Why did the Orlando Police Department wait for hours before entering Pulse and stopping Omar Mateen? Of course, there are numerous elements at play. However, one important one is a lack of information. Most police departments are unable to receive text messages. As such, the Orlando Police Department lacked a clear channel of communication which would have made them aware that Omar Mateen was systematically murdering survivors of the initial assault.
To put it bluntly, it is pathetic and unconscionable that police departments across the country are unable to read and respond to text messages. The technology is fifteen years old and has numerous obvious applications. Such technology could have saved dozens of lives in Orlando.
How many police departments allow the victims of crimes to check the status of the investigation online, or to even email with the detective leading the investigation. When I was assaulted in Washington DC, there was no follow up. I was never contacted by the detective, despite the assault being captured on camera. I was unable to follow up myself as I was in the process of moving to a new city. However, it should not be incumbent on the victim of a crime to navigate a complex bureaucracy to understand how the investigation into the wrong-doers is occurring.
How many police departments use apps? A private entrepreneur in New Orleans created an app using off duty police in the French Quarter. Response times were drastically reduced. A simple Uber like system to see where police are and where calls are coming from can reduce response times and increase trust in police.
The failure of police to integrate technology is symptomatic of a broader failure of city governance to respond to technological innovation. How many readers can find the zoning codes of their neighborhood in ten minutes? I can’t even find out what day trash pickup in a nearby neighborhood is.
The internet has greatly simplified communication, and cities are failing to take advantage of it. To this end, cities should focus on the user experience of their residents. Contacting officials should be easy and straightforward. All relevant information should be online and easily searchable. Luckily, cities are beginning to realize this. A rising trend in cities is to have a Chief Technology Officer. Hopefully this trend can lead to improvements in the user experience of residents. Time will tell.