Viewpoints

Empowering local law enforcement with a single view of the citizen

by American City & County Contributor
Oct 04, 2017

By An-Chan Phung
 

As of 2015, there were more than 12,000 local police departments in the United States. They  collectively employ an estimated 605,000 men and women; 477,000 are sworn police officers, according to a report1 from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Additionally, the report notes that since 1987, the number of full-time local police employees has increased by about 156,000 (35%).

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. 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 that information someone else is seeing in another department about the same citizen.

There’s no shortage of data to give state and county justice departments and the officers on the ground the information they need—but the data is often siloed, fragmented between departments in a way that renders it ineffective. 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.

For optimal efficiency and cost-effectiveness, local justice department employees and police officers need access to a Master Data Management 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?

Without the proper data management in place, an incomplete view of the citizen leads to critical and possibly even dangerous gaps in information, especially for the police force. When a police officer makes a traffic stop, for example, or intervenes to help a child in a potentially abusive situation, it’s critical for them to know whether the person stopped for speeding has a criminal record, or whether the family of a child in need has had previous experience with the local department of health and human services.

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—police need a complete view of each of their citizens in order to understand them holistically and serve and protect as effectively as possible. 

 

An-Chan Phung is the chief technology officer at VisionWare, a provider of master data management solutions for the government and healthcare industries.

 

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