Applied Information Management

Information Technology Solutions for Community Oriented Policing

Law enforcement agencies throughout the country rely on a concept known as community oriented policing as a way of doing business (Office of Justice Programs: Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1994). In its current form, community oriented policing contains two core components: (a) community partnerships, and (b) problem-solving. These components require the community and the police organization to work together to identify, analyze, and solve problems using communication, conflict resolution, and resource identification (Community Policing Consortium, 1994).

Budget reductions are changing how law enforcement agencies provide service.

Successful community oriented policing practices take a significant amount of time and resources from both the community and the police organization, but can considerably impact crime in a community. Bernard Melkian Director of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (2012) states, "community policing has taught us that the building of relationships and the solving of problems are more important, not less, in challenging times such as these" (Melekian, 2012, p. 19).

The purpose of this annotated bibliography is to examine how law enforcement agencies are deploying technology solutions to expand and sustain community oriented policing. The intent is to provide a set of references that can serve as the basis for guiding the development of technology solutions designed to expand and sustain community oriented policing practices within local law enforcement agencies.

The selected references included in the full study are categorized into three areas: (a) law enforcement staffing and budgeting trends, (b) the community oriented policing concept and related components and practices, and (c) law enforcement technology solutions. The goal is to propose a set of most effective technology solutions as measured by (a) how these solutions work to increase partnerships between law enforcement and the public, and (b) the impact they have on crime.

Law enforcement agencies are beginning to open their doors to the public to increase transparency, accountability, and availability. In principle, many forms of technology have the potential to expand and sustain community oriented policing practices. There is a great deal of evidence to show how technology has improved the outcomes and efficiency of community oriented policing practices. Understanding which technologies provide value to both the community and law enforcement is the key. The table below summarizes five key information technology solutions that currently support community oriented policing.

Technology Solutions that Support Community Oriented Policing
Solution 1—Online presence
Law enforcement agencies are increasing their online presence and communication through the use of social media and websites. Agencies use social media to keep citizens informed of crime that is occurring in their neighborhood. Social media provides officers the ability to broadcast suspect descriptions from mobile devices; this puts up-to-the-minute information into the hands of the citizen and creates a new level of transparency. Social media tools allow agencies to tell their own story and also allow citizens to communicate back to the agency without having to call in. Citizens feel that social media platforms strengthen social ties by facilitating their engagement in collective problem solving actions and through the sharing of information and advice with law enforcement.
Solution 2—Crime analytic software
Law enforcement agencies are using advanced crime analytic software to identify high crime areas. Records management systems and computer aided dispatch systems are capable of electronically capturing every detail of a crime report and call for service. Crime analysis software can assist law enforcement in understanding when and where crime occurs in their jurisdiction, allowing more efficient deployment of resources to address the problem. The exploration for answers has led law enforcement to combine the concept of community oriented policing with new concepts including hot-spot policing and intelligence-led policing which use software solutions to mine electronic data and pinpoint high crime areas on maps. These tools are playing a vital role in law enforcement accountability programs like COMPSTAT.
Solution 3—Mobile devices
Law enforcement agencies are also using mobile computers in patrol vehicles and hand-held mobile devices to increase efficiencies in the field. In many departments across the nation, in-car computer systems are installed that run a communications system, computer aided dispatch programs, criminal history information, electronic report writing software, but limit the ability to access and analyze data. Solutions like Bair Analytics and COPLINK are changing the in-car environment, giving officers access to vast amounts of data whenever they need it using mobile versions of their applications. Some agencies—such as police departments in Lowell, Massachusetts, and Redlands, California—are issuing officers Apple iPads to run an application called PolicePad that allows users to access multiple databases for warrants, driver's license information, and crime maps. The Los Angeles Police Department has developed and deployed a vehicle that is equipped with license plate readers, mobile fingerprint scanners, and facial recognition software to increase the productivity of their officers in the field. All of these mobile tools are meant to give the officer in the field the tools needed to build community partnerships and be an immediate problem solver.
Solution 4—Video technology
While in the past only businesses had surveillance cameras to protect merchandise from thieves, today cameras are ubiquitous; they are being used by private businesses, citizens, government agencies, and law enforcement. The city of London utilizes cameras at a ratio of one camera for every fourteen people; in New York City the police department has a 24-hour real time crime center that is staffed with officers monitoring thousands of video surveillance feeds from both public and private entities. In cities like Chicago, live video surveillance feeds are providing agencies the ability to monitor multiple areas of the city at one time and direct resources to problem areas quickly and safely. Video surveillance technology is not meant to replace traditional community policing practices.
Solution 5—Information sharing
Law enforcement agencies are increasing internal and external crime information sharing efforts with other law enforcement agencies around the country. The COPLINK system enables officers to solve cases 14 percent faster. The solution currently links together over 400 law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. With a security clearance and a password, officers can search criminal offender records outside of their jurisdiction without having to pick up the phone or spend hours searching through paper records. Other companies, such as Palintir Technologies, allow for both public data and law enforcement records to be ingested, mapped, and searched from any public or private data source. These information sharing tools are permitting law enforcement officers to collaborate with one another to solve crimes faster and more efficiently than in the past.

Table 1—Key information technology solutions that support community oriented policing.


  • Alexander, D. (2011, July). Using technology to take community policing to the next level. Police Chief Magazine, 78(7), 64-65.
  • Bair Analytics. (2013, February 02). Bair Analytics.
  • Chen, H., Zeng, D., Atabakhsh, H., Wyzga, W., & Schroeder, J. (2003, January 01). COPLINK: Managing law enforcement data and knowledge. Communications of the ACM, 46(1), 28-34.
  • Community Policing Consortium. (1994, August). Understanding community policing.
  • Custers, B. (2012). Technology in policing: Experiences, obstacles and police needs. Computer Law & Security Review, 28(1), 62-68.
  • Geer, O. J. (2012). No cause of action: Video surveillance in New York City. Michigan Telecommunication & Technology Law Review, 18(2), 589-626.
  • Hauck, R. V., Chau, M., & Chen, H. (2002). COPLINK: Arming law enforcement with new knowledge management technologies. Tuscon, Arizona: William Mclver and Ahmed Elmagarmid (Eds), Advances in Digital Government: Technology, Human Factors, and Policy, Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • Kappeler, V. E., & Gaines, L. K. (2012). Community policing: A contemporary perspective (6th ed.). (G. Chalson, Ed.) Waltham, MA: Anderson Publishing, an imprint of Elsevier.
  • Koper, C., Taylor, B., & Kubu, B. (2009). Law enforcement technology needs assessment. Washington D.C: Police Executive Research Forum and Lockheed Martin Corporation.
  • Melekian, B. K. (2012, January). Policing in the new economy: A new report on the emerging trends from the office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Police Chief Magazine, 79(1), 16-19.
  • Miller, C. M. (2011, July 5). Is social media a force multiplier? Retrieved November 16, 2012, from
  • Norwood, B. T., & Waugh, D. (2012, June). Telling a story through social media. Police Chief Magazine, 79(6), 30-34.
  • Schultz, P. D. (2008, June). The future is here: Technology in police departments. The Police Chief, 75(6).
AIM alumnus Corey Brant

Research Paper Author: Corey Brant, education consultant, IBM Industry Solutions—2013 University of Oregon, AIM Program Graduate.

Abstract: This annotated bibliography examines how law enforcement agencies are deploying technology solutions to expand and sustain community oriented policing. Articles published between 2000 and 2012 are reviewed to identify technologies that can be implemented to positively affect the ability to build community partnerships and solve community problems. Topics include law enforcement staffing trends: community oriented policing practices, and law enforcement technology solutions. The most effective solutions include social media, crime analytic software, and information sharing.