Here’s How You Convince Skeptical Cops To Use iPhone, iPad Apps



You think your users are hard to please? Try cops, says Travis Taniguchi.

He’s a police criminologist for the Redlands Police Department in California, and one of the driving forces behind an iPhone and iPad app-friendly police department. Cops are not only skeptical, but armed.

“You want to talk hostile customers or end users? You don’t get more hostile than a cop,” Taniguchi joked.”They do that lean back thing, then they put a hand on their gun. It’s not easy.”

As the only “suit” on an Appnation Enterprise Summit panel about upstarts – he was gently ribbed by other panelists about not following the casual jeans-and-blazer mandate – he gave some interesting insights about how police departments can implement mobile apps.

The Redlands Police Department was featured in an upbeat Apple business profile for its innovative use of iPhone and iPad apps, but the behind-the-scenes story described by Taniguchi will sound familiar to a lot of companies trying to get customers or employees to use mobile apps. (Except your users aren’t armed, we hope.)

“Tech is great, if it’s already there and works, if not, they don’t want it,” he said. “It can be slow going. First, no one wanted a radio in the car, then they didn’t want phones or computers. Now a car is deadlined if it doesn’t have a computer.”

What wins them over? Show, don’t tell.

Taniguchi and his boss started out with federal grants to develop small projects they thought would simplify the everyday work of police, like a Field Contact app for data collection on the road. Then they went back to the cops to find out what else they wanted – including apps that help create flyers or wanted bulletins on the fly.

“We focused on bunch of smaller apps to demonstrate that they were useful before tackling huge projects; these demo projects were very helpful,” he said.

Taniguchi believes that law enforcement and government are still largely untapped markets for mobile apps, but you have to know how to handle them.

“It can be hard to break into, there a lot of old school policies that are state or county-driven, If you can find a champion inside the organization, it can be worthwhile.”