Unlocking the Potential of Tailor-Made Apps to Strengthen Community Policing

Ken Schul

(Retired Captain, CMPD), Director, StackBench

In the past, police departments often struggled with an easy way to connect with their communities effectively. This has made community policing extremely difficult, if not nonexistent. However, presently with the use of police applications, law enforcement can communicate and work in conjunction with their respective communities.

An application is just one of the community policing solutions available to law enforcement. However, this particular tool can cross many bridges and provide multiple solutions that ultimately help police and citizens alike all the while keeping communities safe.

Community Policing

Community policing is a collaboration between local law enforcement and the citizens they serve. This type of relationship is important because when a community is engaged with their police, it lessens crime. When a community establishes trust with their local police, and they feel officers are approachable, citizens are much more likely to report suspicious circumstances and offer help to police. In addition, when local law enforcement is transparent and communicative it builds trust with the citizens they protect and serve.

One of the challenges law enforcement has faced in regard to communication is having access to an easy and user-friendly platform. With the advancement of technology and the ever-increasing use of smartphones, applications are bridging the gap of communication in a way that has never been done before. The ease of using an application as well as how common and familiar that type of platform is to society, makes it a perfect solution to the challenges of community policing.

An application is a feature that anyone with a smartphone can access. That alone makes using this type of technology easy and efficient. By implementing an application into a police department’s network of communication, it opens the door for collaboration. It also keeps citizens aware of happenings in their area. Community policing is a two-way street and having a law enforcement application is an effective and convenient solution to building that relationship.

Numerous studies have been conducted, especially in the aftermath of a particular difficult public safety situation. These studies have shown that time after time, police and community relationships are important and can not only decrease crime but promote a positive outlook between law enforcement and the public.

The overall results of community and police connections are nothing but positive. However, it all starts with communication. With communication, trust is built between police and citizens. When there is trust there is more harmony overall, and the public will feel they can approach their local police. A platform such as an app is the first step.

Community Policing App

Police departments now have an option that was not available until recently. Having a police app to implement as part of their communication system is a game changer. When an application is installed and used by law enforcement, it not only benefits their personnel but also their communities.

Prior to the development of apps for smartphone devices, police had to rely on communication systems the original way. First came radio use, and then as social media began to emerge, police agencies were able to use those popular platforms to relate important information and messages to the citizens of their community. Though these are all effective ways to communicate, these methods are not always as prompt or reliable as others. In addition, for the public, calling law enforcement to report suspicious activity may be intimidating.

With the use of an application, police departments can send out messages to the social media platforms they use with the touch of a button. For instance, the Unified Communication Platform, UCP from StackBench, has multiple features that connect law enforcement to its citizens. The public may be put at ease knowing they can simply download an application and conveniently report information to the police from their phone. Citizens can also report in real time if they see an incident taking place.

In addition, a police app allows law enforcement personnel to communicate with their staff instantly. UCP includes a feature that alerts the sender when the recipient has viewed the message. This way, command staff can know exactly who read their memo and when. Connecting with personnel is just as important as connecting with the public when it comes to policing.

The ability to have instant communication increases officer safety as well. For example, if there is an incident that occurs that is either an officer safety concern, a public concern, or both, supervisors can send alerts to their personnel in several different ways to ensure they receive the information immediately. The faster police officers are able to obtain imperative information, the quicker they can respond to a call.

Faster Leads

When the community has access to a police application or the sheriff app that they can download for free on their smartphone, citizens are much more likely to send in tips or leads to law enforcement. The UCP application makes it convenient for the public to send their local law enforcement tips. Citizens can easily snap a photo or even send a video in real-time. Also included is an anonymous feature that allows the public to remain unknown but still do their part in helping to keep the community safe.

This particular reporting feature makes a difference and is a large part of community policing as a whole. It is also a large benefit to implementing an app in a police department. Faster communication such as a citizen reporting an incident taking place, means a quicker response, and a prompt result.

When the community a law enforcement agency serves has the ability to provide information to police quickly, it enhances situational awareness for the entire community. Situational awareness is enhanced with knowledge of an individual’s surroundings. The more a person knows about their surroundings and any potential danger, the more they can be aware of what is happening and stay vigilant and safe.

On average, it can take up to eight and a half minutes for police to arrive at a call. With a police application that allows the community to submit tips in seconds, this can help reduce response time. Some community policing apps such as UCP from StackBench, have a feature that reveals the exact GPS location data. With this information, law enforcement can know where an incident is taking place immediately which decreases their response time.

Community policing solutions takes the reporting process one step further. In addition to the above-mentioned points, citizens have the option with the UCP app to send information to the correct department. This way an individual can report an incident directly to the officer who will handle it. At times information can get lost when it has to go through too many chains. When a citizen is able to report information directly to their local police through an application, it takes communicating with the police to the next level.

Since the UCP application is so easy to use and provides citizens with the option to remain anonymous, the public is much more likely to report any sightings of strange behavior to the police. This is a prime example of how community policing is effective and why closing the gap between police and their citizens is helpful and important.

Tailored to Fit the Community

With the use of a community policing application, departments can customize an app to suit the needs of their specific agency and their communities. For example, the UCP application has a designated platform for police, sheriff, and fire departments. This way the needs of the community are met in the best way possible. For example, UCP has several designated sections a citizen can choose from to either learn more information or report an incident. Categories include Crime Trends, Know Your Chief/Department, Zone Check Requests, Crime Prevention, Most Wanted, and more.

The UCP application from StackBench is compatible with Android smartphones and iPhones. Having both options means no one with a smartphone is excluded from utilizing this innovative, community policing tool.

There have been many news stories in recent years that have pointed out the necessity for police and community relationships. This is why utilizing an application can truly enhance the community engagement between law enforcement and citizens. A law enforcement app not only helps to support the relationship between police and the community, but it also keeps officers accountable and provides a way for citizens to become supporters of their police.

Proven Success

A study conducted by Yale University in 2019 found that community policing increased citizens' attitudes toward their local law enforcement and added trust. The research discovered that when police are more communicative with the public, the citizens they protect are much more likely to respond and even help the police.

Trust, transparency, and communication are the key points of success in community policing. Combining those attributes with an easy-to-use application that may be installed directly on a smart device, improves the relationship between law enforcement and their local citizens. When police departments close the gap on this common challenge, it increases public safety as a whole.

When law enforcement engages the people of the communities they serve, it builds a strong relationship between citizens and officers, which is important in policing. The most effective solution to policing and keeping a community safe is working together to communicate.