The criminal justice department is one sector of public administration that has had to go through a period of transformation as far as the usage of technology in the fulfillment of its role to the public. The changes in this regard have been informed by the fact that over the years criminals have improved the ways in which they conduct their business to further become technology-savvy.
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This essay seeks to illustrate the evolution of technology in the criminal justice department. To this end, various forms of literature shall be consulted in order to provide a proper groundwork for the discussion. Proper exemplification shall be provided from the different time-frames of the evolution and its relevance with today’s practices in the criminal justice department illustrated.
Development of the criminal justice department and the role of technology in the development
The development of the criminal justice department has been divided into three main eras depending on the relationship between various stakeholders and the public security authorities (Maguire and Radosh, 1996). These two categories are the political, professional eras and the community policing era.
The political era
This was a period of 80 years spanning from 1840 to 1920 (Maguire and Radosh, 1996). The era was named ‘political’ because of the links between the criminal justice and the political class. In this area, administration officers particularly the police started incorporating new technological components in their duties (Maguire and Radosh, 1996). These were the gun and the bludgeon. The two weapons have been retained in the force to date albeit with vast improvements.
During this period, changes happened in the communication aspects of the criminal justice department. This was notable through the 1870s usage of the telephone in easy dispersion of messages from one center to another as well as the setting up of police telephone booths in the following decade (Maguire and Radosh, 1996). Fingerprinting technologies were incepted and were incorporated in investigative procedures.
The professional model era
This was the period between 1920 and 1970. In this period reforms took place to ensure that all state agencies were separated from the influence of politicians (Maguire and Radosh, 1996). This was with the aim of instilling professionalism within the department. Technology found a role in this regard with the usage of the polygraph lie detector (Maguire and Radosh, 1996). Crime laboratories were established in various states which served to train in the elements of fingerprint and handwriting classification.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation established a professional investigative laboratory which was well equipped with state of art forensic equipment (Maguire and Radosh, 1996). By the 1930s the police force and other state agencies tasked with the role of implementing law and order had fully embraced the usage of motor vehicles and communication using two-way radios (Muraskin and Robert, 2002).
Going into the 1940s radar speed monitoring systems were developed and they found early usage by the traffic department. In 1960s, the federal government started advocating for the implementation of new technologies within the police force (Muraskin and Robert, 2002). These reforms were particularly started in 1964 after president Lyndon B. Johnson assigned the Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice the role of investigating the particular needs by law enforcement agencies in fulfilling their duties properly.
The commission came out with a report that provided over two hundred recommendations, of which eleven were touching on police technology. One of these recommendations was that it was necessary for the criminal justice department to embrace computer technology as part of its modernization strategy (Pattavina, 2005).
Immediate steps were taken by the Johnson government to address the issues raised and within a few years hundreds of millions of dollars were invested into the upgrade of existing state and local federal agency technologies. The embrace of technology was gradual but by the early 1990s over half of all police departments in t country were using computers (Muraskin and Robert, 2002).
Even more interesting is that by this time computers were now being regarded as useful tools in performing all departmental duties including investigation and crime analysis aside from the record keeping functionalities of the systems (Maguire and Radosh, 1996). Computer-mediated information databases particularly found prominence with the advent of the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
The NCIC stored records of all criminal activities in such a way that easy access was granted in the process of conducting an investigation (Maguire and Radosh, 1996). Computers also played a critical role in the establishment of the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) which played the role of locating the identities of all persons within huge interlinked databases (Muraskin and Robert, 2002).
The community policing era
Having started in the 1970s, this is the newest of all the criminal justice technology development eras and it covers current reforms in the field (Maguire and Radosh, 1996). The advent of community policing called for the installation of proper systems to facilitate the communication between members of the public and the administrative authorities. Some of the introductions made include the establishment of an online system for reporting offenses (Pattavina, 2005).
This system has been well embraced by members of the public mainly because of the anonymity it accords individuals reporting criminal activities. The police department has also started using a computer-mediated dispatch system which hastens the process of attending to calls of public distress (Pattavina, 2005).
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A decade ago, the sheriff’s office at Pinellas County in Florida had a very weak information systems that was made of a number of independent databases all operating at the same time but with each only capable of doing a certain number of functions. Operations within the department were however happening at a very slow pace owing to the administrative challenges that were linked to these inefficient systems. With recent system modifications the institution has grown to be one of the displays of efficiency within the country.
All the databases have now been linked together and average time taken in the process of searching for information has been reduced from over half an hour to less than ten minutes. Consequently, the criminal justice officers in the region now have enough time to do their field duties.
The future of criminal justice technology
For most institutions a constant review of its technological systems and upgrading to suit the current industry standards is advisable provide the organization can afford the changes. The criminal justice department is one organization which requires the best technologies particularly because of the sensitive nature of the country’s security which falls under its mandate (Muraskin and Robert, 2002).
The police and the security agents need to work on ways of improving and maximizing the impact of all the programs that they establish; most of which are aimed at reducing the time taken to respond to distress calls and increase the speed with which information can be transmitted from one region to another (Pattavina, 2005).
Unfortunately, the installment of the new systems comes with a hefty financial burden on the institution. However, weighing the benefits against the expenses shows that benefits greatly outweigh the challenges that come with the initial investment.
It has also been noted that very little effort and resources have been committed to the function of creating public awareness. Individuals have also complained of complexities being associated with new technological acquisitions (Muraskin and Robert, 2002). It is therefore imperative that in future proper consideration be accorded to the function of ensuring that newly installed technologies completely serve the purpose for which they were acquired. This can only be achieved through committing of funds to public education.
Advances in computer and communication technologies have brought in new changes in the way that criminals conduct their activities. For instance in recent days drug traffickers have obtained communication devices that cannot be tapped into using the devices owned by law enforcement agencies (Muraskin and Robert, 2002). In the future more changes need to be made as pertains to the technologies at the disposal of criminal justice authorities in order to ensure that they can appropriately deal with their adversaries.
Changes in technology are among the few elements that impact on the efficiency of institutions which if not well embraced may result in the downfall entire organizations. This is even more so for the criminal justice department which if faced with some small amount of laxity results in irreversible security issues such the deaths of innocent citizens and the failure of criminals to face justice.
This essay has served to illustrate how the United Criminal Justice Department has incorporated newer elements of technology in the period spanning from 1840 to current times. It has been noted that this is one of the public sector that took to technological changes at a very slow rate, sometimes taking the intervention of politicians to appreciate the importance of these changes. However, research has helped find out that with the entry of the 21st century, the department has made headway as far as leading other institutions in updating the technologies they use.
Maguire, B. & Radosh, P.F. (1996).The Past, Present, and Future of American Criminal Justice. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield
Muraskin, R. & Robert, A.R. (2002).Visions for change: crime and justice in the twenty-first century. Sage: Prentice Hall
Pattavina, A. (2005). Information technology and the criminal justice system. California: SAGE