Mobile devices were adopted early in law enforcement. Even before we had mobile phones, police were using communication devices to support officers in the field with live communications with police head quarters. At the time though, the communications were mainly used to instruct and manage police officers out in the community. In 2012, ‘mobility’ has grown to mean something different. Current mobile devices have or could have all the functionality that computers at police HQ have.

In many ways, mobile devices have the potential to make the officer out in the community information dominant over his chief. Functionally, this is borrowed from the defense doctrine – where it was called ‘network centric warfare’. Power to the edge: decide locally in the field as much as possible, escalate only if needed. Real-time communications and non-linear, network enabled information exchange have made this possible.

This is more than just an evolutionary development. Police are managed differently in different countries. Typically where top-down control and hierarchy are important, the police officer is not supposed to make too many strategic and tactical decisions out in the field. However, by using a PDA this same officer has an opportunity to work with the best information. Here functional requirements and cultural preferences go in opposite directions. Police leadership and politicians need to make choices. And it will necessitate a significant cultural mindshift.

There is also a story to tell beyond cultural transformation. True mobile enablement in law enforcement demands a proper communication infrastructure and back end IT infrastructure. In that sense, mobile technology and integrating police IT systems are intrinsically linked. Yet, this back-end infrastructure is often overlooked in the Digital Transformation journey.

Find out more in my article ‘Digital Transformation in Public Security and Policing