Law enforcement’s technology partnership
Although Raymond Flynn retired as Assistant Sheriff from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department after almost 33 years, he remains very active in public safety. He served as an advisor to the Washington-based Major County Sheriff’s Association for five years and represented the association on the Department of Homeland Security's SAFECOM committee. He also is a member of the FirstNet's Public Safety Advisory Committee.
We spoke with him recently about law enforcement and following are his thoughts about using technology to improve services.
Government Product News: What is the cloud’s greatest benefit to local and state governments?
Raymond Flynn: The benefit most commonly cited is cost savings. Although the reality is that there is a considerable up-front cost of moving large amounts data to the cloud, the long-term savings are great.
GPN: How much research did you and the department conduct on moving data to the cloud?
RF: We were looking at the cost of storing data. The cost was increasing exponentially, as we were becoming more and more computer-based, not only in the office environment, but also in patrol cars, and now with smart phones that our officers and civilian specialists are carrying. So the solution that we looked at was the fact that moving as much data as possible from in-house data servers over to cloud computing would save us a lot of money down the road. There’s the initial investment of moving the information over, but in the long run, the department was going to cut costs.
GPN: What’s been happening in the cloud since you left the Las Vegas force?
RF: Two years ago, when I retired, we had nothing on the cloud. Since I left, the biggest thing that the department moved to the cloud and the only thing right now is video data storage for police on-body cameras. They are looking at putting crime reports on the cloud. That’s the next thing. As local and state governments become more comfortable with the cloud, my belief is that down the road, just about everything is going to be on the cloud, except stuff that government doesn’t want anybody to know.
GPN: How will public safety officials be using technology (such as the Internet or social media) in the next few years?
RF: I think use of the Internet and social media by police departments will grow in the future. When you think in terms of putting out information, traditional print media is dying. I have four grown children, all in their 30s, and not one subscribes to a newspaper. They get all their information via social media or online via the Internet.
Police departments are moving their public information onto social media. Most departments have Facebook and Twitter accounts, and they are looking at Instagram. Departments are shifting to social media, not only for officer-friendly and feel-good stuff, but also for other applications. When police are looking for a wanted fugitive, they can get the pictures out instantly to people following the department on Facebook and Twitter.
Departments can send out video instantly. Most banks and convenience stores have video surveillance cameras. If there’s a robbery, most of the incident is caught on digital video. It takes mere minutes to transfer that video from the store where the robbery occurred onto a social media site sponsored by the police department. That shift to social media is one of the biggest and most immediate changes that the public is seeing.
GPN: How will the cloud improve mobility for law enforcement personnel?
RF: In terms of the cloud, it’s a buzzword. The officer on the street will never notice the difference between whether his agency is in the cloud or the agency is relying on in-house servers—except for this: By shifting to the cloud, the agencies will have the ability to access, store and provide a lot more information than they can now.
GPN: How about the hand-held tools that officers will carry in the future?
RF: I think all officers will be using tablets. Laptops are a thing of the past. They served their purpose, they did great, but you will find police, fire and EMS personnel on tablets in the future.
GPN: Where does FirstNet fit in the picture?
RF: Police fire, paramedics—they all have traditionally have been on land-mobile radio in our lifetimes. It’s FirstNet that they all will be moving to in the next 5-10 years. Broadband information and data and video will all be available initially on FirstNet. It’s all about apps—what apps do they load on the smart phones—that’s where policing and the fire profession is going—it’s app-based communications.
GPN: How can you sell using the cloud internally?
RF: The ability to sell the advantages of going to the cloud to the citizens the government serves: Cost benefits, security, reliability, assisting in the transparency of government, efficiency, ease of implementing new innovations, better disaster recovery and backup, etc.
GPN: Do you have any advice for local government officials on implementing an IT setup that includes a cloud component?
RF: Most importantly, security of the information needs to be addressed. Not all vendors are alike. Ask for a list of customers and do follow-up, ask to meet with the cloud company’s security team, ask hard questions, do a site visit.
GPN: How will state and local governments use the cloud in the future?
RF: As governments become more comfortable with the security and reliability of cloud computing's storage and uses, there will be a want and need to move an ever-increasing amount of information to the cloud. It is conceivable that almost all government computing (except governments’ greatest secrets) will be on the cloud someday.
Michael Keating is Senior Editor at Government Product News, an American City & County sister brand.