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Public Safety

Best Practices for Your Agency-Wide Smartphone Deployment

Until recently, data access for law enforcement meant using an in-car computer connected to the agency’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems. Although these in-car devices usually permit access to valuable data sources, their functionality is severely limited outside of the cruiser.

Conversely, smartphones allow officers to have full data access while away from their vehicles and, by utilizing the robust Android platform, provide additional functionality through specialized apps or peripherals.

However, those aren’t the only benefits. Economy of scale, improved communication options and more effective management of both personnel and devices are primary advantages of a department-wide deployment. Accomplishing such a task will require a commitment of both budget and personnel but, properly planned, these rollouts can be done with minimal risk and disruption to daily operations.

The following is an abbreviated list of priority considerations and best practices associated with streamlining the mobile deployment/management process:

Identify your goals. What do you most want to accomplish and what capabilities do you want your officers to have? You can start with basic call and text functionality and build upon that foundation, especially if you want to access criminal justice data.

Assess current systems. Legacy systems, particularly CADs and records-management systems, may not readily support a mobile interface. However, many vendors are adapting to the reality of the smartphone revolution in public safety, so check current or anticipated capabilities and plan accordingly.

Determine how you will issue devices. Some agencies provide a stipend for personal cellphones that are used for department business. While a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy may be satisfactory for basic use cases, it is not appropriate for smartphones that will access or send criminal justice data.

Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) requirements are rigorous, and failure to properly safeguard data subjected to CJIS protection can result in revoked access, leaving information gaps across departments. Department-issued phones combined with a strong enterprise mobility management plan is the best way to ensure your agency policies will meet CJIS guidelines.

Choose a cellular carrier. If you already have department-owned phones, check with your existing carrier, but don’t assume the same setup will support full-featured smartphone deployment. In general, prioritize your carrier choice in this order: coverage, customer support and cost.

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Without adequate coverage, officers won’t carry their smartphone. Customer service is key because you’ll need a trusted partner familiar with the law enforcement sector to work through challenges. In terms of cost, data plans vary significantly, especially for unlimited data and many states have a negotiated bulk data rate for public agencies.

Identify a group of stakeholders. Proactive engagement of key stakeholders will help ensure success. Choose participants who will provide constructive input, predict adoption hurdles and make necessary course corrections. If your agency has a labor bargaining unit, bring them into the planning process, especially if you will be leveraging the geo-location and sensor capabilities of the smartphone.

After getting the ground rules in place, use a group of end users for a pilot that will let you address unexpected challenges on a smaller scale, and allow for any required changes without major expense. These users can help get other officers up to speed as you commence your rollout. Depending on the size of your agency, consider a phased deployment approach, such as one division or substation at a time.

Select an MDM and/or EMM software. A robust and comprehensive device management approach, such as that afforded by Samsung Knox, is highly recommended. If you intend to have full criminal justice query capability, you will need a high level of security safeguarding your data transactions because of CJIS requirements.

Knox is a highly secure platform that is built into recent Samsung Galaxy devices at the hardware level. Knox solutions leverage the TrustZone Trusted Execution Environment to provide defense-grade protection, and management tools that aid in the efficient configuration, deployment and management of devices.

Establish a mobile device policy. These guidelines should summarize the purpose of the mobile program and the expectations of device usage. They need to clearly state what is permitted and what is not — e.g. short personal calls or texts. The policy should also underscore security protocols and expectations as well as CJIS-related requirements as applicable.

Start with training programs. Use personnel from pilot efforts to demonstrate how the smartphones can be beneficial in the field and to share success stories, thus encouraging personnel to use the new devices. Training should include discussion of security and departmental expectations regarding device usage. Officer safety should be a consideration and it’s prudent to caution officers about the dangers of distraction while dealing with subjects in the field.

Smartphones provide added capabilities beyond those afforded by in-car computers while improving community engagement. With proper planning, smartphones can be deployed across an organization in a way that is cost and resource effective.

Download this white paper for more information on how to implement a smartphone deployment at your agency.

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Dale Stockton

Dale Stockton is a 32-year-veteran of law enforcement, having worked in all areas of police operations and retiring as a police captain from Carlsbad, California. He taught criminal justice classes for more than 20 years and is the former Editor-in-Chief of Law Officer Magazine and Stockton is the founder of Below 100, an award-winning officer-safety initiative designed to reduce police line-of-duty deaths and has been involved in the presentation of the program across North America. Stockton is an accomplished technology practitioner and has managed major technology projects for public safety including personnel-locate devices and license plate recognition systems.

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