Holo-Officers, Are They Coming?
This article is based on research conducted as a part of the CA Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Command College. It is a futures study of a particular emerging issue of relevance to law enforcement. Its purpose is not to predict the future; but rather, to project a variety of possible scenarios useful for planning & action in anticipation of the emerging landscape facing policing organizations.
This journal article was created using the futures forecasting process of Command College and its outcomes. Managing the future means influencing it—creating, constraining and adapting to emerging trends and events in a way that optimizes the opportunities and minimizes the threats of relevance to the profession.
The views and conclusions expressed in the Command College Futures Project and journal article are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of the CA Commission on POST.
Considering the impacts and challenges of reduced funding, rising personnel pension and medical costs, and the increased demand for service; holograms could be used in the foreseeable future by police agencies. These holograms could provide the beginnings of a new, more efficient and cost effective way to supplement staff and deliver low-priority police services.
Our social and business environments have become increasingly technologically enhanced with a multitude of options for convenience and efficiency. With autonomous vehicles, smart home appliances, personal gadgets, virtual entertainment, and the unlimited flow of information through mobile technology and social media, we have numerous avenues of interconnectivity and ease of access. Additionally, the rise of on-demand companies like Uber and Amazon have put the “buying power” and access to service in the hands of the masses (Eidam, 2016). This interconnectivity and access to information and services have resulted in growth of multiculturalism, awareness, creativity, sophistication and productivity. This certainly contributes to a greater expectation of efficiency and quality in both products and services (Tomas, 2016). Of course, this also means that the way our community members want to access government services has changed forever.
GOVERNMENT DOING MORE WITH LESS
Government agencies, however, unlike the private sector, have been challenged by a multitude of organizational complexities including but not limited to shrinking budgets, procedural “red tape” and legacy systems that are too costly to maintain and sometimes even more costly to replace. Technology in the government sector has traditionally lagged behind for those reasons in meeting consumer demand (Eidam, 2016). A majority of any government agency’s budget is spent on human labor costs and associated expenses. Due to rising costs of medical and pension benefits in recent years, a trend likely to continue in the future, many government agencies suffered budget cuts and personnel reductions.
The increased demand for service, along with shrinking budgets and personnel shortages, gave rise to the cliché “doing more with less,” which has become the de facto slogan of many government agencies. Automation, as is evident in many manufacturing sectors, has become a necessary tool to supplement staffing in government (Timberg, 2016). Consequently, there has been a shift towards networking of government agencies with the private sector, IT professionals and tech companies. This collaboration has resulted in the delivery of public service through the use of automated technology (Eggers, 2016) (Newcombe, 2016).
Various government agencies are now focusing on making sustainable systemic changes to improve public services. Some state and local government changes include borrowing from existing technology, tailoring programs and systems to meet diverse needs, increasing efficiency and effectiveness of processes, and striving to ensure community satisfaction while still focusing on cost-saving efforts (Eggers, 2016). Some examples of automation technologies currently in use in law enforcement include photo enforcement of traffic and parking violations, video surveillance, license plate readers, facial recognition software, electronic ticket writers, portable fingerprint scanners for field identification, cameras and audio recorders, unmanned aerial systems, and many more.
In the future, hologram technology could be the key to maintaining quality, diverse services, and reducing high personnel costs in the public sector. Holography has been used by the entertainment industry for decades (Creighton, 2016). Adapting it for policing could dramatically impact the way law enforcement performs its duties in the not-too-distant future.
IMPLICATION OF THE FUTURE OF POLICING
Automation of tasks in providing public services, for cost savings and efficiency, has become an industry standard. Due to this increasing standard, there needs to be a level of authenticity to keep customer satisfaction at an optimal level. Our communities demand fast, personal, friendly and professional service; these qualities are sometimes lacking in an automated environment. The question then remains, how can technology be used to enhance services, but maintain the humanistic approach (interactive and empathetic decision-making quality) required for public service, particularly in law enforcement?
In the near future, advances in technologies like General Artificial Intelligence (General AI) are coming close to simulating or overtaking human intelligence with the capabilities of being self-learning, thinking, seeing, and moving. General AI would allow for wider use of technologies, automation of many traditionally human-centric jobs and supplementation, not replacement, of human workers. (World Economic Forum, January 2016). With the rapid advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI), holograms could be applied in the foreseeable future to law enforcement. This would provide the beginnings of a new, more efficient and cost effective way to supplement staff and deliver low-priority police services.
The joining of hologram technology and AI would provide an authentic, high quality and realistic interactive experience to make the technology useful in providing public service (Hobson, 2016). Holograms are coming close to being responsive and interactive with users and the world around them. With time, high-quality 3D models of people and objects will be digitized and sent to a multitude of locations where there is an internet connection in real time. This could transform the way we do business and socialize, allowing us to overcome time, distance and space barriers (e.g., virtual meetings, family reunions, service providers, etc.) (Ramsley, 2016).
POSSIBLE LAW ENFORCEMENT APPLICATION
Imagine, if you will, walking into a police station lobby and being greeted by a projected image of an officer. He or she is professional, friendly, and helpful in answering all your questions and providing any service needs you may have (filing a crime report, checking on the status of an active case, pending citation, impounded vehicle, generating documents, etc.). This officer is able to do it all in a timely and efficient manner. Another customer walks in, and another image of an officer is projected at the next window to help. There is no waiting in line for the next available officer, which would be the case if it were humans at work. The human officer is limited to helping one person at a time which often results in long wait times and frustrated customers. Additionally, the projected officer would allow human officers, who would typically be working in this capacity, to conduct street patrols and handle higher priority calls for services that require human involvement.
Another evolution of this technology could be field holographic officers dispatched and projected via drone or similar devices. This would allow holographic officers to go to various locations to handle low-priority service calls. Generally these types of calls are for documentation only. There would be no suspect present; and if evidence collection and follow up investigation aren’t immediately necessary, this could be done by the follow up detective at a later time. Such calls could include fraud, lost property, violation of court order (non-violent), theft, vehicle tampering, etc. This will allow human officers to handle higher priority calls for services that require human involvement. Other duties that could be handled by the holograph equivalent staff member could include: records technicians, parking enforcement officer, community service officers, traffic control, crossing guards and others.
In October, 2016, a panel of experts and community members convened to brainstorm and discuss the impact of holographic technologies on policing. This panel noted a number of possible implications for the future of policing (Agaiby, 2016). The following is a summary of those implications:
- Usefulness/Adaptability of holograms in various situations – With improvements in artificial intelligence, holograms could be enabled in the near future to have interactive qualities such as seeing, hearing, processing information and making appropriate decisions. Additionally, humanistic attributes such as empathy, caring, and sincerity could be present. Holograms could be used in dangerous situations such as active shooter or terror threats to have a safe, timely, and effective response. They also could be used to provide additional resources to mitigate the increase in mental health related contacts that often result in the use-of-force incidents. Holo-officers would be able to talk to individuals and perhaps defuse the situation and disarm subjects before humans approach and physically take control. Perhaps a lethal use of force could be prevented. The use of holo-officers in these cases would make it possible to meet the increased demand for more resources in the field, and relieve the need for more training and oversights in dealing with dangerous situations.
- Employee union groups “meet and confer” process – Management and employee bargaining groups would have to meet and discuss the use of the technology and alleviate any inevitable concerns from the employees such as the implementation of hologram technology resulting in job loss. From this long and comprehensive “meet and confer” process, we would identify the tasks in which holograms would be used, clearly delineating the roles and division of labor, as well as establishing policies and expectations of use.
- Concern for information security/privacy – In recent years, security and privacy of information has been a primary concern. A concern with new implementation of any technology due to high profile news incidents of corporate database being hacked and customers’ private information compromised would be mitigated. Law Enforcement agencies and government entities in general, have fallen behind the curve in the rapid evolution of various technologies. One place where we could be vulnerable is the security of our technology.
- Potential for legal and physical authority challenges – Law enforcement duties necessitate legal and physical authority to take charge of situations. Training, certification and regular competency testing are typical requirements for the authority granted to police officers to effectively carry out their duties. The physical intervention often required in various situations could be impossible for a hologram officer to handle. For example, when an incident is escalated to an “arrest” situation, it would be physically impossible for a hologram officer to handle, and furthermore would be challenged in court. Also, the possibility of civil litigation due to the inability of the holo-officers to appropriately handle and/or respond to incidents, much of which is unforeseeable due to the human factor.
Hologram Technology already exists and is used in the entertainment industry, but may be too pricey at this time to be cost-effective for law enforcement applications. There is anticipated growth in this area of technology, which would ultimately result in reduced pricing as has been the case with many other technologies. This means it could be feasible in the near future for police agencies to have the ability to implement this technology and realize significant cost savings. According to an expert panel, the following are recommendations for police agencies (Agaiby, 2016):
- Allocate funds and staff time to study, experiment and build such a system.
- Input should be gathered from stakeholders (community, employees, etc.) through surveys, meetings, and other means. This stakeholder involvement would thoroughly examine the potential developments and applications of hologram technology to deliver low-priority police services and gauge the acceptance levels.
- Management and employee bargaining groups should engage early in the “meet and confer” process to identify the tasks in which holograms would be used, clearly delineating the roles and division of labor, and establish policies and expectations of use. This process would alleviate any potential concerns or conflict that could arise from the employees that the implementation of hologram technology would result in job loss.
- Consult with specialists in this field and build core IT staff that can design, build and operate such a system.
- Data and cyber security protocols should be one of the primary concerns in the development and implementation process.
- Partner with technology companies and invest time to research this technology and the possible application for public service delivery. Also, it is possible a tech company would launch a “trial” holo-officer project with a large or medium sized agency to test if it saves money, the public is receptive to it and it gives patrol officers better use of their time for the “human-involvement” activities.
- Legal counsel should be sought for the creation of policies and procedures for the use of holograms.
Note: These recommendations may not be financially feasible for all Law Enforcement Agencies, so a regional approach may provide a scale of economy that would make them attainable for agencies with limited resources.
It is a priority to tailor sustainable and systemic programs, by borrowing from existing technology, for local and state government. Implementation of these systems would meet diverse needs, increase efficiency, and ensure community satisfaction while still focusing on cost-saving efforts (Eggers, 2016).
Holograms could potentially be used in tasks involving dangerous environments (i.e. active shooter incidents) to increase safety. Additionally, use in any low-priority tasks which would free up workers to take on other roles would be a great benefit to the community and all stakeholders. However some limitations of the technology have been identified at this time, these limitations include: information security and vulnerability to threats, physical and legal challenges, and the limited level of intelligence which would make systems more susceptible to committing errors outside of its immediate scope of knowledge. In the near future, however, advances in technologies are coming close to simulating or overtaking human intelligence with the capabilities of self-learning, thinking, seeing, and moving (i.e., General AI). General AI would allow for wider use of technologies, automation of many traditionally human-centric jobs and supplementation, not replacement, of human workers. (World Economic Forum, January 2016)
The joining of hologram technology and General AI would provide the realistic, authentic, human-like and interactive experience that would make the technology useful in implementing public service (Hobson, 2016). Holograms are coming close to being responsive and interactive with users and the world around them. With time, high-quality 3D models of people and objects will be digitized and sent anywhere there’s an internet connection in real time (Ramsley, 2016). The holo-officer could transform the way law enforcement agencies do business by allowing officers to overcome time, distance and space barriers.
Captain Sam Agaiby is currently the Community Service Bureau Commander Culver City Police Department.
Captain Agaiby started his Law Enforcement career with Culver City as a Community Service Officer in 1993. He was hired as a Police Officer in 1994 and has worked Operations, Detectives and Vice/Narcotics. He was also assigned to several Los Angeles County multi-agency taskforces (LA IMPACT, CalMMET, and TRAP) responsible for investigating large-scale Money Laundering, Narcotics Distribution and Auto Theft crimes. He was promoted to Sergeant in January of 2008 and supervised Patrol Operations, the Special Victims Unit, the Crime Impact Team, and the Personnel and Training Section. He was promoted to Lieutenant in February of 2014 and managed Patrol Operations, as well as the Community Services Bureau.
Captain Agaiby has earned a Masters Degree in Public Administration and Organizational Leadership from National University. He has also attended the Los Angeles Police Department/WestPoint Leadership Program, the Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute, the California Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training Command College, as well as many other progressive management, leadership and accountability courses.
Captain Agaiby has been the recipient of several departmental awards, including the Sustained Superior Performance award and the Medal of Valor.
© Copyright 2017 California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training
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