policing 4
Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Policing in a digital world

Policing 4.0 - Deloitte report on how UK police forces are responding to the threats & opportunities of a digital world.

Deciding the future of policing

Volunteers guide a drone across the sky as they look for a missing person. A police officer completes their augmented reality crime-scene training. A nuisance caller is immediately spotted when they call 999 as the police customer relationship management system kicks in and averts an unnecessary deployment. Police body worn video footage secures another successful prosecution. A team deploys Artificial Intelligence (AI) to scour the internet and find any image of drugs with a phone number attached.

Policing 4.0

This quote is from the introduction of an important new report from management consultants, Deloitte: Policing 4.0: Deciding the future of policing in the UK.

The examples of innovation are all mainstream practices in some British police forces. However, while the use of technology is developing rapidly, this is not the only change. Twenty percent real terms spending reductions and profound shifts in society and patterns of crime have also contributed to changes in police structures,
recruitment approaches, ways of engaging the public, investigative methods and approaches to preventing crime and supporting victims and the vulnerable.

Authored by Tom Gash and Richard Hobbs, the report is based on Deloitte’s consultancy work with a number of police forces; much of it driven by austerity. Alongside the innovation and best practice, the report also acknowledges that they found:

some forces struggling to cope with deep spending reductions, increased demand and a faster, more complex, and more scrutinised policing environment. In pockets of the country, 999 calls are being left unanswered, detection rates are falling, investigations are collapsing, and the preventative work of neighbourhood policing teams has been dramatically reduced.

The report identifies six key challenges for police leaders:

  1. Serving a fully digital world, where every crime has a digital footprint, every police function harnesses digital technology, and data is one of policing’s most valuable assets.
  2. Outgunned by private sector and civil society, with private investments in crime prevention and investigation vastly outweighing those of a state struggling to fund growing health, care and pensions expenditure.
  3. Responding to a much faster pace of change in every arena, with constant business innovation creating new criminal opportunities and potential policing tools and social connectivity creating a rapid spread of news and ideas. 
  4. Harnessing cyber‑physical systems, as a result of exponential growth of sensing technologies and connected (‘internet of things’) devices.
  5. Using an unknowable volume of knowledge about ‘what works’ in reducing crime and managing police services.
  6. Operating with near‑total transparency, due to increasingly omni‑present surveillance of the public and the police.

There has been a consensus across the policing and broader political spheres for some time now that police leaders (which now means Police and Crime Commissioners as well as Chief Constables) will have to make some tough decisions in deciding where to prioritise police resources whilst maintaining good relations with the public they serve.

It’s a rare week when news outlets don’t cover a story about one police area or another no longer responding to car thefts or burglaries. 

Deloitte, as a provider of advice to many police services on how to adapt to the future, clearly has “skin in the game”. Nevertheless, their  8 recommendations for these police leaders give a clear indication of the scale of the challenges ahead:

1: Involve the public in difficult prioritisation choices and trade‑offs to maintain legitimacy, including through deliberative processes such as citizens’ juries.

2: Have more rigorous, data‑driven conversations about which demands can be serviced and what preventative capabilities are maintained, at different resourcing levels.

3: Protect ‘hard‑edged’ crime prevention capabilities in order to avoid a vicious cycle of simply responding to increasing demand, by

  • Managing demand in the short term (through enabling self‑service, setting up resolution centres and other ways of dealing with low level crime more efficiently).
  • Redefining ‘visibility’ to include online and telephone interactions, providing a better but cheaper universal policing offer.
  • Engaging public sector partners and businesses in dialogue to determine who is best placed to manage problems (and reallocate responsibilities if needed).
4: Ensure organisations are pulling in the same direction, by taking time to build alignment around much clearer, more meaningful organisational aspirations and by clarifying core policing and leadership philosophies. 

5: Articulate the capabilities needed to assess (and measure) current capability but the mix of people, processes and outcomes for the public.

6: Invest in data as a critical organisational tools and support rapid identification and best decisions’.

7: Build understanding of those policing services (and investigated) by developing ‘Citizen Relationship Management’ systems – informed by open source data and wrapped into processes that enable personalised services and tailored approaches to harnessing community and business crime prevention capabilities.

8: Develop digital transformation capability, embracing user‑led design and developing tools to harness workforce creativity and skills, and support wellbeing (Workforce Relationship Management).

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