Times have changed. Main Street USA has transformed from the quint shopping and social districts in any downtown in America, where the community, shopped, interacted and socialized on a regular basis, to smartphones and computers. People now shop, socialize, get news and even date online. Things that used to happen downtown….well, they now happen on the web.
Downtown was also where police departments regularly interacted with the public they served. Friendly talks at a crosswalk, a bite at the local eatery and shaking the business owners hand was all accomplished as the officers walked the shopping and social district. While some of that still happens, the make-up and way it happens has drastically changed.
In addition to the above, our communities have changed. Many of our towns and cities are no longer made up of generational residences so not everyone knows everyone. Police Officers are often not from the town they now serve and are not familiar with the people, schools and places that they are now patrolling.
The internet has changed many things, some good and some bad. But, the fact is the change has happened and law enforcement needs to recognize it and change with it.
With todays internet saturated society, where everyone carries a computer in their pocket, we as law enforcement need to offer resources and tools that our communities can use to connect with us the way they know best, via the web. A 2014 study of 4000 people by the Accenture Group revealed that 82% of those questioned wished that police had better ways that they could connect via a digital media. 74% stated that they would use digital tools to interact and assist police if they were available. And, 85% said they would rather use digital tools than talk to a police officer direct. This last one is a bit surprising at first but when you look at our obsession with the web, maybe not so much.
The point of the above is that our world has made some major changes and that is why tools like the Online Policing Solutions Network are so important. By utilizing the OPS Network, agencies are connecting like never before. Citizens and officers alike are seeing that having a digital bridge of communications means all the difference in a digital world. While private industry has kept pace with times, law enforcement has been, up until this point, fine with living in the stone ages.
While this author sometimes (and often) wishes things would go back to a simpler time, they are not. Just as we would all like to not have to lock our doors at night, because in a perfect world those around us would respect the sanctity of a person’s home, the fact is that those days are over. We all lock our doors. And, we, as law enforcement professionals, must embrace the digital age.
To truly embrace the digital age, and offer resources that will make an impact on the communities we serve, and the officers we call to duty, we must use tools that interact, are easy to use and make sense. A “website” is the standard of the past but they are not interactive and mostly simply informative. Any tools that create interaction are usually from a third party and can be expensive and require the user to register multiple times. Our progressive society has become digital warriors and in the process have become impatient. If it is not fast and easy, they will move on. The other issue with “websites” is that they require skill to keep up with and are often made by agency members who are not web designers. A poorly designed website hurts the agencies image and a website not kept up to date is worthless. The other tool to interact with people in the digital world are mobile APPS. Mobile APPS are limited, data heavy, require downloads and do not work on computers. Most people have relegated APPS to the gaming world and to gimmicks.
- This is where the OPS Network comes in. The benefits of the OPS Network are many and include:
- No APPS to download.
- The community side of OPS is an open source web application software which means there are no passwords or downloads needed.
- It is fast and easy to use for both agency personnel and the public.
- It is packed full of interactive tools and valuable resources for both the agency and the community.
- It is a growing tool. This means that it will continue to get better and offer more.
- It was designed from scratch for law enforcement.
- It is affordable!
- It is brand building for the agency because it is professional, up to date and instantly lets all users know the agency is a professional law enforcement organization.
The above are just a smidgen of the benefits of the OPS Network and the things it offers in today’s digital world.
No matter what avenue your agency takes to address the digital world we now live in, remember one thing. We cannot change the digital world but if we make a commitment to embrace it, we can change our agency and community by taking advantage of it.