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SFPD CIO Will Sanson-Mosier Talks Drones, ALPRs and AI in Policing

In an Industry Insider — California One-on-One interview, San Francisco Police Department CIO Will Sanson-Mosier discussed the importance of smart infrastructure, civic engagement, cybersecurity, and the implementation of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence.

As part of Industry Insider — California’s ongoing efforts to inform readers about state and local agencies and their IT plans and initiatives, here’s the latest in our periodic series of one-on-one interviews with IT leaders. Responses have been lightly edited.

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Will Sanson-Mosier
Will Sanson-Mosier began his tenure with the SFPD in 2013, holding two positions in project management before transitioning to the role of CIO in June 2022.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and a Master of Arts from Texas State University.

Sanson-Mosier spoke with Industry Insider — California about the difference makers in government IT and his insights on the most surprising developments in the government technology landscape over the past year.

Industry Insider — CaliforniaCan you tell us about your background and how it prepared you for your current role?

Sanson-Mosier: I have decades of leadership and management experience spanning a myriad of states, government branches, and workforce industries, including facilities and infrastructure, financial services, judicial services, child welfare services, health and human services, and public safety and law enforcement.

I moved to the city and county of San Francisco in 2012 and began working for the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) in 2013. Before relocating from Texas to Sacramento in 2007, I lived in Austin. I received my BA from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in 1993 and my MA from Texas State University in 1996.

As chief information officer, I oversee the Technology Division responsible for developing and directing the technology vision, strategic road map, budgeting and purchasing, and large-scale projects and initiatives for the department.

I envision my leadership role at SFPD as directing initiatives that will continue to increase our department’s transparency, create public value, and improve the well-being of community residents.

IICAWhat big IT initiatives or projects are coming up? What sorts of developing opportunities and RFPs should we be watching for in the next six to 12 months?

Sanson-Mosier: Our goal is to take SFPD to the next level in terms of technological innovation, provide the necessary tools and conditions to attract the finest officers, and create an environment that officers want to be a part of and excel in. We also want to provide a transparent and data-driven department to strengthen our relationships and trust within our communities.

SFPD is underway with two major, transformative initiatives. First, a complete replacement of our records management system (RMS) to bring additional functionality for our officers and to become compliant with the new national crime reporting requirements called the National Incident-Based Reporting System [National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) | Bureau of Justice Statistics (]. SFPD executed a three-year, $6.2 million contract with CentralSquare Technologies to implement a NIBRS-compliant RMS and we anticipate a go-live by the end of 2025 or early 2026.

Second, SFPD, in partnership with the sheriff, fire department, and the Department of Emergency Management (DEM), is implementing Motorola Solutions’ PremierOne Computer-Aided Dispatch to replace our legacy computer-aided dispatch (CAD) 911 system. The anticipated go-live for the new CAD system is 2026.

With the implementation of these two major efforts, it was necessary to initiate infrastructure improvements, network upgrades and fleet vehicle technology replacements.

As far as developing opportunities, SFPD recently was awarded a multimillion retail theft grant along with a March 2024 voter proposition permitting the department to use drones and public safety cameras. With this new momentum, we are implementing 400 Flock stationary automated license plate reader (ALPR) cameras and 22 Motorola Vigilante in-vehicle ALPR cameras.

In line with the department’s mission to protect life and property, and prevent and reduce the fear of crime, ALPR readers allow for the automatic and efficient identification of license plates that may be associated with criminal activity or missing persons. Both stationary and vehicle-mounted ALPR technology uses specially designed cameras to capture digital images from surrounding vehicles as they drive through the streets, which are then transformed into alphanumeric characters with optical character recognition (OCR) software. This enables full plate searches with color pictures of identified vehicles, as well as partial plate searches that return possible matches to assist with identifying suspects’ vehicles, as the transformed license plate characters are compared to databases of license plates of interest to operators.

For drones, we are establishing a Real Time Investigative Center (RTIC) to enhance public safety response. Over this next year and beyond, we will implement a drone as a first responder (DFR) program and procure technology that will enable the integration of all our digital systems into a single platform for immediate review and analysis.

It is a very exciting time for SFPD and our technology innovations, so be on the lookout for possible RFPs that may include digital evidence management, video evidence management and artificial intelligence analytics.

IICAIn your opinion, what should the local government be doing more of in technology?

Sanson-Mosier: Local governments should improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their services. Some key areas where local governments can focus:

1) Digital Services: Local governments should invest in developing and expanding digital services, such as online payment systems, digital permits and licenses, and online service portals. This will make it easier for residents to access and utilize government services, reducing the need for in-person visits and paperwork.

2) Open Data: Local governments should prioritize the release of open data to the public. By making government data freely available, it can be used by businesses, researchers and citizens to develop innovative solutions and to hold the government accountable.

3) Smart Infrastructure: Local governments can leverage technology to improve infrastructure management and maintenance. This can include implementing smart traffic systems, smart street lighting, and sensors to monitor and manage utilities more effectively.

4) Civic Engagement: Technology can facilitate greater civic engagement and participation. Local governments should explore digital platforms and tools that enable residents to provide feedback, participate in decision-making processes and engage with their communities.

5) Cybersecurity: Local governments should prioritize cybersecurity to protect sensitive data and infrastructure from cyber threats. This includes investing in robust security measures, training staff on best practices, and regularly auditing and updating systems.

6) Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI will improve infrastructure, mobility and communications to applications, increase efficiency and sustain citywide facilities.

By focusing on these areas, local governments can harness the power of technology to enhance service delivery, increase transparency and improve the overall quality of life for their residents.

IICAHow do you prefer to be contacted by vendors? Are social media sites such as LinkedIn preferable? How might vendors best educate themselves before meeting with you?

Sanson-Mosier: The following are my preferred methods for contacting me:

  • Industry Events: Industry events, conferences or trade shows where I am present. This provides an opportunity to engage in face-to-face conversations and showcase their product or service.
  • Personalized Email: Craft a personalized email that highlights the value proposition of their product or service. Clearly explain how it aligns with my organization's goals and challenges. Keep the email concise, professional and avoid generic templates.

Research, research, research my organization! The most annoying thing a vendor can do is ask for a meeting to get to know and understand my technology priorities. Our website San Francisco Police Department contains comprehensive information our on department, our goals and our priorities. Also, vendors can research technology projects and priorities for the entire city and county of San Francisco by visiting the Committee on Information Technology (COIT) | San Francisco ( and even attending the committee’s meetings.

IICAWhich IT project or implementation do you consider the most influential, in this role or a previous position?

Sanson-Mosier: It is difficult to single out one specific project as being the most influential as every implementation influences me or expands my insights through new experiences and people engagement. Through my various roles with the SFPD Technology Division, I led major efforts to improve infrastructure, mobility and communications to support law enforcement applications, increase officers' safety and sustain citywide facilities. I strive to continually forge collaborative partnerships internally and externally among public, private and nonprofit stakeholders to successfully implement major projects. I envision my leadership role at SFPD directing these types of initiatives will continue to increase our department's transparency, create public value and improve the well-being of community residents.

Also, I envision I will strive to continually develop myself into a well-qualified, assertive leader able to guide innovation and efficiency, not only through operational improvements and technological enhancements but through motivating, mentoring and empowering staff to excel. I foresee becoming an even stronger change agent and fostering an environment of continuous learning and improvement for myself and others.

IICAWhat has surprised you most in government technology during the past 12 months?

Sanson-Mosier: For me, one of the most surprising developments in law enforcement technology over the past 12 months was the increased utilization of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms in various aspects of policing. AI-powered technologies are utilized for analyzing vast amounts of data to identify patterns and trends. However, the use of these technologies has raised ethical and privacy concerns.

Additionally, the integration of drones in law enforcement operations was another surprising trend for me. Drones are being used for surveillance, search and rescue operations, and monitoring public events. Their ability to quickly cover large areas and provide real-time situational awareness is making them a valuable tool for law enforcement agencies.

These advancements in law enforcement technology have the potential to enhance efficiency, effectiveness and safety in policing; however, they also raise important questions regarding privacy and responsible use. That is why I think it is so important to increase our department's transparency, create public value and improve the well-being of community residents.

IICAWhat are your hobbies and what do you enjoy reading?

Sanson-Mosier: Traveling is my primary hobby. It is an exhilarating and enriching experience that allows me to explore new places, cultures and perspectives. It involves me visiting different destinations, near or far, for leisure, adventure, relaxation and personal growth. Traveling offers me the opportunity to venture into new territories, discover unfamiliar landscapes and immerse myself in diverse cultures. It allows me to step out of my comfort zone, broaden my horizons and gain a deeper understanding of the world. Also, traveling provides me with a unique chance to experience and appreciate the traditions, customs, languages and cuisines of different regions.

IICAWhat would you consider the most important priority working in IT, i.e., is it cloud first/migrating to the cloud, looking at opportunities in generative artificial intelligence, heavily focused on cybersecurity, etc.?

Sanson-Mosier: I consider the most important priority to ensure the security and privacy of data and systems. Today, information is constantly being shared and stored online, thus protecting sensitive data from cyber threats is paramount.

Here are some key reasons why security and privacy should be the top priority:

  1. Data Protection: Technology enabled the collection and storage of vast amounts of data. This data can include personal information, financial records, criminal justice information and sensitive government documents. Safeguarding this data is crucial to prevent unauthorized access, data breaches and identity theft.
  2. Transparency: Maintaining trust is essential for the adoption and success of any technology. When users feel their data is secure and their privacy is respected, they are more likely to engage and use technology platforms and services.
  3. Legal and Ethics: Governments have legal and ethical obligations to protect the privacy and security of user data. Compliance with data protection laws and regulations is essential to avoid legal repercussions and protect the rights of individuals.
  4. Financial Impact: A major security breach can have severe economic consequences for both individuals and organizations. The cost of recovering from a data breach, including legal fees, reputational damage and loss of customer trust, can be significant.

By prioritizing security and privacy in technology, we can build trust, protect sensitive data, and ensure the smooth and secure functioning of digital systems.
    Ashley Silver is a staff writer for Government Technology magazine.