As technology changes society it inevitably impacts our jobs, making them easier or more frustrating depending on your perspective but, despite your personal feelings towards smartphones and their numerous apps, change keeps coming, for better or worse.
The Detroit Lakes Police Department is going through one of those changes right now, being the very first department ever to test out a new app that basically allows them to hold dispatch records in the palm of their hands as they're out in the field, among other features.
Back in February, the Police Department, along with the Becker County Sheriff's Office, switched over their computer systems to a system created by Zuecher Technologies and, after getting used to that system, Zuecher released a field ops app for smartphones.
The DLPD purchased four subscriptions to this app to test it out and see if it really does make their jobs a little easier.
"The app gives all the information that an officer would get in a car," said Police Chief Steve Todd. "If he's equipped with the app, he will get a pop up window that looks like a text message."
That "pop up window" gives the officer access to all the information on a dispatch call, including turn-by-turn directions to the location—and, all information is instantaneously updated.
In addition to showing the location of the call, the app will also show an officer the location and status of other nearby officers.
The most "revolutionary feature" of the app, according to Todd, is the ability for an officer to take photos and record audio evidence right in the app, which then automatically uploads that evidence to their system.
Todd gave an example of an officer going to a crash site.
"Normally, you would expect an officer to take photos, especially if there are injuries," he said.
Well, in the past, Todd says an officer would use a digital camera to photograph the scene and some sort of recording device to take statements. Then, he or she would go back to the station, sort through the evidence, and upload it to the system.
"This app is cutting out a large number of steps for the officer," said Todd. "He'll no longer need to come into the police station to upload or download those files."
Todd says he and a few other officers have already used the app, and it works pretty smoothly.
"This is a one-stop shop, so to speak," he said. "If I want to read an officer report and look at photos, that's all available from the same computer screen."
Though he says there have been a few kinks to work out, as would be expected from new technology.
The only piece that's missing, says Todd, is the fact that officers can't use the app to send information back to dispatch, to check for warrants and such. They'll still have to use their squad car computers for that.
But, Todd says if all goes well as they test the app over the next few months, he doesn't see why they wouldn't fully implement the app, allowing officers to use it if they so choose.