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Emma WohlCharles StephensonZoë Thorkildsen
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There are no currently-known, formal studies of the frequency and use of common operational picture (COP) technology in law enforcement. The 2015 Priority Criminal Justice Needs Initiative report, “High-Priority Information Technology Needs for Law Enforcement,” identified gaps between current law enforcement needs and National Institute of Justice (NIJ) programs, grants, and solicitations (Hollywood et al. 2015). The report provides a list of potential portfolio areas that NIJ or other federal grant making agencies could invest in to support technology development that would assist law enforcement. Specifically, the report recommended that NIJ increase its investment in COP technology research, development, testing, and evaluation.

While there are many COP definitions, for the purpose of this market review report, we rely on the following definition: a common operational picture (COP) is a presentation of relevant information (e.g., the location and what is known about a criminal incident, the location and operational status of an agency’s patrol units, the duty status of officers) that is shared by the different components and levels of an agency or partnering agencies. A COP facilitates collaborative planning and informed decision-making, through common situational awareness. Situational awareness is the perception of environmental elements and events with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status after some variable has changed (e.g., time, a predetermined event). It is the requisite current and predictive knowledge of the environment—including physical, virtual, and human domains—upon which operations depend, as well as all factors, events, and activities of law-abiding and non-law-abiding members of the public within a specific jurisdiction or geographical area. COP technology refers to any technological solution (e.g., software) that supports the development, display, analysis, or reporting of COP information. COP technologies offer a means to improve information management within an agency and in some cases its public safety partners. In some COP technology, the information that is provided to each level and component is tailored to their needs and functions. For example, whereas a watch commander would have access to information relevant to all the patrol areas of the units that they supervise, each unit might only have information relevant to their particular patrol areas. COP technologies may be displayed through dashboards, status boards, or other software-based mechanisms.

Examples of COP technology include relatively unsophisticated systems like computeraided dispatch (CAD), more sophisticated systems like off-the-shelf dashboard software from vendors, and custom systems like the Los Angeles Regional Common Operational Picture Program. These technologies help agencies make decisions on a day-to-day basis (e.g., deploying officers to respond to crimes) and during emergency operations (e.g., an event like the Boston Marathon bombing).

This market review report is part of an overarching mixed-methods study that will include a national survey of law enforcement agencies to discern the types of COP technology used in the field, a set of case studies on the COP technology adoption process, lessons learned, and best practices for implementing and using COP technologies.

This report is not intended to rank or evaluate the products listed. We did not test or evaluate the products to assess their quality. The report’s sole purpose is to provide the law enforcement community with an overview of COP products available at the time the data was collected. This document should be used as a reference only, not as a resource to make a purchasing decision. Purchasers should seek additional information from the vendors of interest before deciding to procure a specific product.

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Distribution: Unlimited distribution. Other requests for this document shall be referred to


  • Pages: 66
  • Document Number: IRM-2017-U-015846-Final
  • Publication Date: 3/1/2019
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