|Policing? Yeah, there's an app for that.|
Detective Peter Olson from the Peabody, Massachusetts Police Department handed out flyers to attendees with a simple message: "Corporate America is using apps, why not the police?"
Olson was at the Social Media, Internet and Law Enforcement conference, SMILE for short, where law enforcement officials from across the country and overseas spend days sharing ideas and strategies about how to harness the power of social media and technology.
Olson's invention is an iPhone app that will be marketed to police departments that want to create a more user-friendly image with citizens.
"It puts police services at your fingertips," Detective Peter Olson said of what his app can do for a city's residents.
Olson says he's a tech-junkie and spent the last year developing the app.
Users can offer a tip or report something suspicious, commend or critique an officer, and call department numbers or visit department websites.
The app can also feature a police department's latest information and posts to social media such as Twitter and Facebook, offer a "Welcome Message" from a department's police chief, and include photos or specific contact information for department personnel.
Olson began working on the idea last summer. He asked two technology companies to ballpark the cost of turning his idea into reality. The price quoted was about $30,000.
That was too steep for Peabody- a city with just 50,000 residents.
So Olson decided he would just do it himself.
Agencies can choose their own graphics, and if it doesn't use or want a certain feature, it doesn't have to. At the same time, any user can access any department that has signed up for the app.
There are some police department apps already on the market Olson says. But they are limited in terms of function. For the most part they only let users send in tips or provide a single service, Olson says.
"You're going to have to download 30 apps," he says. "If you can put all those functions in one app, I think it's looking forward a lot."
Now Olson's just waiting to launch his app commercially.
About a dozen police departments in Massachusetts have already told him they want the app. Cities in Wisconsin and Maine have also signed on, and officials at the conference in Chicago have expressed interest.
"I'm excited about a big city getting on," says Olson, who started at the Peabody Police Department more than 11 years ago as a dispatcher.
"I believe we have an untold number of citizens in my community who has a smartphone but does not engage with our department via our website, Facebook or Twitter," Grogan said. "I believe we can use [Olson's] product to reach that audience."
Olson says a department can purchase the app for about $650 a year.