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Police Department Investments in Information Technology Systems Challenges Assessing Their Payoff

NCJ Number
Date Published
18 pages

This National Institute of Justice funded study examines information technology (IT) investments made by some police departments in the wake of the economic downturn that began in 2007 and 2008, while some have cut their information technology (IT) investments and civilian staff as a way to avoid reducing sworn officers, others have increased their investments in IT, believing it can serve as a force multiplier, increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the department.


Key findings of this study include: The potential effects of information technology (IT) systems on police productivity will be driven, in part, by the match between the technology and police activities. In modern policing, how information is used for reactive response to incidents is significantly different from proactive and community-policing activities, so we expect the effects of IT to be quite different. The authors developed a logic model of police functions to guide examination of the different expected effects of IT on productivity. The logic model helped guide a statistical analysis in an effort to identify productivity and budgetary effects of different IT investments in police departments. However, even the best available data were insufficient to break down police agencies' use of the technology at a sufficient level of granularity to provide meaningful results. Future efforts to assess the effects of IT systems on law enforcement performance can benefit from the results of the logic modeling and exploratory analysis. Specifically, it is important to collect data not just on department acquisition of IT systems, but also on how the systems are used and the activities that the use is intended to support. In considering potential productivity improvement from IT use, analysts need ways to measure relative levels of effort devoted to different police functions because the role of IT as a force multiplier means that its benefits will be driven, in part, by the force available to multiply.

Date Published: January 1, 2014