Digital policing: Doing more with less for the benefit of all
8 mins read
Against the backdrop of more than a decade of increasingly stretched budgets, police forces across the UK have long been faced with significant operational and organisational challenges.
Reduced access to funds across the board – affecting not only the recruitment and retention of personnel but also much-needed investment in equipment, vehicles and other policing assets - have put unprecedented strain on forces nationwide. In parallel, the nature of policing has also changed fundamentally as new sources of criminal activity emerge – from cybercrime and online fraud to ’dark web’ activities linked to terrorism and human trafficking. In short, the challenge of doing more with less has rarely been greater for the nation’s police forces.
Data, digital and decision making
However, it’s not all doom and gloom on the thin blue line. One particular area that offers significant potential for police forces to work more efficiently and effectively is their management and analysis of data – both operational (i.e. public facing) and organisational (i.e. internally). This includes how officers and staff interact with data from a user-centred perspective and how they can navigate their digital transformation journey successfully.
The future of policing is digital
At present, police forces have access to vast amounts of untapped data. Unfortunately, most of this data is dispersed in isolated silos within each local organisation. There has been a concerted effort to fuse or integrate this data in a way that provides police officers and staff with the information they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability, but with limited success. This is intensely frustrating for front-line and back-office personnel alike. The data exists – it just hasn’t been brought together in anything like an integrated, logical and user-friendly format, or on a widespread, coordinated and concerted basis. Until now.
To implement the next-generation types of data infrastructure that will enable our police forces to do more with less, we believe that a new approach is necessary. To this end, we are building a dynamic approach to accelerate policing’s digital transformation, based on four key pillars:
- Comprehensive data fusion and integration for a single view of POLE (Person, Object, Location, Event) data
- Leveraging the latest automation and AI capabilities
- A human-centred design approach, built with the end user in mind
- Ensuring digital transformation is implemented effectively for both officers and staff
Whilst some data is currently being used in criminal investigations, intelligence and performance management, a vast amount of policing data remains untapped. This data is hidden and remains largely disconnected, due either to access constraints or to a lack of understanding as to its potential significance, especially when fused with the wider data landscape.
As today’s policing landscape matures, there is an increasing realisation that the best way to save money and still achieve qualitative success is to do more with data. To do this, we have to look beyond core operational datasets alone and focus instead on the under-utilised treasure trove of information held by police forces across the country.
Data from across organisations needs to be brought together and placed at the fingertips of decision-makers and their teams. This fusing of datasets will empower police forces to identify new insights into operational problems and organisational challenges, thereby enabling decision-makers to pinpoint the most efficient ways to fuel performance and optimise budgets.
By gaining an holistic view of all the available data, forces will be better able to focus their people and assets to assign the appropriate resource to the appropriate situation at the first time of asking. By using data in this way, our police services can do much to eliminate duplication, confusion and waste and the emergence of proactive policing could be accelerated.
When data is incomplete, connections are missed, risk is increased and already-scarce resources are not optimised. In a fused data landscape, theories can be tested to establish the impact of potential changes in approach and spot the patterns causing inefficiencies. Many operational and strategic problems can be identified and solved through organisational change, but only if the links can be seen. That’s where data fusion comes in.
While information-sharing between police and partners has improved in recent years, identifying meaning and possible causes is still problematic. Current sharing methods still require separate systems being viewed by different people, meaning no one person or team has full sight of all the facts. By properly fusing and integrating multi-agency data, police forces can create a better view of individuals and communities, spot patterns that weren’t previously visible and put measures in place before they escalate.
At Capita, our data, analytics and policing experts are working with some of the UK’s biggest police forces to do just this, bringing together internal data from operational and organisational sources along with information from key partners and wider social and demographic data. Creating this new fused-data landscape allows us to streamline and automate analysis and performance reporting processes through a suite of engaging and user-centred reports and dashboards.
By creating a fused-data environment, we are providing an ability to diagnose problems beyond the incident or even crime itself. With less funding, more pressure, increased complexity and greater expectations, data fusion can deliver actionable insights to decision-makers, ensure proactive risk and vulnerability management, and enable the very best use of available resources.
Automation and AI
Across industries, and in policing in particular, a significant efficiency gap exists between available technologies and current business operations. Nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).
It is generally accepted today that as much as 60 percent of current manual human-work activity could be augmented by automation and AI. In policing, mundane and repetitive daily tasks – such as data inputting and form filling – are particularly ripe for automation. The ongoing evolution of AI technologies means such automation could even be extended to parts of front-line services too, augmenting call-centre operations, online queries and first-tier emergency response services. What’s more, by leveraging available automation and AI technologies, the task of data fusion and integration can also be made immeasurably easier.
At Capita, our automation practice is built on industry-leading methodology, process and consultancy expertise. Indeed, our track record, for the rapid and flexible deployment of experienced multi-disciplinary teams to deliver automation strategies across a range of sectors, is unrivalled.
Our intelligent automation platform (IAP) is designed for the development and operation of hyper-automation at scale. We provide an end-to-end automation service to work in partnership with customers to optimise their current and future estate using a variety of vendor-agnostic automation technologies from robotic process automation (RPA) and optical character recognition (OCR) to machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP).
In tackling the challenge of comprehensively fusing data and exploiting the vast potential of the latest automation and AI technologies, making sure the solution is user-friendly is absolutely critical. There’s little point in having a next-generation data-fusion engine at the back end if the front-end user interface is clunky, difficult to use or confusing. In short, it needs to be as simple and as intuitive as possible.
Our human-centred approach is based on four key principles:
- Prioritise the user and the context of use – understand and address the core problems; solve the fundamental underlying issues, not the symptoms.
- Specify user requirements – develop a user-centred solution, one that works for the user in practice as well as principle. Co-creation and collaboration between our technologists and users is fundamental to user-centred design.
- Design solutions focused on the entire activity under consideration, not just isolated components – whilst fixing a local issue can be beneficial in the short term, local optimisation can frequently result in sub-optimal results globally. Solutions have to be developed with assistance and buy-in from all parties. Experts can provide essential analyses and approaches, but unless those most affected by the issues –namely end users – play a major role, the results are likely to be unworkable.
- Evaluate designs against requirements – through rapid iterations of prototypes and user-centred testing, the implementation of human-centred design requires an appetite to work at pace in an agile approach (such as three-week sprints), with regular deliverables and user feedback shaping the next development.
Of course, while technology and process will drive the transformation journey, it is people that remain at its heart. Change is hard. Humans are frequently reluctant to embrace it. Even if the benefits are clear, letting go of existing processes, solutions and even technology can be a challenge, leaving teams feeling disenfranchised, excluded and sometimes even unable to do their jobs. When it comes to law enforcement, this is not a viable option.
Officers and staff have to be fully engaged in the process, and motivated and equipped with the right skills to meet current and future demands of next-generation policing.
Defining and delivering effective change is vital. Creating an intuitive environment that unlocks value, automates repetitive tasks and supports change is an uphill struggle if people are not part of the journey too. While data fusion will help give officers and analysts the answers they need, automation will eradicate time-consuming, low-value tasks. User-centred design will ensure that the new tools and processes are easy to adopt.
Cultural change is the central pillar to enable successful transformation. This includes:
- Creating a resilient organisation – navigating changes to create an organisation poised for further transformation
- Supporting transformation – helping organisations navigate and develop the culture and capabilities needed to thrive in the digital era
- The future of work – preparing for the future workplace and the very nature of work itself.
From organisational design and cultural change through to talent strategy and the digital workforce, we have the experience to help police forces navigate the changes required for the future of work. What sets us apart, however, is that we don’t just deliver consultants: we deliver outcomes. By supporting transformation and helping forces navigate and develop the culture and capabilities needed to thrive in the digital era, we define and deliver effective change.
We work collaboratively with police forces and crime agencies to design, build and implement innovative, digital solutions that will transform their operational and organisational effectiveness. Leveraging our deep expertise in data, automation, AI and human-centred design – alongside our deep policing experience – we develop user-friendly solutions that enhance every aspect of policing, from daily business processes and complex investigations to intelligence operations and strategic decision making.
As Solutioning Lead in Capita Consulting's Data & AI guild, Matt drives innovation and oversees the delivery of cutting-edge products. Matt developed this insight in collaboration with leading Capita digital experts - Melanie Christopher, Grainne Watson and Iain Kirkwood.