Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Ofcrs. Maria Leon and Jessica Navarro had seen too many examples in their career of potentially crucial crime-solving intelligence falling through the cracks.
So when the two Crime Suppression Team officers saw an opportunity in the Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s Emergence Program to propose a way to improve information access in their police department, they jumped at the chance.
Leon and Navarro worked on an Emergence change initiative entitled “Using Microsoft Teams to Facilitate Information Sharing” which is already being used by hundreds of Metro PD officers.
“Basically, in my department, communicating and sharing information with each other is a challenge,” Leon said.
After authoring their proposal, Leon and Navarro took their idea to a Metro PD department commander, who they said gave them the go-ahead and instant access to the department’s existing Microsoft Teams account. It turned out the Microsoft Teams program was already in use by Metro PD department executives, but had not yet been available to investigators and patrol officers.
Navarro noted that previously intelligence was being forwarded through email and then posted on a non-searchable report, which led to information going unnoticed.
The pair said they also reached out to Metro PD technology staff and Microsoft Teams representatives, who Leon described as “very, very interested” in helping implement the proposal.
According to Leon, there are already 300-400 Metro PD officers using the Microsoft Teams platform that had never used it before, and she said she’s hoping that number will get even larger.
“We ran with it,” she said.
As an example of the Microsoft Teams platform’s efficiency, Leon said the ability to post information online about a vehicle involved in a homicide or carjacking is much quicker and more efficient than relying on an already overworked dispatcher’s description. “The goal,” she said, “is not to bypass the dispatchers but to avoid taking up as much of their time.”
Navarro said there was some initial resistance to trying a new approach, and that remains a challenge going forward. “It’s there, and now it’s about getting buy-in,” she said. “Change is hard.”
At the same time, she noted that Metro PD is already moving toward better digital accessibility.
In addition, Leon and Navarro are already briefing new Police Academy recruits on the Microsoft Teams program so they will be ready to use it when they become active police officers.
As for the CHDS Emergence experience, Leon said it led to “personal growth” in her career.
“I was one of those who didn’t ask for help,” she said. CHDS “forced me to ask for guidance from superiors. It was a nice growing moment to understand that help is there.” Navarro said the process of pursuing the Emergence change initiative brought her into contact with a range of different divisions, agencies and officials that she had never before encountered, and she said that has led to her being invited to work on a different Metro PD project.