Unlocking the potential of technology in public safety

  • What are key opportunities that underpin and unlock the future of public safety services?  

  • How can we build on current transformation and integration efforts to make the most out of tech? 

Though the nine principles of policing set out by Sir Robert Peel have remained constant since their inception in 1829, the world in which the police operate has undergone dramatic shifts. Keeping the peace, preventing crime, protecting the most vulnerable from harm, and bringing offenders to justice are responsibilities now challenged by a changing crime threat, a connected and globally networked world, rising public expectations of service, and – despite the recently announced increase in policing numbers - the need to address pressing budgetary constraints.  

As is noted by Chief Officers within the Policing Vision 2025: “the only way we can address new policing challenges … without reducing the quality of services, is by transforming the approach to policing”. This change must ensure that vulnerability, threat and risk do not go unnoticed, using advanced technical insight to plug these knowledge gaps. This urgency is reflected in the strategic drivers of the government, that the transformation in law enforcement must also be rooted in greater collaboration across organisational silos, and must enable law enforcement agencies to take a more preventative approach, embracing a culture of decision-making rooted in evidence. 

In the recent statement to the house, the policing minister has clearly signalled the intent to utilise technology more effectively in the fight against perpetrators of violence and organised crime – who have been quick to make use of emerging technology to exploiting the vulnerable and threatening the fabric of our society.  

However, there are opportunities to be exploited by law enforcement agencies to respond to these threats and other common, critical challenges by using data and technology to put information and digital solutions at the core of the policing mission.  

Around the world and in all industries, digital tools are helping organisations to better understand customers, design new products and prevent risk.  

For law enforcement, digital and data-led transformations offer agencies the chance to better understand the public and the threats to them, identify vulnerability, and design more targeted interventions to prevent harm – putting information and tools in the hands of staff and officers who can use them in the pursuit of their core mission. In turn, this helps those in need, protects UK national interests, and delivers an efficient and effective service. 

A considerate, holistic approach to mobility – including policy, process, infrastructure and culture, as well as physical devices – provides much benefit. People can access information on the move, with the use of analytics to understand the threat that exists. Although some of this insight is currently present in existing data, it is too fragmented and atomised to be intelligible. Automation of mundane and labour-intensive tasks allows a renewed focus on the policing mission. Moreover, it allows the human to be kept at the heart of an incident, whether that is the victim or the responder/investigator dealing with traumatic content such as child abuse imagery.  

As was signalled by the recently launched National Policing Digital Strategy, there is now a clear mandate for convergence and interoperability. This involves stripping out duplication, consolidating applications, decommissioning non-essential infrastructure and moving to repeatable solutions: all of which are which are crucial to achieve the best value from technology investment. 

With better insights and tools, law enforcement agencies can better identify vulnerability and risk, predict and prevent harm, improve the health of their organisation and inform policymaking.  

Coordinating this at a national level with and on behalf of law enforcement partners will be critical. We are already seeing this with a number of national programmes, often led by local forces. One such example if the National Data Analytics Solution (NDAS), a pioneering data analytics project that has made headlines across the world. NDAS is Home Office-funded and brings together 9 police forces and agencies around the UK, led by West Midlands Police, looking to use advanced analytics to provide a ground-breaking approach to policing. NDAS aims to provide a single, scalable, national, sustainable solution to challenges faced by all policing and law enforcement agencies across the country. This is achieved through sharing data, centralised analytics models and a shared advanced data science capability. NDAS is providing greater insight on jointly agreed policing priorities in a more efficient and cohesive manner – with interoperability, consistency and transparency at its heart.  

This and other local, regional and national projects that we are starting to see (such as Durham Constabulary’s Harm Assessment Risk Tool, and Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s South West Office for Data Analytics) seek greater value from the combination available data and developing digital tooling.  New, advanced technologies have driven transformation throughout other organisations and industries. It is now time to work together to provide police forces with the tools, data and insights that they need to protect the communities which they protect.  

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