In law enforcement, it's all about context


‘Context’ defined (as cited from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary):  1: the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning; and, 2: the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs: environment, setting.

While context is clearly important, today it is consistently traded for brevity. We communicate in half-sentences (got it), atypical abbreviations (k), emoticons (J), etc. However, while striving to maximize efficiency, we provide the minimal amount of information possible and hope or assume that a full understanding is received. When a full understanding is not received or misinterpreted due to a random flow of textual shortcuts within a narrative (or unstructured data), we fill the gaps with our own context – which may provide a completely erroneous reading of intent.

Communicating electronically within law enforcement agencies is no different --- officers readily add important narrative in code, abbreviations, or geographic-specific nomenclature. Given these challenges, the unstructured data often lends minimal value and adds little context to the structured data housed in an agency’s Computer Aided Dispatch and/or Records Management System. For example, the narrative may include descriptors of items found in or around a scene that may prove helpful to another investigation; being able to identify items of interest and automate a search process could be invaluable.

We are working with law enforcement to harness its unstructured data via text analytics – applying automated extraction and interpretation to existing free text will help agencies maximize its data value and shape response, tactics and strategies. Text analytics provides law enforcement the promise to contextualize its known, useful, structured data within the officer’s narrative – leveraging the on-the-ground expertise and experience to better understand a given occurrence or situation.

After all, it’s all about context.



About Author

Vincent Talucci

Principal Advisor, Law Enforcement - State and Local Government

Vincent Talucci is a Senior Industry Consultant with SAS’ State and Local Government practice. He’s an expert in law enforcement and serves as the practice’s primary liaison to the police community. Prior to joining SAS, Vince was the Director of the State and Provincial Police Division of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). As Director he served on the IACP’s executive leadership team, represented the policy interests of the nation’s state police organizations and maintained oversight of IACP’s information sharing, homeland security and technology efforts. Before joining the IACP, he served as a program manager with the United States Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice where his responsibilities included managing nationwide demonstration projects designed to advance innovative criminal justice practices and strategies. Vince holds a Bachelor of Arts from Rutgers University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Washington. A Virginia transplant, he enjoys spending time with his wife, three kids and dog in their new North Carolina home.

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