Written by Mark Gambill
ADVANCEMENTS IN DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES have changed our
lives forever. Today we can access practically any digital services we want—e-mails,
text messages, photos, videos, apps, and more—with just a few keystrokes, almost
The resulting data paints a vivid portrait of who we
are, showing where we’ve been, who we’ve communicated with (and by what means),
and what our preferences are. To consumers, cellphones and computers have
become an indispensable way to make our lives easier. To those tasked with
solving crimes, digital intelligence (DI)—the data collected and
preserved from digital sources and the process by which agencies access,
manage, and obtain insights from data to more efficiently run investigations—has
become similarly indispensable.
Today, DI is a key driver in connecting suspects to crimes.
Used lawfully, DI can expedite investigations to solve more crimes, faster, while
preserving privacy. As devices continue to evolve and storage capacity
increases, however, evidence gleaned from digital devices is burying
investigative teams in data. This slows investigations and causes huge backlogs.
Law enforcement must meet the data-deluge challenges of today and prepare for a
future in which digital evidence will play an even larger role in investigations
and courtrooms. To achieve this goal, many agencies are transforming the way they collect,
preserve, and manage data by adopting DI platforms that can protect the digital
chain of custody. These platforms also provide a robust solution to the data-deluge dilemma, while providing the means to share data across teams,
departments, and agencies.
Looking ahead, the investigative workflows adopted today are
destined to become more digital as artificial intelligence (AI) and
machine learning (ML) technologies are more widely embraced. Further, the cloud
infrastructure that can handle large volumes of data and different types of
sources will greatly enhance the efficacy of policing in the
future. Harnessing DI to create a safer world, however, is not without its
Policing 2025: Envisioning a New Framework for Investigations, a whitepaper recently released by
Cellebrite and IDC, points to the problems agencies face today in becoming “DI ready,”
while providing some innovative solutions that will have a lasting impact on
policing in the future.
The Challenging Road to DI Readiness“Data deluge” is perhaps the biggest challenge agencies
face today. Where investigations less than a decade ago might have involved a
computer and a cellphone or two, it’s not uncommon for today’s investigations
to involve dozens of mobile devices, computers, SIM cards, and other digital devices.
Advancements in digital technologies have also enabled
even the simplest cellphones to hold far more data than previous models, with advanced mobile devices holding more than even the most sophisticated hard
drives did a decade ago.
Data sources have grown exponentially, as well, with most
investigations needing to parse information from multiple origins—including communication
service providers, the cloud, smartphones, laptops, biometric devices,
wearables, and video and photographic sources.
The days of accessing data through normal digital
forensic procedures have all but ended, as more and more devices are coming to
market factory-equipped with sophisticated encryption codes that make it extremely difficult to collect and preserve data from those devices.
result is thousands of devices backlogging labs and flooding law enforcement
agencies with mountains of data that must be combed through and analyzed by
highly trained personnel in order to render actionable intelligence.
Even though law enforcement is bound by strict rules
governing how and what data can be collected during
investigations, there is growing distrust among community members who fear
their rights to privacy are being undermined. AI is often viewed as invasive
technology that raises questions about the ethical use of this technology,
which is critical to investigations.
COVID-19 has also thrown a wrench into normal workflows,
with investigators being redeployed to fill the ranks of frontline officers who
have fallen victim to the virus. Lockdowns have forced agencies to pivot
quickly to accommodate staff working remotely. At the same time, cybercrimes
have increased dramatically during the pandemic. “Both INTERPOL and the United
Nations have cited increases in cybercrime ranging from 30 to 600% during
COVID-19, depending on the particular type of cybercrime,” according to the Policing
Siloed organizations and cultural challenges within
agencies that are data adverse— issues often caused by insufficient training—have
also had an impact on wider acceptance of DI, as have aging infrastructures
that in many cases are not compatible with today’s advanced solutions.
The long list of challenges inherent in agencies transforming the way they
conduct investigations to optimize the benefits of digital technology might
seem insurmountable. However, technology is also providing answers to these
challenges in a variety of innovative ways.
Tooling Up for the FuturePrevious investigative workflows called for frontline
officers to simply gather digital devices at the crime scene and turn them over
to their labs for data collection and analysis. New technologies, however, are
empowering frontline officers to lawfully conduct minor data collections either
at the crime scene or through digital kiosks located in their station houses.
These systems allow basic information to be downloaded quickly
to jumpstart investigations. They also cut down on the number of devices that
need to be sent to the lab for data collection. The devices and the information
collected from them can easily be logged thanks to modern data-tracking
solutions, which provide a complete audit of who had access to the device, what
data was collected, and where it is stored—thus preserving the chain of custody
and eliminating any questions from defense attorneys about the integrity of the
Being able to turn devices around quickly also helps the
relationship between police and community members who volunteer evidence from
their phones. Increasingly, those who allow their phones to be taken for data
collection no longer have to wait weeks to get their devices back, which
DI platforms utilizing sophisticated analytics
solutions, powered by AI, are allowing investigators to reduce the time required
to gather evidence as mountains of data can be parsed in minutes to provide
actionable intelligence—an invaluable aid in crimes against children or abduction
cases where every minute counts.
Analytic solutions, which can be customized to seek out
certain keywords, images, or types of data, are also uncovering information
that might have easily been missed by the human eye, empowering investigators
to connect disparate bits of evidence far more quickly. Examiners are also
spared from reviewing disturbing content and data, which can prevent damaging
long-term effects on personnel.
Finally, latest-generation analytics solutions can
provide agency managers with a complete visualization of investigations in real
time, allowing them to assess and redeploy resources to keep investigations
All of these technological advances are positively
impacting workflows and helping law enforcement solve more cases, thereby keeping
communities safe. Their impact on the future of policing will continue to
grow. Regaining public trust, however, must be factored into their deployment
to make the future of policing more productive. Here’s what policing 2025 may
Policing 2025: The Path AheadIt’s inevitable that policing will become even more
intelligence-driven, resulting in key transformations in both how
investigations are conducted and the ways in which police work with the
communities they serve to foster community trust.
As the Policing 2025 paper suggests, solutions
and workflows employed by law enforcement in the future will need to be:
Agencies will be able to deploy platforms that empower
them to synthesize information and provide insights at scale—adding value, not
volume. The new digital landscape will be defined by a complete transformation
that will align technology with people, culture, process, and workflow.
New technologies such as AI, ML, bots, wearables, and drones
will be seamlessly integrated into systems and workflows, allowing agencies to
proactively manage their assets while preserving privacy.
Advances in cloud infrastructure and security will help
solve data-storage problems, while facilitating a free exchange of information
between departments and agencies, expediting investigations. Advanced systems
will enable agencies to actually track the progress of investigations over
Getting ThereTo achieve such a comprehensive transformation,
agencies must begin taking the steps now that will make them DI ready in 2025.
Evaluating the overall operation at both the platform and the personnel levels
is critical, as is establishing a policy of transparency with the community.
Diving deep on infrastructure: Agency
managers need to make an in-depth appraisal of the resources they have on hand.
What does their existing platform look like? What are the deficiencies or gaps
in their agencies’ digital maturity? How easily might new technologies be
integrated into existing infrastructure—that’s already bought and paid for—in order to
increase efficiency and streamline workflows?
Evaluating staff: The “people”
part of the equation deserves equal attention. What is the existing culture
like regarding the use of DI? Is it siloed or collaborative? If it is the
former, what kinds of training may be required to allow existing personnel to
maximize the effectiveness of digital solutions and create an environment where
innovation is embraced, not feared? If it is the latter, how can technology take the great job investigative teams are already doing to the next
Sending the right message: Finally, what
is the outbound message that must be conveyed to the community in order to
clearly demonstrate there has been a cultural shift to make investigations transparent
going forward? How can law enforcement regain trust by showing community
members the good work they do every day? What is the best way to deliver that
message? How can law enforcement explain that the carefully controlled and
lawful use of technology is crucial to their mission in order to safeguard community
members—while also protecting their privacy? Ultimately, how can they form a
partnership of trust so that community members feel empowered and unafraid to
partner with the police to better protect their families and community?
Answering these questions takes thoughtful introspection
and action, but agencies should also understand that they are not alone. Technology
companies in the law-enforcement space are experts in helping organizations evaluate
their current situation from every angle in order to provide the right digital
solutions and training that can leverage existing infrastructure, optimize investment,
and begin building toward the future.
The challenges to law enforcement across the digital
landscape are destined to become more difficult. Fortunately, new solutions are
being developed every day to keep agencies one step ahead. The road to DI readiness,
however, begins with agency managers taking that first step to see where they are
today—and where they want their agency to be in the future.
Editor’s note: This article features excerpts from Policing
2025: Envisioning a New Framework for Investigations, a white paper
recently released by Cellebrite and IDC.
About the AuthorMark Gambill oversees Cellebrite’s global marketing
operations, including product marketing, advertising, promotions, analyst and
public relations, field marketing, brand management, and corporate events. Mark
has more than 20 years of executive marketing experience across a diverse set
of technology sectors with concentrations in big data, AI, machine learning,
and augmented analytics. Prior to joining Cellebrite, he served as the CMO at
MicroStrategy; before that role, he served as the CMO for Vocus, a global
provider of marketing automation software. Gambill holds a Bachelor of Science
degree from Florida State University and has completed graduate work at INSEAD.