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Policy Toolkit Helps Agencies When Procuring Data-Generating Technologies


–Published January 2020
–51 pages
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Modern police technologies pose an enormous challenge to police departments. License plate readers, drones, body cameras and gunshot detection systems, for example, are powerful data-collection, -creation and -retention tools. The value in these technologies is the information they generate—and law enforcement agencies are challenged to collect, manage and use that information responsibly.

To provide concrete guidance to police chiefs and agencies as they navigate the process of acquiring data-generating police technologies, the Criminal Justice Program at Harvard and Stanford Criminal Justice Center have released Emerging Police Technology: A Policy Toolkit.

The toolkit offers policy-planning worksheets and checklists that law enforcement agencies can use to examine the interconnected issues that arise from the use of data-collection technologies:

  • Costs, including Risk, Lifecycle and Hidden Risks
  • Governance, including Security, Training, Limiting Access, Deleting and Sharing Data, and Auditing
  • Community, including Meetings, Operating Policies and Accountability.

Each section summarizes key challenges, outlines helpful practices for addressing them, and provides worksheets to help manage the process. The Governance and Community sections offer checklists that contain solutions and best practices.

The toolkit is the result of a collaborative effort, the Stanford-Harvard Project on Technology and Policing (PTP), to fill the gaps in police technology policy. In 2017, the PTP held a roundtable policy discussion on policing technology with 24 national experts, including local and state policymakers, law enforcement leaders, academics, technologists, and industry representatives. The toolkit is a product of that roundtable, as well as guidance and feedback provided by the PTP Advisory Board.

SEARCH Executive Director David J. Roberts participated in the 2017 roundtable held at Stanford University and also serves on the PTP Advisory Board.

Acquiring data-collection technology is unlike other equipment procurement because the costs and downstream effects are connected not just to the physical hardware but to the resulting data governance required. Police departments are not just buying investigative tools, they are buying data systems that must be controlled and managed.
—Emerging Police Technology: A Policy Toolkit
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