We are currently living in an age of disruption affecting every aspect of society. Change is being driven by two key factors: a reduction in the cost of new technologies and the impact of different technologies coming together. The pace of technological change is one of many significant challenges facing policing and public safety.
The connected police officer
The concept of the ‘connected officer’ continues to develop. Police officers have always been connected to the public and communities they serve, in many different ways. They have also been connected to their colleagues both out on the street, in the control room and while performing investigative or intelligence activities.
They have also been connected to people in other agencies, functions or organisations to help information sharing and generate insight to help address common problems or protect those with common vulnerabilities.
Digital technology has the capacity to enhance and extend these connections and flow of information and insight. Investing in the necessary infrastructure to enable such connectivity allows the police officers to become:
Enabling the officer
Police officers are now connected, not only to colleagues in the control room, but also to a vast array of information and data.
Mobility allows officers to access a range of information via commercial and police-specific apps.
Platforms provide a mechanism to give the workforce (regardless of where they are) access to a vast array of information.
Wearables can be activated via voice recognition, record tracking and biometric data, they also allow the wearer freedom of movement.
Voice means officers are free to interact with victims or suspects allowing statement taking to become faster and—with the advent of voice signature technology—more secure.
Empowering the officer
Many of the features described as enabling the officer also contribute to empowering them. Officers are able to operate more autonomously in the field and have real-time access to a wide range of information; when, where and how they want it.
However, as technology advances, the officer is being increasingly proactively alerted to information and actions—empowering them to take decisions more confidently and quickly.
The ability to take a platform approach to manage this vast amount of information, to store it, manage and analyse it and then present it as actionable situational awareness information to officers in the field, control room or making management decisions is critical. Capabilities such as these also help public safety agencies move increasingly towards a more data driven model of policing, and one which emphasises prevention over reaction.
Supporting the officer
Further to directly improving police outcomes, technological advances also support the officer more broadly—for example, helping to increase welfare, engagement and health.
Biometric Wearables can be used to help monitor officers’ wellbeing providing details of their movement, heart rate and stress levels.
Hazard Sensors are now highly sophisticated and small enough to be included as part of an officer’s kit or even incorporated into their uniform.
Drones provide a platform for a range of devices and sensors. They can also be deployed at distance, in or outside vehicles or to monitor hostile situations.
Smart Armour is currently at an experimental stage but promises a range of features based around a protective exoskeleton. A note of caution should be raised however, use of this technology raises the issue of the “militarisation” of the police. It is important that connected officers continue to look approachable and remain part of the communities they police.
Embracing the opportunities of a disruptive world is a vital part of the public safety mission. New technology brings significant challenges and increased risk. But the digital age also provides the tools to transform policing by increasing efficiency, enhancing communication and above all, reducing crime.