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January 22, 2018
Striking the right balance: How policing can both handle day-to-day pressures and also become more preventative
By: Rachel Phillips

Recently, I had the honour of speaking at the APCC & NPCC Partnership Summit 2017 – the annual forum where senior policing leaders, experts and decision-makers come together to discuss and shape solutions to today’s policing challenges. At the event, I was asked to take part in a panel discussion on the move to a more preventative policing model. And I was delighted to find that this was a theme that permeated the two days of presentations and debate.

In fact, reflecting on comments made during the summit, I came away convinced that we are entering an exciting new era of policing, one that’s focused less on dealing with the aftermath of criminal activity, and more on using technology to help prevent – even disrupt – it before it happens. It’s a seismic shift that my Accenture colleague James Slessor picked up on in a recent blog, when he examined four traits that characterise those organisations that succeed in becoming stronger in the face of digital disruption, including in policing.

James’s post got me thinking about what the move to a prevention-first policing model involves in practical terms. It’s a big question, and I’m going to use this blog to set the context. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until my next blog to hear the answers.

What’s the context in which today’s police are operating, and trying to navigate their way to a more preventative future? We all know the underlying reality – that we’re living in a world of technology disruption, where the pace of change will never be as slow as it is today, and dealing with emerging threats is the norm. Against this background, all public safety agencies are under pressure to become increasingly preventative to deal with three key challenges: new threats, rising citizen expectations, and ever-increasing volume of data.

On threats, the traditional concepts of threat, risk and harm are finding new forms in an increasingly digital world. With the cyber domain having become the new frontier of criminal activity, this change involves both the types of threat facing us and also the means by which those threats are planned, organised and carried out. Examples include rising incidences of crime across geographical and jurisdictional boundaries, ‘invisible’ crime, and non-human crime executed via or between machines.

Meanwhile, citizens’ expectations are rising, and fast. This rapid escalation is leaving the police struggling to keep pace with the technology innovations needed to meet the ever-increasing expectations of an increasingly digital-savvy public, who expect the same service capabilities from the police as they do from their bank, online retailers or mobile app providers. It’s a tough ask.

Finally, increasing volume of data is a challenge in its own right, as the police try to make sense of a blizzard of information that’s already huge and growing at speed. It’s also the evolving nature and diversity of that data, and the proliferation of channels by which it is consumed and transmitted. Data points and signals are everywhere. Yes, there’s social media data. But increasingly it’s also sensors, for example from around smart cities. It’s robots that are constantly listening in our homes. It’s connected citizens. And it’s international and ‘invisible’ data sharing.

Policing is by no means alone. If we look at other industries, we see they’re operating in a similarly disrupted and disruptive context: rising customer expectations and mass availability of data are equally pressing challenges for the private sector, and the growing threats facing the police equate to intensifying competitive pressures for businesses. To operate successfully in such an environment, companies are leveraging new technology and maximising the use of data to do two things. First, enhance their core capabilities to make their existing business more effective. And second, work in parallel to create new operating models that define, prioritise and deliver new types of products and services.

Public safety agencies can take a similar approach. In the context of policing, the ‘new operating model’ involves becoming a prevention-first service where data is harnessed in the right way to deliver great benefits, while at the same time retaining the operational momentum and focus to deliver on day-to-day “business-as-usual”. The challenge, of course, is that in the public sector, it’s difficult to fuel and grow this new organisation. Most police leaders can see the need to balance a more preventative stance with everyday operations, and have a vision for how to define the new operating model to achieve it. But it remains difficult to do – and even harder to do at scale.

So, against the context I’ve described, the question is this: “How can new technology and digital capabilities actually enable public safety agencies to develop this new preventative model?” That’s the question I’ll tackle in my next blog. Watch this space.

See this post on LinkedIn: Striking the right balance: How policing can both handle day-to-day pressures and also become more preventative.

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