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Mobile devices in the field: Equipping the next-generation police force

Scott Solomon

Many industries are reaping the rewards of equipping workers with mobile devices: Streamlined business processes, anywhere access and productivity gains, to name a few. In terms of mobile adoption, highly regulated industries tend to lag behind, but not for a lack of trying. Law enforcement agencies, for example, face stringent requirements to safeguard mobile devices that access or transmit criminal justice information (CJI). The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS) requires that law enforcement agencies comply with a set of standards for protecting criminal justice information, set forth in the CJIS Security Policy.

The use of mobile devices in business often stems from a desire to innovate or cut costs, but mobility is quickly becoming a necessity, both in business and for many law enforcement agencies. With the right enterprise mobility management (EMM) solution in place, law enforcement officers can use mobile devices to their full potential in the field without compromising CJI.

Department-sanctioned device use can defend against the use of personal devices during patrol, according to LawOfficer.com, which reports that officers have begun using their mobile devices to take photos of crime scenes. But what happens if that device is lost? Not only will the evidence be lost, but sensitive information could fall into the wrong hands, compromise the investigation and breach CJIS compliance.

Imagine an alternative scenario in which an officer uses a department-sanctioned device to help identify a murder victim. The officer takes a photo of a tattoo from a secure application and immediately sends it through an encrypted tunnel to the detectives assigned to the case. The detectives can then use the photo to cross-reference it against the images already in their database. In some cases, the officer on scene could access the department’s or the state’s database securely, directly from his or her mobile device.

Enterprise mobility management (EMM) tools can make it possible to incorporate mobile devices into the everyday life of a law enforcement officer by providing the security that the CJIS Security Policy demands. The enterprise file sync and share solution AirWatch Secure Content Locker, which features a built-in camera that stores photos inside an encrypted container, makes CJIS-compliant photo sharing possible. With AirWatch, IT administrators can disable the native camera on officers’ devices and only allow photos to be taken through Secure Content Locker.

Some early mobile adopters, such as the New York City Police Department, are even beta-testing Google Glass. The uses for wearable devices have yet to fully materialize, but technologies like Glass could give officers hands-free access with heads-up notifications, real-time video streams and other information.

For now, it’s more common to use smartphones with cameras and GPS-tracking capabilities. Photos have become key pieces of evidence in many criminal cases, and the ability to take and send pictures on the spot gives police officers the ability to collect and analyze evidence faster. But in today’s mobile environment, protecting those photos is as important as taking them.

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

Scott Solomon

Scott Solomon View all posts

Scott Solomon is an Atlanta native and University of Georgia graduate who has spent the past six years studying technology, though his passion for the subject has been lifelong.

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