What is

law enforcement technology?

Its role and impact on modern law enforcement.

8 min.

Its role and impact on modern law enforcement

Law enforcement technology refers to software and tools that help law enforcement organizations carry out their missions more effectively. This spans a wide range of organizations, including federal, state, and local police, financial intelligence units (FIUs), border police, and others. These organizations are tasked with upholding public safety and combating various illicit activities, including organized crime, gang violence, financial crime, cybercrime, trafficking, search and rescue, and more.

How is technology transforming law enforcement?

Technology is fundamentally reshaping criminal activity, as bad actors quickly adopt new technologies for illicit purposes. Law enforcement organizations need to stay on top of the latest tech to remain effective in their mission. With the right technology, police forces can better handle today’s complex challenges, such as cross-border crime, growing ties between criminal organizations and terrorist groups, and the increasingly sophisticated methods used by criminals to evade detection. Advanced technology can support policing personnel across a wide spectrum of roles and functions, including helping to: 

  • Improve evidence collection, analysis and data preservation 
  • Reduce response times 
  • De-anonymize criminals who attempt to use the dark web, messaging apps, cryptocurrencies and other methods to cover their tracks 
  • Analyze large volumes of data to generate valuable insights, thus enhancing crime detection, strategic planning and resource allocation 

The future of policing is being reshaped by the rapid pace of technological evolution, ushering in a new era of data-driven decision making and enhanced operational efficiency.  

What type of technology tools are being used today by law enforcement?

Law enforcement agencies are embracing technological advancements in law enforcement to improve their operations and accelerate investigations. Drones, satellite communications, and thermal imaging provide crucial tools for teams out in the field, allowing them to complete their missions successfully. Tools such as surveillance cameras, biometric systems, and License Plate Recognition (LPR) cameras help police gather data quickly and improve decision-making. Lastly, artificial intelligence (AI) streamlines investigations and intelligence analysis through the efficient and accurate processing of large amounts of data. 

Artificial intelligence 

AI is the ability of machines, particularly computer systems, to perform tasks commonly associated with human intelligence, enabling them to perform tasks that require reasoning, generalizing, learning from past experiences decision-making and problem solving. AI capabilities can be especially useful in enhancing and accelerating police investigations and intelligence analysis. Examples include: 

  • Natural language processing (NLP) can help policing authorities analyze large volumes of text, including web content, police reports and other documents, to automatically extract names, dates, locations, and organizations and uncover connections. This can accelerate investigations by linking suspects together, identifying additional victims and unearthing hidden insights crucial to solving cases.  
  • Video and image analytics can enhance the capabilities of public safety officials. For example, this technology can rapidly identify and flag suspicious objects, weapons, or violent behavior in security camera footage, enabling quicker deployment of officers. It can also analyze images and video content to generate critical insights for investigations such as gang affiliations and specific locations. 

Drones 

Drone technology has significantly advanced in recent years, making unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) cheaper and more powerful. Drones can be utilized effectively by police departments for surveillance, search and rescue missions, and tactical operations support. They enable police forces to rapidly assess situations such as natural disasters or active shooter incidents without endangering personnel, thus expediting response times and minimizing risks. 

Information Sharing Technology 

Collaboration tools, including shared investigation workspaces, secure messaging and digital whiteboards enable investigators and analysts to share insights and work together, while breaking down data silos. 

For example, decision intelligence platforms offer a unified investigative workspace where crime fighting units can easily and securely share information and collaborate, both internally, within teams and across an organization, and externally, with other domestic and international agencies. 

Biometrics 

Biometrics refers to the use of unique physical and behavioral characteristics to identify and authenticate individuals. These traits include physiological characteristics, like fingerprints, facial features and iris patterns, and behavioral characteristics like voice patterns, gait, mouse movement and typing rhythm. Biometric authentication technologies such as fingerprint scanners, facial recognition, voiceprint recognition, iris recognition, retina scanners and others, enable public safety officials to leverage biometrics to identify and track suspects, manage access to confidential databases, assist in investigations, enhance border control and conduct surveillance.  

Biometrics can serve as a valuable data source for decision intelligence platforms, which can fuse biometrics data with other data sources to generate new investigation leads and uncover hidden connections. 

Voice Technology  

AI-powered enrichment engines such as speech-to-text transcription (STT) or Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and voiceprint recognition enable the analysis of audio recordings to extract actionable insights for identifying suspects, generating new leads, and accelerating investigations. Voice technology accurately transcribes audio from various sources (microphones, audio files) into readable transcripts. Additionally, speaker diarization identifies different speakers in a conversation, helping investigators find relevant conversation segments and summarize key points. 

For emergency calls, AI-powered audio analytics extract critical information by identifying keywords and analyzing caller emotions, enabling the prioritization of high-risk situations and optimizing response strategies. Furthermore, voice technology assists officers in accessing critical information and communicating more efficiently. With voice-activated systems, law enforcement personnel can retrieve data, file reports, and manage evidence hands-free, thereby boosting safety and effectiveness in the field. 

Thermal Imaging 

Thermal imaging technology uses heat sensors to detect infrared radiation, allowing law enforcement personnel to locate individuals and detect illegal activities in low-visibility conditions. Police typically use thermal imaging cameras, handheld devices, and goggles to achieve these capabilities. This technology is useful for many law enforcement teams, including: 

  • Search & rescue teams: When searching for missing persons in challenging environments (such as dense forests, rugged terrain or collapsed structures), thermal cameras assist search and rescue teams by detecting body heat even when visibility is poor. 
  • Narcotics units: Officers involved in drug interdiction operations use thermal cameras to identify heat sources associated with indoor marijuana grow operations or hidden compartments in vehicles. 
  • Border patrol: Thermal cameras play a crucial role in border security. They help detect illegal border crossings, monitor smuggling routes, and track human movement along the border. 

By providing enhanced visibility in challenging environments, thermal imaging enhances situational awareness, improves officer safety, and increases crime-fighting effectiveness. 

What technologies do software solutions for law enforcement leverage?  

Law enforcement agencies are adopting advanced software solutions to enhance their capabilities. These solutions include decision intelligence platforms which apply AI and machine learning to diverse data sources to improve decision-making, blockchain analytics, which helps investigate cryptocurrency-related crimes, cyber threat intelligence, which helps to identify and mitigate potential cyber threats, and digital forensics software, which preserves and analyzes digital evidence.  

How do law enforcement organizations use decision intelligence platforms?

Decision intelligence platforms combine data fusion, AI, analytics and data visualization to help police resolve cases faster, predict crime trends more accurately, and detect potential threats. Decision intelligence platforms empower authorities to take an intelligence-led policing approach, based on data-driven insights, rather than gut instinct or outdated practices, and can help boost various types of investigations including: 

  • Drug trafficking: Law enforcement organizations combatting drug trafficking must uncover and disrupt cross-border webs of criminal activities along the entire supply chain – from the sourcing of raw materials to the production of illicit drugs, the distribution of the final product, and the laundering of profits. Decision intelligence platforms enable police to uncover hidden connections between individuals, criminal groups, shell companies, bank accounts and other entities, and to map organizational structures and key ringleaders. 
  • Organized crime: Decision intelligence platforms help security officials combat organized crime by allowing investigators to discover hidden insights and connections to disrupt complex criminal networks and cartels. 
  • Financial crime and AML investigations: Decision intelligence can accelerate anti-money laundering, fraud and tax evasion investigations. These platforms can help automatically surface suspicious transactions, detect anomalies and reveal the flow of money, thus assisting analysts and investigators in detecting financial crimes and mapping criminal networks. 

How do law enforcement organizations use Blockchain Analytics?

Investigators use traditional blockchain analysis solutions to analyze, identify and cluster data from blockchain public ledgers. These tools model and visually represent data to help investigators identify key information about suspicious users and transactions.  

However, criminals often use mixers, shapeshifters, stealth addresses, chain and asset swapping, privacy-enhanced communication, and privacy wallets to hide their identities. Instead of using mainstream exchanges, criminals often “cash out” through illicit exchanges or decentralized, peer-to-peer exchanges, and use non-custodial wallets. In the case of non-custodial wallets, also known as unhosted wallets, no entity enforces KYC regulations and only the wallet owner has the private keys which enable accessing and transferring funds. Even when criminals do use mainstream exchanges, policing authorities must obtain cooperation from the exchanges, which can be difficult due to legal jurisdiction, compliance constraints, and other factors. In these more complex scenarios, authorities require cutting-edge blockchain analytics solutions, which directly connect between suspects and their crypto wallets without the need for cooperation from third parties and provide deep insight into suspects’ crypto activities. 

How do law enforcement organizations use Cyber Threat Intelligence?  

Cyber threat intelligence (CTI) platforms aggregate, correlate, and analyze data from various sources from all layers of the web to help law enforcement proactively identify potential cyber threats and combat cybercrime. By utilizing these platforms, analysts can monitor for threats in real time and prioritize responses based on the severity of the threat.  

How do law enforcement organizations use Digital Forensics software?

Digital forensics software is used to efficiently collect and analyze vast amounts of digital evidence from digital devices such as mobile phones and computers. These devices store information such as messages, contacts, photos, videos, and geolocation data, which can be critical inputs for investigations and can serve as evidence.   

Data from digital forensics can serve as a valuable source for decision intelligence platforms, which can fuse digital forensics data with multitudes of other data sources, such as financial transactions, police reports, LPR and CCTV footage. This helps to provide a deeper understanding of suspects, criminal organizations, companies and other entities involved. 

What are the benefits of using technology in law enforcement? 

The use of technology in law enforcement offers several key benefits:  

  • Increased productivity: Advanced tools enhance the capabilities of officers, enabling them to handle more cases with greater accuracy.  
  • Faster case resolution: Technologies like decision intelligence, blockchain analytics and digital forensics allow for faster analysis and investigation, leading to quicker case resolutions.  
  • Early crime detection: Proactive use of technology helps to identify and prevent serious crimes and threats before they escalate.  
  • Strategic resource deployment: Data-driven insights enable public safety officials to allocate personnel and resources more strategically, focusing on high-risk areas.  

What are the risks of implementing technology in law enforcement?  

While there are many benefits which law enforcement organizations can gain by adopting advanced technologies, there are also risks associated with doing so. 

  • Potential for abuse  
    • Without proper regulation, technologies such as facial recognition and surveillance drones could lead to unwarranted invasions of privacy. 
    • Law enforcement technology could be used for illegal purposes, such as political surveillance or commercial gain. 
  • Lack of transparency 
    • Lack of openness and clear communication about police practices and processes can erode public trust and hinder accountability. 
    • When law enforcement agencies do not provide clear information about how technology is used, it becomes difficult for the community to understand and trust in law enforcement practices.  
  • Distraction and safety concerns: 
    • Multiple communication devices and computer-aided dispatch systems can be distracting for officers. 
    • Divided attention between devices poses safety risks, particularly while driving patrol units. 
  • Lack of training: 
    • If sufficient time and resources for training officers on new technologies is not allocated, officers will struggle to utilize tools. 
  • Cybersecurity risks 
    • Government organizations, including law enforcement agencies, are prime targets for cyber attacks. Government entities are the second most targeted industry segment, accounting for over 20% of annual attacks, according to a recent Cognyte cyber threat landscape report.  
    • Cyber attacks could compromise sensitive information and create significant data security and privacy risks, including the risk of data breaches. 

Addressing these risks requires protective measures, clear policies, and robust cybersecurity measures to ensure technology is used responsibly. 

What are the challenges of implementing new technologies in law enforcement?

While there are many benefits which law enforcement organizations can gain by adopting advanced technologies, there are also risks associated with doing so. 

  •  Skills and training: 
    • Officers require extensive training to use and manage advanced tools. 
    • Lack of necessary skills among personnel can hinder successful implementation. 
  • Data integration and availability: 
    • Accessing relevant data sources and integrating various databases poses challenges. 
    • Data accuracy and availability is crucial but complex. 
  • Time constraints: 
    • New technologies often demand significant periods of testing, training, and deployment. 
    • Time constraints can delay implementation and adoption processes. 
  • Budget constraints: 
    • The acquisition, implementation, and maintenance of advanced technologies can be costly. 
    • Budget constraints could hinder technology integration funds availability. 

These challenges necessitate careful planning, resource allocation, and ongoing support to ensure successful technology integration in law enforcement. ]

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