The list of desirable technical capabilities that a candidate can bring to the job is virtually endless. Somewhere within the law enforcement community there is a need for any skill. Some things can seem simple, like being able to properly photograph a crime scene and document where evidence was originally located. Crime-scene photography requires a highly developed ability and years of training and experience, and an individual must have an understanding of proper photographic techniques, the effects of lighting, what to do in a darkroom, and the world of digital photography in order to secure a position.
A basic understanding of how to operate computers is among the most useful abilities an entry-level agent can possess. While there may still be a small percentage of agencies that have not incorporated computers into some aspect of their operations, most use computers to document and organize all of the information that comes through the agency, cutting back on paperwork and filing. Because so many agencies use computers every day for all functions of their operation, knowing how to use a computer is absolutely essential if you want to be successful in law enforcement. Officers don't have to know how to set up a computer network or how to reformat their hard drives, but all officers should be able to input data and easily sort through information stored electronically.
Audio and video recording capabilities are extremely useful in the collection of evidence. Being able to effectively use recording devices during interviews and interrogations can greatly help in advancing an investigation. Although surveillance equipment is rarely used by most departments, the passage of the Patriot Act created broader tolerance for the use of surveillance technology by law enforcement in order to fight the war against terrorism.
If there's one computer skill you should master, it's the ability to use spell check on every document. Most, if not all, word processing programs have this capacity, and making use of it as a habit will serve you well if you are successful in securing a law enforcement position.
A basic comprehension of modern electronics is helpful throughout law enforcement, but it is essential to be familiar with electronics if you are interested in communications or bomb-disposal fields. Defusing bombs is a difficult and complicated procedure because often the mechanisms that are designed to detonate an explosive are extremely sophisticated. Communications has evolved rapidly in the past few years. From the 1960s to the 1980s, the trend in law enforcement radio communications was for each agency to communicate with a dispatcher working in a main office. Today, the push is for communication between agents and departments using technology.
One cause of this shift toward interdepartmental communication is the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995. The Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was destroyed in the explosion. During the subsequent rescue and recovery efforts, emergency service personnel were unable to talk to each other via radio because they were all working on different channels and bandwidths. Many of them were in constant jeopardy because they couldn't hear the warnings about potential dangers being broadcast by the incident commander. The need for communication between agencies was reinforced on September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington were attacked by terrorists.
Commercial broadcast experience is certainly helpful to those who wish to work within the communications area of law enforcement. Radio has become an integral part of the job, and effective communication begins with an understanding of how radio waves function and what the limitations are. Knowing that the antenna on a handheld radio needs to be situated vertically rather than horizontally in order to receive and transmit properly is just one of the many things that can save lives, and is the kind of information a communications background will provide an agent.
Throughout law enforcement, two-way radios are used to communicate between agents and either headquarters or central dispatch. Understanding how FM radio waves function and how to properly use a microphone are useful things to know.