Technology: The Trojan Horse of Change
Written by Dr. Jane M. Homeyer & Ann M. Quigley   

THE TALE of the Trojan horse—that mythological wooden vessel that concealed the Greek soldiers until they were carried willingly inside the walls of Troy by the Trojans themselves—offers an idea for how the rapid adoption of technology can be leveraged to introduce and facilitate adoption of new products, methodologies, or ideas in other disciplines.


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According to Harvard Business Review, the pace of technology adoption is speeding up (McGrath 2013). It took decades for the telephone to reach 50% of households, beginning before 1900. It took five years or less for cell phones to accomplish the same penetration in 1990. This tells us that innovations introduced more recently are being adopted more quickly.

Whether the company is a Fortune 100 colossus or a modest not-for-profit, a family business or a professional organization, the problem is that people fear change, resist it, fight it, and often end up sabotaging what they might even consciously agree are a good means to move things forward (Eisold 2010). Organizations—including law enforcement—that are steeped in deep tradition, family legacy, and strong culture, are even more resistant to change. Therefore, one way to increase the rate of adoption of new things within these types of organizations is to introduce them “masked” under the Trojan horse of technology—which currently has an unprecedented rate of adoption.

Adoption of Technology Drives Change

There is an opportunity to leverage the rapid adoption of technology to mitigate the reluctance to change or resistance to transformation. For example, the use of tablet devices for crime scene work offers the tangible benefits of improving efficiency and data quality. But the use of these devices at the crime scene can also be a catalyst to drive information sharing and collaboration. In the years following the events of 9/11, significant progress has been made in these areas to strengthen national security and many areas of law enforcement; however, their power has not yet been fully applied to the crime scene discipline.

Tablet technology has been widely adopted for numerous home and business uses—including law enforcement. Crime scene professionals are starting to experiment with and use apps developed for other disciplines to support crime scene functions. Most of these early uses of apps address basic crime scene functions such as note taking, sketching, and photography. Even though these apps are not designed specifically for crime scene work, crime scene professionals are still finding some increase in efficiency and capabilities.

Improved Efficiency and New Capabilities

Recently, several apps designed specifically for the crime scene professional have entered the marketplace. Many of these apps are likely to facilitate and improve the quality of data entry through the use of rigorous data standards and good user-interface design. They may include data-quality features such as not permitting a user to inadvertently enter invalid data—e.g., not allowing the date entered for release of a crime scene to be before the date entered for the start of the crime scene. This is a simplistic example, but the same concept is valid for more complex entries, such as make/manufacturer and other firearm information. Using national standards as the “pick list” for these entries can improve data entry by providing the user with only valid values to choose from. These standardized data can be used to more easily satisfy national, state, or local reporting requirements including the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), which is used to help better understand crime trends and gun violence.

Another way electronically collected crime scene data could be beneficial is to help make informed resource decisions. For example, a department with limited training dollars might use aggregated data recorded as part of the normal course of crime scene processing and documentation to evaluate where training funds might be best spent. If over a six month period only one case involving the need to cast a footwear impression in sand was encountered, yet there were 50 cases involving bloodstain pattern analysis (BPA), the decision might be to train the whole crime scene response team in BPA, but to only train a single individual to cast footwear impressions in sand—who could then serve as the agency’s expert in such situations.

These examples highlight the value of electronically capturing, storing, and sharing crime scene data. Mostly this value is described in terms of improving efficiency, standardization, or otherwise improving quality. The efficiency factor can be increased even more if the data-collection tablet or system is integrated with other law enforcement and judicial systems, such as property or laboratory management systems. This “one-and-done” concept (i.e., entering the data one time with high quality and using it for multiple purposes, as appropriate) significantly increases efficiency and improves quality.

Pursuit of Transformation

Efficiency and quality alone would be compelling reasons to electronically capture and store crime scene processing data; however, there are some additional benefits to doing so that could transform how professionals work crime scenes. Imagine multiple, geographically dispersed shootings where the shooter has not yet been identified or captured. Cloud and other communication technologies allow data from the multiple crime scene locations to be shared with the different individuals or teams working each scene and possibly also with a central crime command post. This information sharing can take place in near real-time as the information is collected—equipping individuals who need to make, at times, split-second decisions in high-pressure situations with all the available data.

Other advances in technology are catalyzing the development of new capabilities, such as those broadly referred to as teleforensics—the use of communications and other advanced technologies to transmit real-time data from a crime scene to remote locations. Teleforensics may present the opportunity to revolutionize modern law enforcement in the United States and around the world (Garrison 2009).

Interestingly, the maturity of a given technology may not be the factor that limits progress (as may be the case with teleforensics). Rather, it might more often be the need to address quality-assurance challenges. For example, the “DNA-on-a-chip” technology offers crime scene professionals the capability to potentially develop a DNA profile from blood, body fluids, or other cells found at the crime scene. The profile could then be uploaded and searched in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) for a possible “match.” However, at the present time, most crime scene specialists do not meet the qualification standards required to conduct DNA forensic work. As these kinds of issues are addressed over time, technologies like teleforensics may enable on-scene evidence analysis and provide near real-time links between perpetrators and their crimes and victims.

Finally, technology both enables and can drive transformation by changing the “expertise paradigm.” No longer does an individual or crime scene team have to be solely reliant on his/her or their own expertise in every situation. The use of powerful communications technologies could be used to virtually connect a crime scene professional at the scene with a recognized expert in a needed discipline for advice and guidance—in near real-time. Imagine needing the expertise and advice of a forensic entomologist at a crime scene involving a half buried, decaying body. Instead of waiting to locate one and get them on scene in person, just such an expert could be connected virtually and could almost immediately begin to help make time-sensitive decisions about evidence collection and preservation.

As more departments recognize the value of this type of collaboration and take advantage of deep expertise they themselves may not have (or need to have resident within their staff), the benefits of improved evidence preservation and collection, as well as possible cost savings from not needing on-site specialty expertise, will be realized.

Technology has enormous potential to advance the crime scene discipline.

Technology has enormous potential to advance the crime scene discipline. It is likely that the overall rapid adoption of technology will help expedite the transition to electronic crime scene data capture, integration, and use. In turn, this shift will enable the transformational benefits that can be realized through enhanced information sharing and collaboration.


About the Authors

Dr. Jane M. Homeyer joined the office of the National Counterintelligence Executive in the fall of 2012. Homeyer has held several other senior executive positions in federal and other government agencies, including serving as the Deputy Assistant Director for National Intelligence for Human Capital for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Section Chief of the Forensic Science Support Section for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Laboratory Director for the Northern Illinois Police Crime Laboratory (NIPCL). She is currently the co-owner of Visionations, LLC.

Ann M. Quigley joined the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in 2007 where she is responsible for a broad human capital portfolio. She has numerous law enforcement related professional presentations and publications. She is a co-founder of Data Matters LLC.

Note: The information and opinions expressed by the authors in this article does not imply approval or endorsement by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.


References

McGrath, R. “The Pace of Technology Adoption is Speeding Up.” HBR Blog Network. (November 25, 2013) Accessed on April 14, 2014. Retrieved from: http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/11/the-pace-of-technology-adoption-is-speeding-up/

Eisold, K. “Resistance to Change in Organizations.” Psychology Today (online). (May 26, 2010) Accessed on April 14, 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hidden-motives/201005/resistance-change-in-organizations

Garrison, D. “Teleforensics.” Evidence Technology Magazine. 7(1) pp. 14-17 (2009).

 
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