In the United States, criminal justice is composed of three major parts; that is law enforcement, law courts and the corrections department. Law enforcement is therefore the first section of the Federal Government that directly deals with deterrence of crime in the country. While these three sections of the government might be interrelated, they act quite independently. These law enforcement agencies include the police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies such as the Marshalls and Drug Law Enforcement and Border patrols.
In general, communication within the agencies of such law enforcement agencies has been at the core of the operations aimed at enforcing the law. Operations are controlled from a central point of dispatch under a specific command. In past analogue radio communication has been the mode of such dispatch and reports. The police department has always considered communication to be the core of operation and that code of conduct on such communication is extremely vital . Police training encompasses communication training and procedures to be followed in passing any communication. The Police Department has taken keen measures to ensure communication procedure is standardized and improved.
In the United States Law Enforcement system, the number 9-1-1 has been reserved for reporting any incidents to the police. In general, calls to this emergency number are directed to the Public Safety Dispatch center where all emergency all are received and recorded for future use. The operator at the dispatch center would ask the caller few questions to determine the priority of the emergency using a computer based system .
Once the information as to the priority has been determined, it is entered into the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. The computer dispatch system is a system that uses GPS to track and locate all the police or agents in the field. Once field officers have been identified, the nearest to the place incident is alerted and directed to the scene.
Tracking is done through the Mobile Data Terminal (MDT). This is a computer self-contained terminal system with abilities to process criminal justice related issues such as stolen vehicles, wanted individuals and missing persons. According to Giles (2002), the system has capabilities of receiving dispatch information and relay the prevailing condition to the dispatch center. Current law enforcement agencies have their vehicles fitted with such mobile data system that assist in communicating dispatch and relying information to the dispatch center. It also incorporated the use of onboard cameras to capture the scene of reported incident. Communication is also possible between two terminals without the use of the dispatch center.
In using the MDTs in dispatch, the dispatch center will use both the voice and silent dispatch in passing the information to the officer. Voice dispatch is passing information via the radio call system in which the officer must acknowledge receiving such dispatch command. On the other, the silent dispatch is the process of forwarding dispatch information via the MDTs to reaffirm the voice dispatch. The method of passing such dual operation is vital in ensuring that all law enforcement agencies within the locality of the incident are privy to dispatch information from the dispatch center. It also ensures that the dispatch information is reaffirmed.
The United States law enforcement is composed of several agencies. These agencies are about 6 federal agencies and other several state run law enforcement arms. Proposals to have all federal agencies under a single communication center or at least several national communication centers have been fronted. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Secret Service, Customs, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are all law enforcement agencies ideally working for the same course.
While it might be a managerial headache to have all these agencies under a single communication centre, several criminal incidences have slipped through the arms of the agencies due poor communication between the agencies. Communicating standardization and data sharing procedures will need to the evaluated to get the simplest and efficient method of such agency partnership.
Over the past, several cases of police communication interception and eavesdropping have been reported. In general, the communication system used by the police and other law agencies have relied on Very High Frequencies (VHF) and Ultra High Frequencies (UHF) assigned to them by the communication control agencies. The band with which the police operate is usually a special band left for such agencies. However, several criminal have identified ways and schemes of bypassing and connecting to the police bands .
This threat has led to the new idea of encrypting police communication. Departments are moving towards encrypting information been passed via radio communication. Encryption is using codes and terms with hidden meaning to pass information. Radios have shifted from analogue technology to digital technology. In this method, digital information is digitized and encrypted before it is passed through the digital communication channels. On the receiving end, radios take the digitally encrypted information and decrypt the information before passing the message as plain text or words.
A more determinist method is the introduction of Smart Radios for police officers. The new radios system is quite intelligent in recognizing specific radio frequency and the load of communication traffic. If the radio realizes that the communication traffic is overloaded, it switches to another frequency automatically.
There are two technologies fronting the use of smart radios, that is, Software Defined Radio (SDR) and Cognitive Radio (CR). The cognitive radio technology uses an intelligent system called the Cognitive Engine that helps in managing the frequency bandwidth of the smart radio commonly referred to as “white space”. This provides the police with a secure digital bandwidth managed by a rather intelligent system. On the other hand, software defined radio is a system in which all the functions of tuning and signal reception shift from manual operation to a software operated system. In general, software would manage all the radio communication of a department and provide a much secure means of communication by creating a virtual Local Area Network. This system works much like the computer network in a building or the cellular system currently used in the United States. This ensures that communication is only within the precepts of regulation and is at the same time secure. It could also incorporate the use of Voice over Internet (VoIP) services in an effort to shift from analogue systems .
In conclusion, law enforcement communication is the core of the operations of agencies involved in such activities. The federal government understands the need to have a properly equipped criminal justice system. Ensuring a thoroughly secured and efficient communication system will go far in ensuring a functioning system.
Fleischer, C. (2011). Communications 911 / Dispatch. Retrieved Dec 16, 2011, from
Giles, H. (2002). Law enforcement, communication, and community. Boston: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
National Institute of Justice. (2011). Smart Radio for Police. Retrieved Dec 16, 2011, from nij.gov: http://www.nij.gov/nij/topics/technology/communication/radios/smart-radios-factsheet.htm