Meeting the demands of digital

23 August 2017

Modernising our workforce to meet the demands of digital crime is essential. We do this in the face of shrinking resources and an exponential rise in this internet based criminality, which is a challenge.

I believe the public will be reassured that many aspects of policing that they love today will still be in place in fifteen years’ time. There will be no robo-cops on the streets, despite wanting a workforce fit for its time.

A key difference will be that frontline officers will be digitally aware, enabled and effective at combating crime. Changing the mind-set of officers is critical, so that they make best use of technology and investigative opportunities.

In Sussex, we introduced Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs), or Smartphones, to the frontline, enabling officers to carry out many things we all think is normal, like email. These devices also give them police-specific functionality such as taking witness statements, recording crime, and access to criminal records and intelligence reports amongst other useful functions. This frees up valuable time, provides better victim care and makes us more operationally effective.

However, I know there are some officers who still think leaving their MDTs in a box unopened is worthy of a badge of honour. Indeed one question I ask my officers is: who thinks they use the most amount of data on their MDTs, and who uses the least? This prompts honest discussions about the use of technology and I am really clear that our organisation depends on us being able to utilise digital to stay operational.

Public expectation is something that will also need reshaping. I remember a time when I would expect a home visit from the doctor if I was unwell. Now I wouldn’t even dream of it, and my children think this is alien too. However, in a recent survey of thousands of digitally engaged local residents, over 80 per cent felt they would like a home visit from the police if they were a victim of crime. I can point to several cases where we are more effective investigating remotely and keeping victims and witnesses up to date digitally.

The police service is ‘digitising’ public contact so that members of the public can report online, share footage online, report via social media, pay for services including firearms licensing, track progress of investigations, and we’re working towards one single platform (www.police.uk) to replace 43 force websites.

We’re also building a national operating model for digital investigation and intelligence. This will provide forces with a standard set of capabilities, enable staff to work across the country, and show the public that we are able to deal with current digital threats. I am the Senior Responsible Officer for the ‘Digital First’ Programme, which will integrate digitised policing into the reformed Criminal Justice System, delivering the best possible service to the public.

Police are working extremely hard to keep pace, but I believe that only modernising the technology will never be enough; we must have a modern workforce and a modern operating environment. Only then can the UK police maintain their reputation as being amongst the world’s most effective and respected.

Giles York QPM, Sussex Police Chief Constable

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