Although the principles of policing remain constant, the world in which police and justice agencies operate has seen dramatic shifts in recent years. Keeping the peace, protecting life and delivering justice are responsibilities that are being challenged by rising citizen expectations, the growing sophistication of crime and budgetary constraints.
Such demands are driving policing and justice agencies to innovate and embrace new technologies, but these technologies should not be embraced in isolation. If agencies are to gain maximum benefits from investments, they must understand how their operations and workforce will need to change as technologies are adopted.
Digital advancements require agencies to question established processes, develop new operating models and reshape traditional workforces. By doing so policing and justice agencies can turn digital disruption into digital transformation — and help to provide a service that is more proactive, preventative, and tailored to citizens’ needs and expectations. New digital technologies will also enhance crime-fighting abilities and enable agencies to fight new forms of crime including those occurring online, such as identity fraud and the use of crypto-currencies to buy and sell contraband.
Embrace the ‘NEW’
Most public safety agencies are struggling to keep up with the pace of innovation from emerging technologies but that does not mean their leaders are unaware of these technologies and of the benefits they can yield. While significant barriers exist to the implementation of new technologies – notably outdated IT legacy systems, lack of internal skills, and an inability to hire the talent required to realise change – some agencies are building new operational and investigative systems capable of meeting current and future policing needs, while also taking the necessary steps to transform processes and re-shape their workforces.
A recent Accenture survey of technology leaders within policing and justice agencies across nine countries including the UK found that advanced analytics and predictive modelling technologies that provide enhanced reporting and analytical capabilities to be most in-use by respondents. The London Metropolitan Police Service (Scotland Yard) has successfully piloted predictive analytics technologies to gang crime in the city and West Midlands Police (WMP) are using analytics to better understand criminal networks and provide officers with actionable insights and intelligence to support police investigations.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies are also set to impact policing and justice agency operations, and if harnessed correctly, will help agencies deliver their missions. AI-enabled chatbots and virtual assistants are already handling repetitive tasks in other industries and this is likely to occur across policing and justice related processes in the future. We will likely see AI extend into operational areas of policing such as intelligence management, investigation management and case file preparation – helping to free up valuable time for officers and staff to focus on higher-value activities and interacting with communities. However, organisations must engage positively with AI and be conscious of the need to ensure the technology is used in a responsible and legitimate way to better serve the public and protect civil liberties. It is critical that public safety leaders carefully manage the use of AI by putting in place strong governance to ensure transparency and by ensuring manual oversight of the technology as well as the re-training of employees where necessary.
“Technology advances mean digital can no longer be ignored—a sentiment supported at the highest levels of UK policing leadership.”
Technology advances mean digital can no longer be ignored—a sentiment supported at the highest levels of UK policing leadership. The Policing Vision 2025 strategy cites digital policing as a change agent and details why the police need to make better use of digital intelligence and transfer all material in a digital format to the criminal justice system. Developed by the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), the vision proposes that police forces and their partners work together in a consistent manner to enable joined up business delivery around policing support services and community safety.
Three steps to harness digital disruption
Digital is also helping to accelerate a move to a more proactive policing model which has the potential to bring far-reaching changes: from day-to-day policing processes, the focus of frontline officers, recruitment processes, to the types of public /private partnerships that are created.
1. Deploy digital platforms
Almost one-third (32 per cent) of respondents to our survey believe that citizens are better informed about technology than their own organisation, therefore the advantages of using a digital platform where information from multiple sources can be accessed and shared widely should not be underestimated. Technology agnostic platforms, which enable different technology components to be brought together, can help agencies collaborate with each other, but also tap into partnership data for new insights and understanding. All areas of agency planning and operations will benefit from the smart integration of data and the application of analytics to enhance the level of insight and support evidence-based decision making.
2. Collaborate to innovate
Collaborating with universities, research institutes and innovative companies can help public safety and justice agencies develop, implement and adopt technology solutions to meet operational challenges. Two-thirds (65 per cent) of survey respondents said they are willing to embrace public-private partnerships and to consider ‘as-a-service’ models for technology deployments (67 per cent). A similar proportion of respondents said they have already teamed with the private sector to meet increased citizen service demands and a majority (89 per cent) of public safety leaders said it is important to adopt business models to better engage ecosystems of digital partners.
Building relationships with organisations who have ‘been there and done that’ with new technologies can also speed up the process of innovation. Agencies must be prepared to break new ground — to try new technologies, test their value and translate lessons learned into the public safety environment more quickly. In the UK, Accenture is Innovation and Integration partner (IIP) to West Midlands Police helping to support the agency deliver its WMP2020 transformation program. Accenture is helping WMP develop digitally enabled capabilities to manage citizen service requests and achieve cost savings across operations. Recently Accenture and Oracle delivered a suite of cloud applications designed to increase efficiencies and processes across areas such as case management, customer service, procurement and HR.
3. Prepare your workforce
Public safety leaders understand that workforce challenges can sometime hinder the adoption of new technologies. More than a quarter (27 per cent) of survey respondents said a lack of internal skills and an inability to hire were the biggest barrier to implementing new technologies. Thankfully, many are taking action to bridge their current skills gap. Recruitment priorities of survey respondents include hiring more digital developers (55 per cent) and software engineers (54 per cent). What is more, almost half (48 per cent) of respondents said their recruitment strategy combines private and public-sector talent, showing that they believe that successful service delivery in the digital age requires a diverse mix of talents, whether in the police station, court services or on the streets.
Digital disruption is set to continue at pace, but public safety leaders need not feel overwhelmed – public safety agencies already demonstrate their practical and problem-solving focus in their everyday operations. Now, it is time to couple those same qualities with the continued advances in digital technologies enabling agencies to prevent crime, reduce demand and positively empower the wider criminal justice system.
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