Last month, Chicago hosted the 126th Annual International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Conference, bringing together more than 15,000 law enforcement leaders and public safety professionals from around the world to discuss today’s most-demanding challenges in policing. Conversations focused on the latest strategies, techniques and resources used to navigate an always-evolving criminal justice environment – serving as a foundation for the continued growth of the law enforcement profession.
One of the central issues of this year’s conference was technology and its implications for the policing community. Criminals in the digital age are using modern technology—mobile phones, social networks, encrypted messaging and cryptocurrencies—in their attempts to outmaneuver law enforcement. These technologies lie at the root of increasingly dynamic illicit activity that has spawned problems of epidemic proportions, like the opioid crisis, human trafficking, systemic corruption, gang-related violence and hate crimes born, nurtured and even executed online.
However, the technology has also introduced a massive archive of illuminating forensic material in the form of digital data. As society’s reliance on modern technology continues to grow, so does the role of digital artifacts in criminal investigations, with more than 85% of today’s investigations involving some form of digital evidence. This reality introduces serious and unfamiliar challenges for law enforcement, as digital evidence is increasingly complex and difficult to interpret compared to standard physical evidence. Fortunately, the digital intelligence capabilities to navigate this growing tide of digital evidence to find the truth exist.
With advanced tools and the right training, police officers have the opportunity to harness the power of digital intelligence to better understand the intricacies of modern cases, quickly transform data into insights to bring criminals to justice and protect their communities like never before. In recent years, Chicago has experienced a drop in major crime as the city has rolled out high-tech police programs. Chicago Police have found the technology to be very effective and continue to expand and implement new tech and data-driven efforts. At this week’s conference, we saw the unveiling of several new intelligence technologies that are expected to create improved outcomes for public safety personnel.
Despite the abundance of digital evidence available, public investigators are not always able to mobilize its potential to uncover answers and solve crimes. Hampered by a lack of the necessary training, tools, resources and sometimes skills to be as efficient as possible, it can often take up to six to eight months for digital evidence to be processed. One of the challenges in solving crime for Chicago Police has been their ability to efficiently identify, collect, download and review all the video resources connected to crime scenes. In-house capabilities alone may no longer be enough to solve modern crimes in a timely manner.
Although the power of digital intelligence is often misunderstood or dismissed, the good news is that it is accessible through thoughtful collaboration with policymakers, community leaders and agency practitioners – as well as industry experts from both the public and private sectors to create an infrastructure of security. Private sector companies possess the domain expertise necessary to overcome digital forensic challenges and drive investigations at an unprecedented scale and speed. Through integrated support including early-adopter feedback, critical case assistance, ongoing officer training, and open, continuous dialogue, private sector partnerships allow law enforcement to remain agile and prepared, and able to seamlessly react to the changing digital environment. As partners, they remove confusion and barriers to enable investigators to quickly and successfully analyze data and bring criminals to justice, prosecute wrongdoing and continue to keep their communities safe.
There is no question that we need these partnerships to protect the most vulnerable among us from hideous crimes. Take the case of 5-year-old AJ Freund of Crystal Lake, IL, a child who faced daily abuse and neglect at the hands of his parents, leading to his death. It’s a tragic case seen far too often, but thankfully, not one that went unsolved. Local detectives obtained information from his parents’ cell phones that implicated them in AJ’s death and served as the evidential foundation of the Lake County prosecutors’ case that brought them to justice. Without the technology and proper infrastructure in place to lawfully and diligently secure this data, there may have been a different outcome.
The world is changing, and policing must continue to change with it. By investing in the right technology and training officers and investigators on how to leverage it most effectively through lasting, evolving and meaningful partnerships with the public and private sector, we also invest in a safer future for our communities – both online and on the ground.
– Garry McCarthy, former Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department