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How Cloud Will Affect the Future of Policing

September 15, 2016

What started as a way to manage digital evidence now has powerful long-term possibilities for law enforcement.
Amazon Web Services | September 15, 2016

Law enforcement agencies are undergoing two major, parallel trends right now. One you can see clearly; the other, though subtler, will have major implications for the future of police information technology.

The first is the push for body-worn cameras in police departments across the country. In 2015, DOJ spent over $23 million in an effort to get agencies nationwide to increase transparency and public trust in law enforcement.

As cameras boomed, it wasn’t long before agencies started to see an equally mammoth increase in the amount of digital evidence weighing on their networks: They not only faced the task of implementing the cameras but also that of storing the videos they produced.
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“Departments are facing an overwhelming amount of data as they deploy body cameras,” Amazon Web Services (AWS) Public Safety Lead Michael Wagers says. “Because of this, we are seeing more and more police departments move to the cloud.”

With the AWS cloud, agencies gain instant access to servers, storage, databases and a broad set of application services over the internet. Agencies may also choose from a spectrum of public safety solutions ranging from legacy providers like Motorola to newer cloud natives like records management company Mark43, who’s data-driven solutions are ushering in a new era of policing.

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All in all, an increased utilization of cloud will be majorly transformative for law enforcement. Cloud takes away a great deal of the operations and maintenance costs associated with running solutions in on-premises data centers. Updates can be implemented agilely, downloaded instead of installed, and agencies only pay for what they use. 

Although the widespread move to cloud largely started as a search for a place to store droves of incoming data, the capabilities are far from limited to digital evidence management.

The AWS cloud also provides scalable compute power—take redaction as an example. Releasing videos is key to the mission of body-worn cameras: transparency. But when a video becomes public, it’s also essential to protect the identities of unaffiliated bystanders.

AWS partner BodyWorn provides an easy, scalable solution to complete redaction, and the cloud makes that necessity possible.

“AWS powers BodyWorn’s smart redaction software,” Wagers explains. It takes a lot of compute power to blur out faces and personally identifiable markings such as body tattoos to protect the privacy and identity of victims, innocent bystanders, and minors. This is enabled through the cloud, which will save millions of dollars in manual video redaction labor costs.

As departments continue collecting video, cloud will power even more meaningful uses for it. When an agency generates video evidence, it’s ingesting data ripe for analytics.

By analyzing movement, measuring audio levels or recognizing important images in videos, law enforcement agencies can use analytics in the cloud to make data-driven decisions. Whether the result identifies potentially problematic officers or helps solve a crime, the entire nature of smart policing will be influenced by the insights derived from data and analytics made possible through the cloud.

Departments nationwide are realizing that there is far more to gain from cloud than there is to lose. Wagers says some have even migrated their records management systems (RMS) to the cloud—two mission-critical applications that signal real commitment from law enforcement to cloud transformation.

So what’s ahead? After agencies embrace the power of analytics in the cloud, Wagers says the next frontier will be what the internet of things (IoT) has to offer. Agencies are in the early stages of leveraging tech like ShotSpotter, an AWS partner that uses acoustic sensors to develop a better map of gun violence.

Law enforcement should take heed: Migrate to cloud now, and reap the benefits. Cloud-driven policing is the future, and many agencies are well on their way.

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