Is Technology the Key to a Criminal Justice Career? was originally published on Vault.
When many of us think of a career in criminal justice, our first thought is of the men and women who serve our communities as police officers. While it is true that many employees in the criminal justice field are cops out on patrol, just as many of them are not. In fact, many criminal justice employees never carry a gun or even see the bad guys.
But they are playing a profound role in helping to keep our communities safe. They are the men and women that work with criminal justice technology behind the scenes. The use of technology in this broad career has increased substantially in recent years. And if you are considering a career in criminal justice, technological experience may just be your ticket through the door.
Understanding the Trends
Law enforcement specialists have been using technology increasingly since the mid-1980s to understand both the trends and the demographics of criminal activity. One way this is done is through the use of crime hotspot mapping. Essentially, police officers with certifications in programs such as geographic information systems utilize a database full of information regarding the types of crimes committed and where they happen and project it onto an interactive map.
These maps are then used to inform officers on the ground when and where crimes are likely to occur. Because of the maps produced by these investigators behind the scenes, it is easier to distribute patrol officers in areas of greatest risk. Doing so can save a significant amount of time and resources in an emergency situation. In situations where every second counts, this can make a huge difference and ultimately helps to keep our communities safer.
Confirming the Bad Guys
Among many of the most impressive technologies used by police today is fingerprinting. Fingerprinting in general has a long history, but in today’s world it is an advanced scientific technique. Today many officers have done away with the traditional ink and paper fingerprint and are now using handheld devices that upload your prints directly into a database. Some precincts are also incorporating brain fingerprinting, which may eliminate the traditional polygraph in the future.
As you may have guessed, the same officers that are patrolling the streets are typically not the ones that are combing through a database of fingerprints and confirming a suspect’s presence at a crime scene. Rather, these positions typically go to qualified fingerprint analysts. Typically fingerprint analysts have at least a bachelor’s degree and some lab experience. They are often in charge of database management and in confirming fingerprint matches.
Monitoring Crime before it Happens
Tech savvy officers that are not out on patrol also have another means of indirectly reducing the amount of crime in our neighborhoods, although it is admittedly a bit more controversial. It is through our lines of communication. Through both tracking of cell phones and social media accounts, police are able to track down criminals and even stop certain crimes from taking place. Even though many Americans have a deep-seated unease about allowing any government official to monitor them in any way, the technology has actually helped to put away a number of criminals.
Again, many of the same individuals that are patrolling the streets are not the ones that are utilizing a social media account to catch bad guys. Often times, these officers work from the precinct office to monitor the Facebook or Twitter accounts of suspected drug mules or gang members. If any public messages are posted that effectively provide evidence of a crime committed the account holder can be picked up.
Technology, and those trained to utilize it, have changed what a career in criminal justice looks like for the better. Because of the tools these professionals bring to the table, officers are better able to allocate resources and arrive to incidents in a timely manner. Furthermore, technology has increased the likelihood that criminals will be caught and that their guilt will be confirmed. Ultimately, considering a technology-based career in criminal justice may help to promote safety in the community that you live in.
Brittni Brown is a recent graduate of The College of Idaho; she currently works for a local marketing company. In her free time she enjoys a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, biking, and camping.