Circle Opinion

Maximising efficiency in policing through digital technology

Damon Ugargol

Policing in the UK sits at a turning point, facing a rapidly evolving world of criminal activity that demands a new approach while also contending with tight budgets and highly scrutinised use of resources. To maintain its position as a world leader in policing, it’s essential for police forces to maximise the utility of available resources, be they financial, technological or human.

The challenge for many is that the infrastructure behind traditional policing methods has failed to keep pace with rapid advances in digital technology, driven by the private sector and enthusiastically embraced by the public, businesses and criminals alike.

In order to stay relevant, forces must be able to leverage these same capabilities, both to stay abreast of criminal activity, but also to improve efficiency and effectiveness in their own internal operations and focus resources where they can make the most difference.

Discover how digital technology is transforming policing in our new white paper – Policing in the Digital Age

Grasping the digital opportunity

In order to provide the service levels that the public expect and deserve, policing methods must be closely aligned with the challenges they are attempting to solve. In 2021, that means embracing and optimising digital systems.

Digital technology is now deeply embedded within nearly all areas of our lives, and crime is no exception. It’s estimated that more than 90% of reported crime now has a digital element, whether that’s in enabling threats, increasing their complexity or generating digital evidence through devices, applications, social media or the internet.

Alongside this evolution has come an explosion in the volume, complexity and availability of data. In 2020, people created 1.7 MB of data every second. This growth in information creates an opportunity for forces to analyse datasets to discover trends, use artificial intelligence to quickly support decision making and share data instantly. However, when it comes to data, many teams are working with outdated methods.

Risks of connecting the dots manually

Recent research from 2020 indicates that a large number of forces are still relying on manual processes to manage, transfer and analyse data. 66% of respondents acknowledged that data-management was the most time-consuming aspect of the investigation process including:

  • Driving around to collect CCTV video from homes and businesses
  • Copying and burning CDs and DVDs

Police vehicles banner

Not only does this increase the manpower required to manage an investigation from end to end, it also slows down the evidence-gathering process. Across the country, this leads to thousands of hours of time wasted on manual processes that could be automated, taking officers away from other, more valuable work.

The digital systems that are in place can also be a limitation in themselves. Procurement processes can be long and laborious, resulting in a patchwork of technology that is out of date by the time it’s delivered, and that doesn’t integrate with other systems. This leads again to manual processes plugging the gaps, whether by physical transfer of information or manual rekeying of data.

By prioritising connectivity and data currency, police forces can enable a more seamless information journey that acknowledges the reality of modern challenges while improving utilisation of existing resources.

An efficient model of digital policing

While forces and national programmes have already been delivering change through a number of individual programmes designed to improve specific processes and outcomes, an efficient solution must take a holistic approach.

Data Management

As collaboration between police and other government services becomes more important, connection needs to be built into the infrastructure of policing. We suggest three key ways that departments can approach digital transformation to target efficiency gains and improved results.

Maximising cloud connectivity

In order to make relevant data as accurate, available and shareable as possible, it’s essential to prioritise cloud networking. By moving away from a hard-copy based system of discs and hard drives, teams can minimise officer involvement with data transfers and centralise information with tools such as a digital evidence management system (DEMS).

Forces should aim to adopt a “cloud first” principle for applications and data, where economical, interrogating proposed solutions for ease of use, connectivity and security. This must go hand in hand with network upgrades and security. Cloud connectivity increases the data demands on networks, with more information moving digitally.

This may require investing in specific skill sets for network maintenance and management in order to ensure that the move to cloud is not barred by prohibitive costs or poor connectivity.

Implement targeted automation solutions

As well as making data more available for teams and sharing, cloud migration also makes digital data accessible between applications and interfaces. This unlocks the possibility to automate many of the manual processes that reduce efficiency and increase lead time for key activities.

Not only does this save time and resources, but automation also reduces the chance for human error when it comes to lost files, corrupted data or delays. By leveraging tools such as automated data-sharing mechanisms and data analysis tools, forces can access the information they need in a streamlined and efficient manner which avoids duplication of efforts.

Bringing legacy systems into the now

Adding in new digital capabilities need not be a complete ‘rip and replace’ project, removing all existing digital infrastructure. By combining existing legacy systems with new connections, forces can drive value sooner while targeting progressive improvement.

For legacy platforms that are not directly integrated with each other, API-based connectivity layers can enable mediated transfer of information into other front-end applications or data layers. This shortens the time to ROI while also building foundations for future deeper integrations of systems.

Embracing digital efficiency

In a rapidly digitising world, police forces have an opportunity to take control of the way they approach and engage with the new data revolution. By deploying connected technologies and sharing insights and functionality directly through online channels, officers can work more efficiently to target the root causes of criminal activity and offer better support to communities.

connected technologies

CACI is proud to be working with police forces to help develop their vision through a step change in their implementation of key technologies. By working together both tactically and strategically, we can help pinpoint transformation opportunities, identify bottlenecks and improve performance.

Find out more about how digital technology is shaping the future of policing in our new guide – Policing in the Digital Age.

You can also visit our policing page to find out more information.

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Damon Ugargol