been very slow,” Cole says. “You’re more likely to find those connected devices in larger departments versus the smaller ones with more budget constraints.”

Perhaps even more of a concern than budget is security. While needing to ensure that these phones are connected to the necessary systems, the department also has to follow federal, state and local rules surrounding personally identifiable information.

 

What's to come

Recognizing the need for officer connectivity, Axon has and continues to develop technology that extends the functionality that exists in the car to officers’ smart devices.

“By the end of the year, we’ll be releasing mobile applications through which officers can ascertain pertinent information, such as how many times we’ve been to a house or who lives in that location and if they are dangerous,” Cole says.

Smart cameras also serve to protect officers. The Axon Body 3 body-worn camera is a connected device that allows authorized users to livestream audio and video anytime the camera is recording when integrated with Axon Aware real-time technology. Plus, it’s equipped with GPS and Wi-Fi positioning, so an officer’s location is always known. And with Axon Signal, Body 3 can begin recording when an officer’s weapon is drawn or TASER 7 CEW is armed.

And all of these connectivity solutions are designed with security at the forefront.

“The practice of being a secure software provider to law enforcement is just embedded in who we are,” Cole says. “The applications that we create are going to have those same technologies — local encryption, encryption for transmission, dual-factor authentication — which help agencies feel more comfortable about using connected devices in the field.”

 

Get connected

Find out how greater connectivity can benefit your agency by requesting a trial of Axon products and services.