Law enforcement in a digital age

Posted on 29/07/2021 by vmwareemeasmt

Joachim Murat, public sector industry director, EMEA civil government, VMware

TV and cinema have done an incredible job of hyping up law enforcement. We’ve seen it in everything from the pre-crime division of Minority Report to the popularity of shows like CIS or Line of Duty. But beyond the drama, police forces today have tools at their disposal that have changed the face of policing. It is what we’ve looked at in our latest report, ‘Law enforcement in the age of the digital revolution’.

Guardians of public order

As guardians of public order, law enforcement agencies are at the epicentre of a maelstrom of technological and demographic shifts that are shaking the foundations of police work. As citizens, we still expect to see ‘our police officers on the beat’ doing the work we traditionally associated with the boys in blue but it’s easy to visualise break-ins and knife crime. Less so the other, increasingly prominent element of the job. The early adoption of new technology by criminals; the increasingly cross-border nature of crime; the proliferation of data; and cyber threats from amateurs as well as from state actors means the police must become a more technologically adept and data driven service. 

To meet these new and increasingly sophisticated challenges demand an approach that marries both new tools and new strategies. Tools that need to be able to pair the empathy of human judgment with the data-processing ability of machines, while strategies need to integrate enforcement with community engagement to do both exceptionally well together, rather than silo them off. And it all needs to be achieved in a climate of restricted budgets, economic turmoil and the ongoing confusion of the pandemic crisis. As Cressida Dick  DBE QPM, Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis in London, UK, says in her piece, ‘The Future of Policing in the Digital Age’, “the challenge is for the police to use technology to deepen the trust of the people, not to erode it.”

Technology empowering officers

To combat mistrust and rising crime, police officers on the front line need to become more connected, whether on foot and in their vehicles. Up until now, the police have made some good moves into technology to make public services more efficient and cost-effective, with forces up and down the country providing officers with tablets and smartphones to record statements and access vital information. Digital enablement and utilisation of this technology has had a profound effect but there is more to be done, especially with the police under immense pressure to modernise technology whilst maintaining service delivery and meet financial demands in the sector.

As part of the National Policing Digital strategy 2020-2030 aimed at using digital technology to provide a seamless citizen experience, enable officers and empower the private sector, a large portion of Police Forces in the UK are now working through The National Enabling Programmes (NEP) to provide a modern technology environment that is fundamental to transforming ways of working across policing in the UK. Technology is empowering individual officers to have a greater community impact while helping support budgetary solutions.

Day to day data

Modern-day policing accumulates a lot of data; body camera footage, in-car camera footage, computer aided dispatch files, accident reports, eyewitness interviews, evidence logs, and more. A good example is the Greater Manchester Police, whose deployment of mobile devices has meant that its officers collectively spend an extra 8,000 hours on the streets of the city each year. It all needs a digital foundation that provides the secure, agile and accessible storage of data, as well as the digital workspace solution required to deliver the required mobility.

The predictive capacity of the AI and machine learning empowers officers to analyse the sea of data that would otherwise take years, or even a lifetime to search through. AI finds patterns and links between suspects through these vast volumes of records. The time and cost saving benefits are only surpassed by the life-saving impact it powers. The law enforcement in New Delhi is a case in point. After officers trialled an AI-powered facial recognition system, they were able to successfully identify nearly 3,000 missing children within just four days. The Moscow police employed AR glasses to effectively identify suspects. Automatic facial recognition linked to a centralised database successfully helped them compare people they interacted with against a list of fugitives. a move that helped them catch more than 180 criminals during the football World Cup in 2028.

Delays to investigations have escalated since Covid, but countries such as Singapore are overcoming manpower shortages by supporting officers with game-changing technology. AI, automation, video analytics, tap sensors and drones are being deployed in public locations to create an environment that facilitates safety. As of December 2020, the technology was already reported to have helped police solve 4,900 cases. Citizens also benefit from 24/7 access to police services with automated self-help kiosks in police centres to allow them to voice their concerns and spark action.

A foundation for modern policing

As a result, law enforcement agencies are increasingly turning to hybrid cloud computing, which combines the right mix of public, private and edge clouds. Thanks to the cloud, law enforcement agencies are swiftly able to transmit the information they have gathered to other police departments. It offers law enforcement agencies a way to deploy the infrastructure they need to create the future officer, while managing limited resources and budgets. Most clouds are highly scalable, and able to increase storage capacity with the flip of a switch to accommodate increasing data needs. The UK Ministry of Justice, for example, is using the cloud to enhance service effectiveness and fairness, from seamless evidence sharing to video-enabled court testimonies.

It is clear that our societies are in transition from an old industrial order to something very different. How to keep people safe in this digitally networked world is a pressing question and one we are only just beginning to address. It is time for those of us involved in policing and criminal justice to acknowledge the scale of this challenge, open up a public debate about its implications and, above all, engage our imaginations in developing a way forward.

That means having a cloud strategy that is as central to the force as the badge. It is, quite simply, the foundation for modern policing. As the National Digital Policing Strategy report says: “Our leaders of tomorrow will need to endorse and demonstrate a genuine understanding of how to place digital at the centre of modern policing.”

To find out how VMware can help with your cloud strategy please contact us and you can download our report, here.


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