A public safety ecosystem must start with central comms

Police forces and justice services are tirelessly working to tackle crime where it happens, and ensure public safety in their jurisdiction and specific regions. However programmes such as Digital Policing, outlined by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), rightfully acknowledges that the way that crimes are investigated and the evidence collected is more and more likely to be in a digital format, and that changes must be made to improve the ability to investigate and reduce crime.  

Currently, police forces have their own separate systems and their own processes. They operate very separately, policing their counties in silos. The vision set out is one where crimes are prevented wherever they happen, by making it easier for the police to communicate in a major national collaboration move. This includes integrated information sharing with the Criminal Justice System (CJS) to break the circle; reducing crime to stop people entering the system in the first place, rehabilitation to avoid reoffending, enabling people to go through probation to enter society again and not to circle back - therefore increasing public safety overall.  

Tech can and should play an enormous role in underpinning this collaboration to offer the best possible combined service to prevent crime and future issues. And this needs to be looked at from the ground up. Having a common and central comms approach, be that the internet, or private network connectivity - or a blend of the two, will provide a physical central platform and is a fundamental start. As usual, there will be a school of thought that ‘we’ll just make greater use of the internet’. That is a quick and easy answer but could raise concerns about security and encryption. Without a secure and central foundation, various actors cannot come together in a common way. Tech needs to be brave enough to drive this and bring people together.  

But, most importantly, providers shouldn’t blind people with shiny solutions from the top down. It’s important not to get caught up on hype tech and vendors have a responsibility to understand what they’re offering and whether it’s really the right tool for the job. This is particularly true in public safety, when taking an ethical approach to protecting human life and what is right. Providers shouldn’t plow in simply to sell their own wares. Hype tech, which the justice system isn’t ready for culturally or from an infrastructure point of view, could be problematic. Shaping the answer to what you’re selling, when public safety and lives are at stake, should not happen. We need to be more mature in approach.  

 

Once the infrastructure and comms is right, then the question that needs to be considered is how can we use certain technology types to benefit everyone? As a Norfolk ‘son’, I know it’s no good putting technology in to Norfolk Police that Suffolk Police aren’t able or wouldn’t have the capability to use, or vice versa. Essentially they are one blended county.  

 

We must build the technology to be as open as possible. It’s about allowing everyone to communicate and benefit. It’s not about exposing Intellectual Property or ‘the keys to the Kingdom’, but about using technology such as APIs, which allows everyone to make use of the software in a way which is conducive to greater productivity. That enables true collaboration.  

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