Keeping Citizens Safe: How ‘Policing’ Citizen Data can Empower a Police Force
By An-Chan Phung
Following is an excerpt from an article published online at CivSource, written by An-Chan Phung, on August 29:
As of 2015, there were more than 12,000 local police departments in the United States, which collectively employ an estimated 605,000 men and women, 477,000 of whom are sworn police officers, according to a report1 from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Those nearly half a million sworn officers are the men and women protecting the citizens in their states, counties, and cities across the country. They ensure traffic safety, handle domestic disturbances, help underprivileged youth, and uphold laws. And the more information they have about the citizens they serve—and the more organized and accurate that information is—the better the police force can be at keeping their communities safe.
One common problem with local governments is that the data they keep on citizens—criminal records, use of government services, property and tax records, health information, and more—is split up into silos, divided by department. This means that the information about any given citizen that an employee in one department is seeing could be completely different than information someone else is seeing in another department about the same citizen.
For police officers—whose job it is to ensure the safety of their citizens—understanding who those citizens are, how they relate to each other, the types of services they consume, and how they prefer to consume them is key. Understanding the high-utilizer citizens (those members of the community who use the most services, and/or use services most often) is particularly important. High-utilizers are individuals with complex behavioral, physical, and/or social needs, who are frequent users of a broad range of social services and may have a high number of contacts with emergency medical technicians and law enforcement. Knowledge is power, and the more knowledge local law enforcement workers have, the more power they have to keep peace in their communities.
Because of this, an essential tool for justice departments is a Master Data Management (MDM) solution that can offer a single view of the citizen, and can help answer the following questions:
- Which citizens (or demographics) consume which services?
- Which citizens use the most services, and the most often?
- What are the most commonly requested services we provide?
- Are current services effective in meeting the state’s budgetary and long-term care goals?
- How can we meet collections targets in a fair and responsible way?
- How can we ensure we protect the vulnerable through early intervention?
Much like a doctor who must take a holistic view of a patient to offer the most effective treatment—taking into account socioeconomic status, age, previous medical history, lifestyle habits, and so on—justice departments and police officers need a complete view of each citizen in order to understand them holistically and serve and protect as effectively as possible.
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