We are in a transitional phase regarding policing in America.
Throughout the history of policing, most citizen-officer contact has been through face-to-face interactions that require both a citizen willing to accept an officer’s authority and a police officer willing to engage. Because of public sentiment about policing, fewer citizens are applying to be police officers overall; According to some estimates, of those who apply, only about 2% are ultimately able to enter the ranks.
Baltimore City is at the epicenter of the policing issue and is one of thousands of police departments across the country looking to draw from the pool of available candidates.
It is difficult to find and retain police officers, but the Baltimore City Police Department, for example, has begun a process in which technology is being used to advance investigations with satisfactory results. At this time, the police department responds to shooter alerts, where devices located around the city listen for gunshots and attempt to determine the location of the shots fired.
The police department uses vehicle-mounted and stationary license plate reading technology to track vehicles used in crimes and vehicles taken during carjackings and other incidents. The police department uses body-worn cameras to record information such as citizen interviews and police procedures.
There are several other forms of technology used by the Baltimore City Police Department that assist detectives and officers in their day-to-day operations as well as ongoing investigations.
Using these data-gathering devices creates images of a big brother state watching our every move, but at the same time greatly reduces the need for police officers to directly engage citizens and reduces the need for large numbers of officers to stay inside. a community, a practice some citizens liken to an invading army.
The primary benefit to both citizens and police is that the use of technology in many forms is constitutional, in that often the listed forms of data collection collect data that is openly displayed to the public by the actor and the use of the technology. greatly reduces the demand and need for officers to perform any investigative duties.
Additionally, jurors are very open and receptive to evidence gathered through modern devices, such as fire detectors and license plate readers. Although technology cannot replace police officers, there can be no doubt that the ability to gather and use information makes any police officer much more effective.
We would recommend that police commissioners look at technology as a means of balancing a citizen’s right to be free from police interference with the need to have a police force sufficiently trained to investigate crime and ensure the convictions of those who are guilty, regardless of the number of suitable employments available at any given time.
We have learned that many forms of technology available to police departments are limited in use to less than half of police districts. The mere fact that their use is limited has to do with considering all the benefits: the proven track record of said technologies and their ability to alleviate the need for officers at a time when departments are struggling to find and maintain highly qualified officers.
There was a time when Baltimore was at the forefront of using technology to further the goal of crime control. Baltimore was one of the first cities in the country to install and use gas lighting, in part, to illuminate dark streets at night and reduce criminal activity.
Now is the time for Baltimore and other departments to move away from their heavy reliance on officers and more readily provide those who choose to enter and remain in the policing profession with the technology to tackle crime in the modern world.
Editorial Advisory Board members Arthur F. Fergenson, Nancy Forster, and Leigh Goodmark did not participate in this opinion piece.
MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD
James B. Astrachan, Chairman
James K. Archibald
Gary E. Bair
Andre M Davis
Arthur F. Ferguson
Julie C. Janofsky
Ericka N. King
Angela W. Russell
Debra G. Schubert
H. Mark Stichel
The Daily Record’s Editorial Advisory Board is comprised of members of the legal profession who serve voluntarily and are independent of The Daily Record. Through the constant exchange of views, board members strive to build consensus on issues of importance to the bench, the bar and the public. When their minds meet, unsigned thoughts will result. When they differ, or if there is a conflict, the majority views and the names of the non-participating members will appear. Community members are invited to contribute letters to the editor and/or columns regarding opinions expressed by the Editorial Advisory Board.