Police chiefs and crime commissioners pledge digital policing reforms

Written by Rebecca Hill on 17 November 2016 in News

Policing Vision 2025 sets out plans to boost staff skills, share digital evidence and improve recording and analysis of online crime.

Vision puts digital policing at the heart of reforms - Photo credit: West Midlands Police

In a joint vision for reforms to policing by 2025, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and the National Police Chiefs’ Council have said that they will create a police force that is digitally skilled and is better at responding to new types of crime.to improve use of digital

Policing Vision 2025,published yesterday, said that technology now plays a “significant and central part in almost everything we do”, with different criminal threats and public expectation.

Digitisation also offers “significant potential to accelerate business processes, manage risk more effectively and revolutionise the criminal justice process” – and the police must embrace this, the document said.

It stressed that the overall mission of policing – to make communities safer, prevent crime, keep the peace and bring offenders to justice – had not changed, but the environment and types of crime have.

This includes the pressures of globalisation and protecting an increasingly diverse population, new technologies to regulate – such as driverless cars – and an increase in online crime.

“Phishing, trolling, malware, online scams, revenge pornography and the proliferation of child abuse imagery go largely unrecorded, unanalysed and, as a result, are not fully understood,” the document said.

“Criminals are exploiting technology, and the tools to preserve anonymity online, more quickly than law enforcement is able to bring new techniques to bear.”

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To address this, police forces must develop digital investigation and intelligence capabilities and work with bodies like the Police ICT Company and the National Cyber Security Centre to establish an evidence base of what works for digital policing.

Meanwhile, an increase in the amount of digital information and data that is being generated, from CCTV to emails, requires police forces to improve its analytic capabilities to gather information and make faster, more targeted decisions.

At the same time, police forces are being asked to keep within restricted budgets – something that the strategy suggested could be aided with better use of technology, for instance by integrating and consolidating IT systems and sharing information.

It also indicated that specialist services would be shared and delivered through “national, cross-force or hub structures” to allow common capabilities to be shared between forces. There would also be “formal integration of back office functions” and more shared procurement, it said.

However, the vision does not offer specific detail on the technology and IT systems used by police forces – an issue that was picked up on in Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s 2016 review of police efficiency, published earlier this month.

That report said that forces lacked a coherent plan to transform the way they use their systems, with many reliant on bespoke outdated ICT systems.

The HMIC report also noted that very few forces were focusing on staff’s digital skills, “despite a universal acceptance that digital skills are becoming an increasingly important part of police work”.

The APCC and NPCC report acknowledged that skills training must be part of the police reforms, and committed to giving staff the right digital tools and experience.

More broadly, it committed to developing a comprehensive understanding of demand on policing, offer better professional development opportunities for staff and support training through academic accreditation.

It also said that citizens are increasingly expecting to engage with the police in the same way as other consumer and public bodies, such as social media. This, the document said, would “require significant analytical and forecasting capabilities, which must be reflected within the workforce”.

However, the document said that this must be “balanced with maintaining traditional public contact” for those who do not want to engage online.

“People want a responsive service that is able to tackle the future challenges and embrace the future opportunities of policing,” the chairwoman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners Vera Baird said in a statement. “This vision sets out how the service needs to use technology to make it easier for the public to interact with the police.”

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