Improvements need to be made in the procurement, usage, sharing and development of technology in policing, according to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Thomas Winsor.
His comments form part of a report published today State of Policing – The Annual Assessment of Policing in England and Wales in 2019.
Winsor says there is a problem with short-term funding within the police, meaning critical or mandatory services having to be prioritised at the expense of other, less urgent ones.
“In some respects, particularly technology, policing is gradually falling further behind some other aspects of society. A good example of this is the Police National Database, to which a few forces’ information systems still aren’t properly connected. This is despite the police service treating the matter as a critical incident during 2019,” he notes.
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Elsewhere, Winsor acknowledges that most forces have signed up to the ‘single online home’, which is designed to give the public a consistent means of interacting online with police forces. “But generally, the police’s information and communications technology (ICT) arrangements are unnecessarily expensive and don’t work together well enough. There is ample room for improvement.”
Machine learning at work
Nevertheless, the report notes more of a recognition of the important role that data and technology, particularly machine learning can play. It cites Avon and Somerset Constabulary, which has established a Data Science and Innovation Centre, through which it develops data-driven services in collaboration with local authorities. West Midlands Police too operates a data-driven insights programme.
South Yorkshire Police is in the early stages of a project with Sheffield Hallam University to develop an AI-based algorithm to identify children at heightened risk of exploitation. And, in late 2019, Greater Manchester Police set up an evidence-based practice hub to carry out research into areas such as current and predicted social norms, which will influence policing.
Finally, Winsor says that the police should work with the Home Office and software suppliers “to provide a solution so that all forces can proactively monitor use of their ICT systems.”