AWS Public Sector Blog

3 Considerations for Police Departments Exploring the Cloud

Law enforcement applications are increasingly becoming integrated with the cloud. Whether through computer-aided dispatch, records management, or data analytics, the cloud is enabling officers to accomplish new tasks, including:

  • Uploading, storing, and securing massive quantities of data directly from mobile devices;
  • Accessing records from multiple databases at once;
  • Deploying and tracking emergency response units;
  • Enhancing situational awareness;
  • Dictating and submitting incident reports from the field; and
  • Automating and accelerating transcription and data collection services.

To understand the value of cloud computing for police investigations, let’s first compare the traditional way police departments have managed data versus how it works in the cloud.

The Traditional Model

Traditionally, police data has lived in siloes. To investigate a suspect, a law enforcement officer might use one tool to check arrest records, another to locate the suspect’s whereabouts, and yet another to determine known associates. This approach can require switching between several, disconnected databases at a desk-bound computer. While this approach can be successful, it is also costly and time-consuming.

Supporting this workflow requires significant capital expenditure on information technology – computers, servers, and software. With an on-site data center comes the added cost of infrastructure, security, and provisioning, as well as continued support for responses to malware, ensuring adequate computing power and storage to keep information flowing, and adherence with criminal justice information services (CJIS) standards.

The Cloud Model

With the cloud model, instead of investing in costly infrastructure, you rent computing power, data storage, and applications on a pay-as-you-go, use-what-you-need basis.

Appriss Safety is one company using AWS to host solutions that help law enforcement officers fight crime using real-time data. Brian Matthews, Senior Vice President of Data Products, describes how the traditional workflow is evolving and how the cloud accelerates this process.

“With the cloud, law enforcement organizations can break down those multiple data silos and use solutions to automate and expedite data entry and transcription, freeing officers to focus on their missions.” Matthews said. “Instead of searching for needles in a proverbial haystack, officers can start their day with the intelligence that’s been provided by these systems, along with the benefits that are driven from a single, cloud-based architecture.”

Cloud computing, coupled with applications and solutions that automate data processing, can alleviate some of the time-consuming and tedious manual tasks. By narrowing the dataset to just tens of potential suspects instead of thousands, investigators can spend their time getting out into the field where true police work happens.

Law enforcement agencies are often working with a fixed budget for IT and need to get as much mileage out of their IT infrastructure as possible. Unfortunately, this approach can lead some agencies to keep legacy systems patched together, potentially denying officers access to tools that can save time, money, and possibly lives.

The misconception about the high cost of cloud computing in law enforcement is largely dispelled when you consider the total cost of ownership and factors such as increased efficiency.

“If you look at it holistically, by moving to a cloud environment to leverage automation, we can make law enforcement ‘feet on the street’ and investigators significantly more productive,” said Matthews.

Here are three key considerations when weighing the investment in hardware and IT infrastructure against the cost of a cloud solution:

  1. The Cost of the Cloud is Shrinking – Cloud computing offers a number of benefits that can be attained at a price point that is cost-effective relative to the traditional model. AWS continually offers new options for making cloud computing more affordable every year. According to new research from TSO Logic, “the prices for AWS keep getting lower, and…those declines are pretty durable. The more of your resources you move to the cloud, and the longer you keep them there, the more value you can expect to get for your money.”
  2. Pay Only for What You Use -When an agency makes a capital investment in infrastructure and fixed storage capacity, it can often involve guesswork about how the resources will be used and how much infrastructure capacity is needed. With cloud computing, you don’t have to make an upfront investment in capacity you might not use; you pay only when you consume computing resources, and based on how much you consume. If an agency needs more data storage and computing power, cloud computing allows you to scale up and down as required, with only a few minutes’ notice.
  3. Security and Updates -Law enforcement agencies have unique needs when it comes to data management. It requires safeguarding enormous quantities of sensitive data, including police videos, electronic warrants, and other criminal justice data in a CJIS-secure environment, plus constant monitoring to thwart security threats. Using a CJIS-secure environment like AWS GovCloud (US) to manage, store, and secure data provides access not just to the storage itself, but also to security experts who can take some of the burden off your IT staff.

Industries around the world are increasingly using cloud computing to manage costs, simplify processes, and create efficiencies. For budget-conscious agencies, like those in law enforcement, cloud computing can be within reach – even for smaller agencies.

To see how cloud computing can work within your agency’s IT budget, explore our total cost of ownership calculator. Also to learn more about how AWS supports police in their missions, visit: