Police agencies are in a predicament: a growing number of police officers are reaching retirement age, coinciding with a shrinking applicant pool. Over 65% of agencies reported having too few candidates applying to be law enforcement officers. Positions are being eliminated as populations and communities continue to grow.

Fortunately, police agencies know how to overcome challenges even under immense pressure. Forward-thinking law enforcement agencies are leveraging new technologies to support their existing officers. They're also embracing digital transformation with automated solutions. Together, these are streamlining workflows and driving more informed decision-making amid staffing shortages.

Below three key trends that can address the most pressing challenges for the law enforcement industry are identified.

1. Technology as a key tool to support employees amid the labor shortage

From 2020 to 2021 police agencies saw resignations increase significantly (40.4%). Instead of scrambling to make up for these gaps, agencies should view this as an opportunity to reevaluate their workflows. Are there time-consuming, manual tasks that can be optimized and augmented? The right technology can reduce the stress of sourcing new officers while decreasing burnout.

Fewer officers means increased case and workloads. An example where technology can supplement staffing challenges or improve workflows is reporting.  Manually typing up reports takes time, and finishing and filing reports for each incident can take officers out of service or mean longer workdays, post shift. Furthermore, manual typing of reports can take officers’ eyes off their surroundings. Speech-to-text technology ensures officers can complete reporting efficiently without compromising situational awareness. The officer can speak directly into their mobile device and the device will translate their words into text. These solutions make reporting more efficient by leveraging a wide range of data sources to pre-populate or verify information. Scanned documentation or voice inputs help ensure the accuracy of the inputted information in real-time. 

2. Pairing hardware with the right software solutions to alleviate quiet quitting

How can software solutions better support officers in the beginning of their job and throughout their entire career? A recent Panasonic Connect survey of law enforcement professionals revealed the top three areas that they believe technology can most improve the industry:

  • Employee productivity and connectivity 
  • Streamlining data capture 
  • Digitizing manual workflows  

Software providers can address many of these concerns. More often than not, a police force has little room for downtime as officers take on extra shifts or additional tasks. For example, an officer who’s normally assigned to crime scenes may have to take on patrol duty over an extended shift. Software solutions that are customizable, proactive, and supportive can allow officers perform their duties more efficiently. In this example, software supports quicker access to data, aggregated information and curated information streams. Mobile devices can also be pre-loaded with helpful programs such as mapping tools, and buttons can be pre-programmed for shortcuts or priority applications.

The majority of voluntary resignations for police officers occur within the first five years that officers are on the force. Software providers bring value-added services that are essential for reducing stress and boosting productivity in the short- and long-term.

3. Data accessibility to drive informed decision-making and prepare officers responding to calls

It is imperative that police agencies become data-driven organizations in order to meet demand. Making data more accessible is the first step in the process.

Most police vehicles are outfitted with external antennas which provide connectivity to officers’ devices — so long as they remain docked in the car. Once officers leave their vehicle, it’s essential that portable devices maintain strong connectivity, regardless of location. In this situation, devices that have antennas that support a wide range of connectivity options, from dedicated networks such as FirstNet, or 4G LTE or 5G, is imperative. This gives officers and teams the ability to view mission critical data from the point of service, receive updates in real-time, and communicate with other one another for coordinated response. It gives a mobile police workforce the ability to function at maximum efficiency wherever they are required to be.

Choosing the right software solution is the next step for using data more effectively. Many software solutions have access to large data feeds. And, with the proliferation of IoT and sensor networks as part of the smart city evolution, this access is growing. Unfortunately, data that is not accessible or actionable isn’t of use to officers. Agencies are swiftly moving to find ways to better aggregate, curate and present data in a digestible way for officers. From automated feeds to artificial intelligence, solutions can now extrapolate and distribute important information officers need. This leads to quicker, more informed decision making and a preparedness to respond to whatever situation is thrown their way.

A Future of Engaged, Effective Policing

The reality is that many police agencies are short-staffed, requiring officers to take on additional tasks during their normal shift or work overtime. Technology can improve officers’ productivity so that they can complete their work on time, which also helps avoid burnout. With the time given back to them, officers can focus on building stronger relationships with their communities.

With this time, officers can proactively participate in community activities, such as speaking engagements, volunteering, and job fairs. Though these events may not be explicitly listed in an officer’s job description, they contribute to the broader mission of protecting and serving communities. Through active involvement, police agencies can foster stronger ties with their communities and carry out more effective policing.