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How Technology Has Changed Law Enforcement Criminology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 5436 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The purpose of this paper is to discover how technology has changed the role of law enforcement personnel and how crimes and criminals have changed since the days of the Roman Empire. The objective is to show the advancements in technology that will aid our law enforcement agencies and police in fighting crime and to stop crime before it happens.

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This paper explains how the role of police officer has slowly changed up until the 21st century. Since the year 2000, everything has been quickly changing. New technologies have provided criminals with a whole new class of crimes and have also made it extremely difficult for them to get caught. At the same time, new technologies have been developed to help law enforcement fight against this new class of crime and criminal. The problem is that the new high-tech criminals are ahead in the fight.

Although there has been a trend of consolidating law enforcement agencies, over the years, there is still a large resistance to the idea. Many states have merged agencies and have become more efficient in the way of service but many more a slow to realize the benefits of merging when it comes to fighting globalized crimes.

Government agencies, such as the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security seem to have an endless supply of funds that they can use to obtain the ways and means to fight 21st century crime. Terrorism is their main concern. Those at the federal level are attempting to merge efforts with state and local law enforcement agencies. Not much evidence was found to show that the federal government agencies are providing the lower levels of law enforcement with much needed funds.

How does the role of police officer need to change in order to adequately protect our citizens from 21st century crimes and criminals?

Chapter 2: History of Law Enforcement

From the time when the development of ‘society’ first began, some sort of law enforcement existed to defend the people against violence and crime and to keep rulers in command. Even in the Biblical era, there were armed personnel enlisted to uphold the peace. In ancient Egypt, a pharaoh reined over the land and his army of soldiers pursued the Israelites through the Red Sea. There were other similar civilizations like the Babylonians, the Syrians, and the Palestinians, just to name a few (Uchida, 1993).

The most well established of all military armies was the Roman Empire. The Romans had an incredibly efficient and brutal mode of law enforcement that was established in order to uphold peace and enforce order. The Roman citizens never actually had an authentic police force, it wasn’t until clan chiefs and state leaders were required to protect their people, back in the 5th century that police forces were established (Uchida, 1993).

London was first to hire and pay keepers of the peace back in 1663. The idea quickly spread throughout the U.K. In June of 1800, Scotland established the Glasgow city police department. Glasgow police were the first trained police officers and were proficient in defensive policing. In 1829, Scotland’s Parliament passed the ‘Metropolitan Police Act’, establishing the earliest civil police force model that has, over the last 181 years, has been adopted by many other countries, including the U. S. In 1834, Canada established its Toronto Police Force, making it one of the first police agencies in North America. 1939 brought the first full-time police department in U. S., namely, the Boston Police Department (Uchida, 1993).

When civic policing was originally established in London in 1829, the focus was on stopping crime before it started: The community and the officials themselves looked upon the goal of policing as the “nonexistence of crime.” The original police officers in the U.S. were called “peace officers”; nevertheless, a markedly American approach of policing started to transpire in the States subsequent to the ending of the Civil War. As early settlers colonized the West, they realized they had to protect themselves from the natives. This realization led to the development of vigilante groups that were able to establish a list of township laws and frequently hired a so called “gunfighter” to be the townships sheriff in expectation of adequate protection. Over the decades, the American policing system changed from preventing crime to capturing and punishing law breakers. This system of law enforcement has reigned over time and has been adopted by numerous other countries (Stephens, 2005).

The first modern police teams in America borrowed a great deal from those previously established in England. American law enforcement agencies adopted the strategy of crime deterrence, defensive patrol, and the military directorial plan of the first contemporary police department in London. American policing also borrowed additional elements from the English structure, such as, limitations to the amount of authority bestowed to police officers (Maguire, 1997). The security of individual freedom was greatly stressed in both the U. S. and England, consequently, limits were established on legislative and police authorities. This wasn’t the situation in other European nations, where police organizations were allowed a wider range of control and individuals had few personal freedoms (Walker, 1999).

Many countries have one central, state-run law enforcement agency. The U. S. and England do not. The American structure of law enforcement is controlled at the local, state, and federal levels, with the bulk of departments being community municipalities. One feature of U. S. policing system that was adopted from English heritage is a vastly decentralized and fragmented method of law enforcement. According to 1993 statistics, there are just about twenty thousand single law enforcement agencies within the U. S. The lack of organization and cooperation between individual law enforcement groups is a common characteristic of the American approach to law enforcement (Maguire et al, 1998).

Even though the U.S. adopted the English model of a police force, there are several differences between the English and U. S. methods of law enforcement. England does not have a powerful political influence over their police agencies, unlike the U.S. and our daunting relationship between politics and policing. In fact, policing in America throughout the 19th century has been described as being disorganized, unproductive, unprofessional, and extremely corrupt (Walker, 1999).

Those were times of high turnover of police officers, largely due to politics. For this reason, officers were not likely to have chummy relationships with the neighborhood people. During this time, police officers were notorious for brutality and were highly disrespected by the community. Police corruption led to an increase in violence among the town’s people as well and thus resulted in weapon toting policemen (Walker, 1999).

The 20th century brought on major changes to policing in the U. S. Underlying these changes was three main principle forces: (Gaines et al, 1999).

Political reform.

Modern technologies.

The civil rights movement.

Early in the 1900s, an extensive social and political movement in the U. S. called ‘Progressivism’ was bringing awareness to and calling for total reform across a wide gamut of societal struggles. ‘Progressives’ alleged that it was the government’s duty to enhance the living conditions of the people. The ‘Progressives’ demanded laws that would regulation sizeable businesses and corrupt local politics, modifications in labor laws, and upgrades to the whole of social welfare services (Walker, 1999).

This reform effort was to the professionalization of police officers. The professionalization movement was to reform the ineffective and corrupt police departments that had been created throughout the 19th century. During this era of reform, there was a complete restructuring of police agencies and the role of police officers was redefined. The reformers goal was to eradicate political control, hire competent leaders, and elevate recruiting standards. The reform agenda involved the development of an unbiased public service administration and the restructuring of police agencies through the utilization of the ‘principles of scientific management’ and the creation of specialized units (Walker, 1999).

Table 1

Number of Major Events in the Last 40 Years that helped form Law Enforcement into what it is today.




21st Century

Civil Uprising










Black Militancy





Terrorist Attacks





Failed Terrorist Attacks





Intercepted Terrorist Plots





Chapter 3: Early Technology in Police Work

The 20th century saw new technology that had a notable affect on policing in the U. S. Three specific technologies revolutionized policing: (Garretson, 2005).

The two-way radio.

The patrol car.

The telephone.

The two-way radio furnished on duty communication among supervisors and their officers, immediately impacting the quality of service to the community. The patrol car was presented in the 1920’s and drastically increased the mobility of officers and radically lowered response time. The telephone made it possible for people to have a direct connection with the police department (Garretson, 2005).

These new technologies also had a few unconstructive consequences. The patrol car isolated the police officers, where previously on foot, the officers were well-known in the neighborhood they patrolled and were able to visit with the citizens they came in contact with. The patrol car made law enforcement officers outsiders in their own communities. The telephone seriously increased the patrol officer’s workload. Individuals commenced telephoning the police department for trivial and private troubles that patrol officers were not accustomed to dealing with. The telephone changed casual civilian contact to personal contact by bringing officers into people’s homes (Garretson, 2005).

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Chapter 4: Modern Technology in Law Enforcement

Here, in the 21st century, technology is advancing in the areas of; communication, computer systems, weapons, brain wave sensors, density scanners, amplified realism, biometrics, vision enhancers, and many more. Developments in technology will supply police departments with viable equipment that will greatly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of law enforcement personnel. Scientists within the Counterdrug Technology Assessment Center (CTAC) are operating with government agencies in the development of new technological devices that are going to be used by law enforcement agencies (Brandenstein, 2002).

One such type of gadget is called the mini-buster. The mini-buster is a handheld device that senses the density of solid items so as to locate secret compartments that are concealed in the body of a vehicle. It can locate hidden compartments that could possibly be used to smuggle illegal imports, terrorist devices, and any other prohibited substances (Brandenstein, 2002).

Scientists have produced a wireless interoperability system that can connect all federal, state, and local broadcasting frequencies. This system guarantees real-time communication for first-responder emergency personnel. To aid law enforcement officers with searches and evidence display, scientists have created a non-intrusive freight inspection device that discloses the contents of sealed containers. This device can also distinguish contents such as drugs, weapons, biological agents, and explosives. This device saves precious time and promises a certain amount of protection to police officers and investigators (Brandenstein, 2001).

The scientists at CTAC have also created a video stabilization apparatus that electronically changes worthless, unstable surveillance video into comprehensible, court ready evidence. CTAC also supplies federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies with night vision and digital wiretapping devices (Brandenstein, 2002).

Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) systems are built-in camera databases that also take pictures of car license plates and then compare them against databases of stolen cars or license plates (Banlingit, 2009).

ALPR’s were created in the 1980s to fight IRA assaults in England. ALPR’s monitor all automobiles entering London. In the U.S. the ALPR’s were first utilized along the borders at points of entry. This fixed position technology has become accessible in smaller, more sophisticated editions. At this time there are a number of companies manufacturing mobile APLRs that can be installed onto patrol cars (Balingit, 2009).

At the moment a police officer starts his car, the APLR continuously takes 60 pictures per second and processes each license plate. As soon as a plate number is obtained, the numbers and letters are processed with OCR software (Optical Character Recognition) and compared to the information in another database to reveal a match. Although not advisable, the ALPR’s works so fast that an ALPR-equipped patrol car traveling at over 100 mph can process the license plate of each and every car it passes in a parking lot, on both sides, and in total darkness. Furthermore the driver of the police car by no means needs to remove his hands from the steering wheel (Balingit, 2009).

Mobile ALPRs are presently being used all over the U.S. and Canada. When other databases are linked, these ALPR’s will provide police officers with important information on the vehicle itself and the vehicle’s owner (Belingit, 2009).

  One of the largest hurdles in dealing with people from a different nation is speech. Language limitations make a complex job of identification and interviewing more complex. Most law enforcement officers have access to some type translation service, typically in the form of telephone translation services. However, this kind of service is not equivalent to employing a native speaker. Language translators will be able to fill the void (NLECTC U.S. 2003).

There are actually quite a few varieties: desktop, handheld/portable, and Internet. The desktop systems that are presently on the market do not necessarily offer the finest in “free form” translation, meaning you can actually talk into them and they will translate what you said into the language you choose. Due to the large amounts of memory required, these types of systems are generally made for use on desktop computers. This technology is not broadly accessible and the cost is astronomical. Inside a few years the cost will decrease and it will likely be logical to think that an officer will be able to interrogate a suspect in their native language through a computer and in real time (NLECTC U.S. 2003).

The handheld language translators that are available today offer some speech recognition capabilities. Handheld systems do not permit a person to ask any questions they want, but they do contain the ability to recognize customary questions asked by law enforcement and afterward play back a translation. Created for U.S. military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan these translators are reasonably priced and could undoubtedly aid law enforcement officers with speaking to people in various languages. Other languages can be added at any time. Translation devices have the ability to facilitate agency operations and to cut down miscommunication among police officers and the general public (NLECTC U.S. 2003).

Researchers in the U. K. are conducting biometrics research in order to assemble a database of violent criminals and sex offenders (McCue, 2003). This database will use facial and voice recognition systems to correlate with the electronic fingerprint and palm print identification system. Video cameras and microphones that are being used in public and concealed surveillance systems will be able to identify thousands of violent criminals that saunter by (McCue, 2001).

The Pinellas County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office currently utilizes facial identification equipment to identify prisoners booked into the county jail. The facial identification system is capable of taking four facial pictures in under five seconds. The images are entered into the database where they are accessible to law enforcement agencies all over the world (Facial Recognition, 2004).

Law enforcement officers face a big challenge when people provide them with false information regarding their identity. Knowing the real identity of someone they are dealing with could mean the difference between life and death. Until recently, there were very few ways that an officer could use to determine who an individual really was. MVD records could be searched if a photo driver’s license was presented, if the license is legitimate (Weiss & Davis, 2005).

Facial recognition technology uses unalterable facial features, such as the distance between the pupil centers of the eye. It then uses an algorithm, which is a finite set of steps for solving a problem, to convert the image to numbers. The computer program compares the digital photograph of a face with the ones in the database and is able to identify a match, with the most probable match first. The police officer then decides which of the computers matches of the person in question. Facial Recognition Devices can also be used to identify a body as long as a

good image can be taken (Weiss & Davis, 2005).

Chapter 5: Future Technology in Law Enforcement

The U. S. Department of Defense research workers have developed a very unique uniform called (LEAP), which stands for Law Enforcement Advanced Protection System. This uniform delivers ballistic, chemical, and biological armor for S.W.A.T. officers and Hazmat specialists. The LEAP uniform is made of a supple body armor that is designed to contain radios, extra ammunition, hydration pouches, and other necessary gear. The ergonomic load-bearing belt contains a pistol, magazines, handcuffs, flash bangs, along with other equipment. The LEAP helmet contains a GPS system, radio antenna, flashlight, drop-down visor with heads-up display, and a detachable mandible to cover the face and neck. The LEAP uniform comes with boots, kneepads, elbow pads, and a waste management zipper (U.S. Soldier Systems Center, 2004).

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) are unmanned auto pilot planes designed to survey a predetermined area. First created during World War I, robotic aircraft were utilized for target practice on antiaircraft gunners. Currently UAV’s are run by computerized steering or by an out-of-the-way operator, these devices are considered to be an important factor in near future law enforcement operations (Carafano, 2005).

Recently, UAV’s deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq have received significant publicity due to their capacity to identify and fire upon enemy targets. UAV’s have the power to remain in the air for quite a few days; these devices are considered to be a crucial force multiplier enabling police officers to keep an eye on emergent situations with a bird’s eye view by means of specialized sensors and video equipment (Carafano, 2005).

UAV’s have been tested with a range of degrees of success by federal law enforcement agencies such as the Department of Defense and U.S. Border Patrol. The future of UAV’s will not be exclusively available to agencies with mega dollar budgets. Restricted border monitoring committees including the American Border Patrol have operated cheaper versions of UAVs for detecting prohibited border traffic since 2004. Purchasing smaller, consumer retail products, these types of exclusive groups have employed UAVs outfitted with night vision that cost under $30,000 each. As more and more law enforcement agencies find merit in this technology, costs are going to be driven down. In the not so far-off future, the currently used television helicopter will likely be replaced by a highflying, ultra-quiet law enforcement-issued UAV (Carafano, 2005).

The military’s development of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) could significantly affect law enforcement. Using nanotechnology, the police UAV’s would be the size of a small bird and stay aloft quietly for several hours. Using facial and voice recognition software, the devices could scan hundreds of yards in multiple directions, day or night, for known felons or wanted persons. One UAV could do the work of several plain-clothed officers in unmarked vehicles (Olligschlaeger, 2004).

The new exoskeleton suit can be worn by an officer and uses nanotechnology and artificial muscles to allow the officer to run with minimal effort, over prolonged periods, at a speed of up to 20 mph. The suit also enables officers to lift up to four times their body weight (Olligschlaeger, 2004).

The most interesting human and computer relationship could be the “Mind Switch” or Environmental Control Unit (ECU). Scientists at the University of Technology in Sydney have developed this extraordinary device. It could be described as a hands free remote control. The device responds to human brain waves that are brought on by thought. When the wearer of the device thinks about turning on the television, the device will remotely turn on the television (Rice, 2004).

Augmented reality (AR) is a powerful new technology that is being developed. AR will provide situational awareness by projecting images into a person’s real world vision. This device could aide law enforcement officers in several ways: (Cowper & Buerger, 2003).

Patrol car operator data and regional traffic management information on a heads-up display to make driving safer and more efficient, especially during pursuit and rapid response situations (2003).

Identification Friend or Foe technology, worn by every police officer to reduce or eliminate friendly fire casualties by visually, audibly and/or haptically highlighting fellow police officers both on and off duty (2003).

Display of officer location, activity and status information projected on a 3-dimensional map of the community (2003).

The coordinated use of robots, UAV’s and police officers managed through an AR network to enhance surveillance activities (2003).

The use of realistic training scenarios to simulate dangerous police environments while blending real world equipment and fellow trainees into the scenario (2003).

For some time now, computers have had the ability to process instructions from human verbal communication by means of voice analysis software. The next inherent step is voice interaction, comparable to that of an interactive robot. Robotic assistants are vastly intelligent computers that make use of a combination of emerging technologies: speech identification, vocalization synthesis, and amplified reality. The probabilities are to all intents and purposes endless. incorporating this device into an infinite number of public and restricted databases, employing data mining technology, and communicating with existing law enforcement communications systems (Computer Aided Dispatch, GPS guided locator systems, mobile data computers, etc.), will create an incredibly powerful and efficient information management system. A police officer using one of these devices in the field could accomplish many tasks at the same time by merely conversing with the device and dictating spoken commands (Cowper & Buerger, 2003).

Some additional technological advancement on the horizon include personal assistants, speech synthesis, wearable computers, data mining, liquid body armor, electronic clothing, artificial intelligence and crime forecasting (Olligschlaeger, 2004).

Chapter 6: Agency Consolidation Research

For centuries new there have agency consolidations, arguments over the idea, and endless discussions on the subject. The idea of consolidating over 17,000 law enforcement agencies throughout the U. S. into 1,000 regional agencies dates back to the 50’s and was immediately rejected. Rural Americans were not pleased with the idea of losing local control. Rural communities also prefer to have very little government influence (Brown, 2009).

Most small town police departments are comfortable with how their department is operated, the services they provide, and the local people whom they employ. They believe that a regional agency would bring uncertainty to their employment status and the nature of their jobs. The development of a regional agency would provide more services and better protection but this argument was also rejected due to the fact that small town’s residents feel they do not need any more services or better protection. Nearly all small town communities feel their police departments are providing adequate service to the local people (Brown, 2009).

Edward J. Tully (2002) believes there to be, “seven main reasons why agency consolidation should at least be considered,” they are listed as follows:

Current regionalization efforts among jails have been successful. Las Vegas and Jacksonville have successfully merged police and sheriff offices into one metropolitan police force. Country wide based police forces have been successfully established in fast growing suburban counties (2002).

Police related technology is extremely costly and the capabilities outweigh the need in most police departments. Computer technology is easily shared but the desire to share information is rare (2002).

The U.S. is rapidly changing in terms of demographics, culture, and economy. Rural areas are losing population. The number of people approaching retirement age is increasing. The U.S. is more ethnically diverse than ever before. The majority of work has moved from blue collar to white collar. Crime rates have drastically increased in recent years. Our law enforcement officers have to be more sophisticated, more diverse, and more technologically proficient in order to deal effectively with today’s criminals (2002).

In this age of ceaseless litigation, the actions of one misguided police officer can result in liability to the entire agency. One judgment awarded against a rural police officer could bankrupt that department. A regional police agency would not directly deter misconduct but would spread the liability costs easing the financial strain (2002).

Consolidation of police agencies would employ over 1500 officers and if properly trained and managed, could lead to a far more professional police force largely due to increased salaries and benefits, increased training, specialized services, and opportunities for promotion. The recruitment of highly qualified people would be considerably enhanced (2002).

Police officers would have better resources to provide protection to citizens against criminal behavior, a higher quality of investigation, faster response times, and adequate man power for emergencies (2002).

The nature of crime is changing. Cybercrimes, both national and international, such as terrorism, narcotics trafficking. These types of crime are beyond the available resource for small departments to investigate. Criminals realize this and use it to their advantage. Because of these reasons, it is necessary to involve the government in such criminal activity which reduces the sovereign power of state and local governments (2002).

According to Edward J. Tully (2002), “There is no evidence that the lack of regional police forces is causing any hardship on rural/suburban Americans. Evidence does show that this nation’s thousands of local police forces are getting the job done.” The concept of bigger is better has proved true in our countries industries, commerce, schools, medical fields. Organizational growth allows for innovation, specialization, and increased productivity (Tully, 2002).

According to O’Connor (2009), “The 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution reserves police powers to the states, and both federalism and tradition have resulted in a fragmented police structure at lower levels.”

Government, state, county, and local law enforcement agencies are constantly involved in consolidating or establishing new police departments. Massachusetts has abolished a number of county police agencies and assigned their police duties to state agencies. In Michigan, a state police agency is usually assigned to patrol just one city or county. Consolidation takes place when two or more police departments are combined into one, and commonly takes place in areas where two cities have grown closer together or one city has grown so large that it takes covers the majority of the county (O’Connor, 2009).

Chapter 7: Terrorism and Law Enforcement

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created by merging 22 separate agencies in one department whose primary mission is protecting the homeland. In order to be effective at fighting this countries war on terrorism, the DHS, along with local, state, regional, and national law enforcement agencies will all need to work together. What will be the role for police officers to play in the 21st Century; peace keepers, antiterrorism specialists, community outreach agents? One criminal-justice futurist, Gene Stephens, states, “Better educated police officers with improved people skills and a stronger grasp on emerging technologies will be crucial to successful policing in the future.” (2005)

Even the most optimistic futuristic thinkers in the field are finding it difficult how police are going to be able to handle the increasing rate of terrorism and cybercrime and still be able to fight, the also increasing, crime on our countries streets. Futurists in the DHS feel that success can achieved with better education, training, and mentoring. These three things will give street cops the means to fit into the new law enforcement structure that is designed to fight and prevent terrorism (Stephens, 2005).

The main challenge with this is that more than 90% of the police officers in the U.S. only have a high school diploma or GED. Police training in the U.S. takes three to four months to complete plus a little time performing on-the-job training. This short course in police training encompasses basic self defense, firing range, and field tactics. Very little time is spent on the skills needed to prevent crime and on improving community services. The members of the PFI agree that police officers in the U.S. need more education and focused training in order to be able to handle high-tech international crimes (Stephens, 2005).

Attacks on our homeland are performed by criminals both inside and outside of this country. Terrorist tactics are being utilized by criminals that are U.S. citizens. These criminals are usually recruited gangs or major drug operation groups. These groups are recruited by terrorist groups to divert the police, usually through vigilant acts (Stephens, 2005).

U.S. policing is being federalized in terms of policies, funding, direction, and control. The U.S. government, mainly the Office of Homeland Security, is forming alliances with police departments and private-sector corporations. The DHS is looking into adopting policing methods and standards of other countries that have been dealing with terrorism for many years, such as England, Ireland, France, and Israel. These countries also demand higher entrance and training standards for their police (Stephens, 2005).

Law enforcement agencies incessantly have issues with the information privacy laws. Despite the fact that private individuals and criminals have been able to obtain and misuse the private and perso


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