Home Opinion Funding, Skills and Technology: Are the Stars Aligning for a Major Digital Transformation of Policing in 2019?

Funding, Skills and Technology: Are the Stars Aligning for a Major Digital Transformation of Policing in 2019?

by Brian Sims
Jamie Wilson

Jamie Wilson

Last October, Alison Saunders – the outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) – was interviewed by The Times. It was pointed out that: “Britain’s most senior prosecutor has admitted the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the police cannot cope with the enormous growth in digital evidence.” Perhaps by coincidence (or maybe not), a mere two months later the Home Office announced that Police and Crime Commissioners across the UK would be receiving their largest funding increase since 2010, writes Jamie Wilson.

In addition to making money available for the recruitment of front line police officers, the news revealed that an additional £175 million would be slated for the Police Transformation Fund and a further £495 million for national police technology capabilities (equating to an average of £11.5 million for each of the 43 police forces currently presiding over law enforcement in England and Wales).

This news raises further questions, however. For example, how can police forces be sure they’re investing in the right technology to achieve the biggest Return on Investment?

Managing digital evidence

As highlighted by the former DPP, the ability to manage digital evidence needs to be a priority. Suffolk Police’s Detective Inspector Estelle Skuse echoed this sentiment in a recent article in The Ipswich Star. “The sheer scale of the evidence is becoming a lot bigger,” said Skuse. “The amount of data we deal with has doubled in the last year. The growth of digital data is increasing exponentially.”

Consider, for example, the proliferation of body-worn cameras, which have contributed to the explosion in digital evidence. West Mercia Police recently revealed that the force records and stores about 13,000 body-worn camera clips each and every month, with around 15% of them used in court. Meanwhile, the Cumbria Constabulary shared the news that it had submitted nearly 4,000 pieces of digital evidence to the CPS in the past nine months alone.

Think also about the truism that body-worn cameras are just one of many forms of digital evidence that police forces need to manage. There’s dash-cam video, recordings from mobile devices sent in by the public, SMS and live chat messages as well as social media posts. The list goes on and on.

Case-by-case basis

Recently, a spokesperson for Kent Police stated: “We do accept digital evidence captured by witnesses, such as dash-cam and mobile phone footage. The process is currently conducted on a case-by-case basis, with officers arranging collection with those witnesses who contact the force.” The spokesperson further added: “However, as an innovative force, we have also been exploring a secure, long-term IT solution to make submitting digital evidence such as this easier for both witnesses and officers.”

As new digital evidence management technologies emerge, police forces are also establishing new roles to oversee this critical function. For example, recent recruitment ads have sought out ‘Digital Evidence Technicians’ (Thames Valley Police) and ‘Hi-Tech Crime Investigators’ (Northamptonshire Police).

New set of skills

In a recently published article entitled: ‘Police need a new set of skills to meet digital challenges of the future’, Simon Bailey (chief constable of Norfolk Police) commented that forces should expect to see “an increasing number of members of staff who are experts in the recovery of digital evidence from devices” as well as experts in the area of “Big Data manipulation”.

While this is all new terrain for many police forces, one need not look too far to find some excellent examples of forces that are blazing a trail by deploying new digital evidence management solutions to automate the collection, analysis and sharing of digital evidence.

Jamie Wilson is Marketing Manager for Public Safety (EMEA) at NICE

*Interested in learning more? NICE will be hosting the Transformational Global Policing Summit at Chelsea Football Club on Tuesday 19 March. Risk Xtra is the Official Media Partner for the event. For more information and to register for this free event visit: https://info.nice.com/transformational-policing-summit-london-2019.html

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