Cyber Cops: The Triumphs and Challenges of High-Tech Policing

Cyber Cops and Cyber Crime
Cyber Cops and Cyber Crime

With government services becoming increasingly digitized, it’s no surprise that law enforcement would do so as well. Police throughout Canada are adapting to new communications technologies creating a variety of opportunities and challenges.

Cyber Challenges

New technologies can present a variety of challenges that must be addressed:

  • Interpretation Issues: Visual messages often require lengthier interpretation than do phone calls. Whereas a caller can simply explain to police what she or he needs, it may take longer for officers to figure out what to do with a text or photo. This can slow their response.
  • Disturbing Data: Images of crime scenes are often disturbing, and they have the potential to shock or stun officers who are not prepared. Psychological training is necessary to help officers deal with this kind of information.
  • Accounting for Accessibility: Citizens with lower incomes or who live in rural areas are less likely to have smartphones and other advanced devices. There is a risk that officers will not respond to them as quickly or as effectively, accentuating inequalities in police service.
  • Pranks on Police: Police departments have always had to deal with prank 911 calls. Texts, photos and video messages provide new opportunities for some people to harass and distract law enforcement. Officers must learn how to identify and ignore such information.
  • Information Management: The sheer volume of information that police departments receive is likely to increase, making it harder for officers to sort through the data and determine the most urgent concerns.


New technology allows police officers to provide quicker, more effective service, notably by:

  • Location: Mobile devices provide detailed information on the location of callers and the best ways to reach them, letting police attend to the public more quickly.
  • Visuals: In addition to calling, citizens can send texts, photos and video messages. Not only does this provide more information, but it also allows citizens in dangerous situations to call for help without drawing attention to themselves.
  • Offender Information: Photo and video messages from crime scenes may contain images of the offenders. So even if the police do not arrive in time to stop the crime, they have a better chance of catching the criminals. This will deter future crimes, as criminals are more likely to be caught.
  • Accommodating All Abilities: Text and visual messages provide an avenue for people with speech, hearing, or other impairments to contact police without issue.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of these technologies is the confidence that it will provide to officers and ordinary citizens alike. The easier it is to communicate with police, the more confident citizens will be that officers will respond to their calls in a timely and effective manner. Citizens will call their police departments earlier and more often, fostering greater cooperation among the public and its protectors.

Wilfrid Laurier University Online offers in-depth information for all current and prospective police officers. For more information on the future of Canadian law enforcement, contact us today.