Police tech body seeks AI to analyse text and ‘identify predatory behaviours’ in rape investigations

Police Digital Service is seeking to engage with potential suppliers of ‘innovative technologies that can provide a positive step change in the way rape and serious sexual offences are investigated’

A national police-owned body that supports forces’ use of technology is seeking to explore analytics and automation tools that could be used in rape and sexual assault investigations to analyse text and “identify predatory behaviours”.

The Police Digital Service (PDS) has published an prior-information notice seeking to engage with potential suppliers of an artificial intelligence-based analytics platform that could be used by officers investigating rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO).

PDS is interested in engaging with firms that could provide “data analysis tool which dynamically identifies and reports predatory behaviours from purely text-based information”. Such information “could be used to support criminal justice and national security system investigations”, the procurement notice said.

“This capability would facilitate information-gathering and presentation to accelerate the decisions to proceed, charge and prosecute throughout a highly sensitive RASSO case,” it added. “The intended solution requires AI-based automation to minimise interaction from operational colleagues.”

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The potential use of technology to support rape and sexual assault investigations comes in light of the publication in 2021 of the Home Office’s End-to-End Rape Review which found that less than a fifth of the 128,000 estimated rapes committed each year are reported to the police. Of those that are, only 3% result in charges being pressed, the review found.

“Victims of rape and serious sexual offenses in the UK are being failed by the criminal justice system,” said the PDS procurement notice. “The End-to-End Rape Review… highlighted that ‘the vast majority of victims do not see the crime against them charged and reach a court: one in two victims withdraw from rape investigations’. As a result of the review, UK policing made a number of commitments to improve the end-to-end investigation of RASSO and most importantly bring more offenders to justice.”

It added: “The procurement is in support of a national programme to identify innovative technologies that can provide a positive step-change in the way RASSO is investigated across the UK to better meet the needs of law enforcement and victims of crime – this PIN relates specifically to an AI-based data analysis capability which can dynamically identify and reports RASSO predatory behaviours from purely text-based information.”

PDS hopes to use the market-engagement exercise to gain insights into the the level of interest among potential suppliers, as well as the capability of their technology and services.

Firms wishing to engage have until midday on 30 September to register and provide outline details of their interest and what they have to offer. Within a week of this, participating suppliers must also complete a non-disclosure agreement and ensure all relevant staff have achieved the necessary security clearance.

Providers will then be expected to attend a “RASSO technology awareness session” to be held somewhere in central London at some point during the week commencing 16 October.

PDS currently expects to go to market and commence a formal procurement process in the early days of 2024 – although it has not committed that it will definitely undertake any such exercise.

The Police Digital Service was established as the Police ICT Company in 2012. It is jointly owned by the 43 local and regional police forces across England and Wales, alongside the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the National Crime Agency, British Transport Police, the College of Policing, and the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.

PDS had responsibility for overseeing delivery of the National Policing Digital Strategy, as well as creating nationwide technology procurement vehicles. The organisation’s website describes its remit as being to help forces “keep up with technology and business changes [and] develop capabilities and ways of working that will enable them to adapt to and deal with the complexity of modern criminality”.

Sam Trendall

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