Welcome disruption


Public safety agencies find themselves in the center of a digital storm that will disrupt every aspect of their operations. The question is whether they will emerge stronger–or significantly weakened–as a result.

The technology capabilities of citizens and criminals are increasing at an unprecedented pace.  Some agencies have made significant advances with emerging technologies such as analytics, but most are struggling to keep up with the pace of innovation and relentless impact of digital disruption.

But the temperature is rising - public safety agencies can no longer delay embracing emerging technologies. Inactivity and hesitation risks not only giving criminals the upper hand, but also reducing levels of citizen engagement and satisfaction. 

This bold industry paper draws on Accenture’s 2016 Public Service Emerging Technologies research to explore the opportunities for public safety agencies to embrace digital to disrupt their operations or risk being disrupted themselves.

The Knowledge Gap

of agencies agree that citizens are better informed about technology than the organization.

People power

Public safety agencies can only meet their current challenges by weaving people, processes and emerging technology together.

A majority of public safety agencies are aware of emerging technologies and ready to makes changes to accommodate them. Far fewer, however, have made the workforce changes needed to implement the technologies. 

Begin QuoteMachine learning, robotics and so on will have a great impact and may change roles that people will play. But it is difficult to foresee a point at which human intervention will not be necessary in decision-making and many key processes.End Quote
David Irvine, Former Director-General Australian Secret Intelligence Services
of public safety IT leaders say they've made significant changes to their day-to-day processes
but only 42% say they've made significant structural changes to their workforce
believe that emerging technology adoption will improve current employees' job satisfaction

Let police do the policing

The current generation of emerging technologies promises to liberate rather than displace. For example, much policing work remains manual, and the next waves of technology automation (eventually powered by artificial intelligence) will streamline case management and investigative processes. Analytics can enable the rapid provision of actionable information about individuals to officers on the street. Robotics, can not only help with case processing but also provide information and support to citizens. And emergent technologies such as blockchain have the potential to transformation the security of transactions and evidence continuity.

This may sound futuristic but some public safety agencies are actively piloting emerging technologies already.

West Midlands Police in the U.K. use analytics to analyze information to better predict risk and threats and take action accordingly.

The use of video analytics and automation technology by France’s National Police Force has been used to enhance safety at major events.

Advanced analytics have been trialed in Singapore to help manage public safety in large crowds and respond to incidents in real time.

Wearables and embedded sensors are enabling real-time monitoring of incidents in San Francisco where firearm violence has reduced by 35% since streetlight sensors were deployed.

Trust building

Community policing can be greatly enhanced by emerging technologies.

Public safety agencies told us that achieving an improvement in citizen engagement is a key expected benefit of investing in analytics or other emerging technologies. In addition to helping prevent crime, advanced analytics can help police officers understand citizens’ needs and expectations. Effective use of mobile technology, social media tools and citizen portals can expand communication channels and enable greater citizen cooperation in policing.

All of this helps to reduce not only crime but also the fear of crime.

Begin QuoteThe public trust piece transcends everything. That’s the business we are in. Policing is and always will be a people’s business. End Quote
Jim McDonnell, Sheriff, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (U.S.)
Idea Animation
of public safety IT leaders expect to achieve or have achieved increased citizen engagement and collaboration as a result of emerging technologies
*Of those which are piloting or implementing emerging technology projects
Gear Down Animation
of public safety IT leaders expect to achieve or have achieved reduced costs through smarter ways of working as a result of emerging technologies

No excuses

When public safety technological innovation projects flounder, legacy systems often get the blame. Indeed, public safety agencies across the globe cite legacy as the dominant barrier to the implementation of emerging technologies. Platform and data-sharing technologies, however, have advanced to the stage where legacy systems are no longer a barrier for using advanced analytics, mobile and other emerging technologies. The value of legacy systems is largely in the data they contain. And now, it can be extracted, stored in a data warehouse or moved to the cloud to be readily searched.

Top three barriers to implementation

legacy system integration
lack of leadership support or understanding of potential
lack of internal skills or ability to hire

Access to talent

Cultural resistance to change is a genuine impediment to innovation, but it too can be overcome. One way is by leveraging external assistance. For example, partnerships with universities, research institutes and the private sector can bring outside expertise to bear in solving technology-related problems. Accenture’s Innovation and Integration Partnership with the West Midlands Police in the U.K. is one such example. Similarly, Accenture’s Analytical Innovation Lab in Singapore acts as a hub for public safety agencies to master emerging technologies and connect with other experts from around the world.

Agencies can also call on online communities to help solve what to technologists are extremely interesting public safety challenges. Seattle police recently conducted a public hackathon to work out how to redact video streams from officers’ body-cameras. Israel’s National Crime Unit took part in a similar event, bringing together more than 100 officers, security and technology experts to devise solutions to cybercrime.

More targeted recruiting and development of people is another way to support cultural change. Young tech-savvy specialists are often interested in the exciting challenge and mission with purpose that public safety offers. Agencies must adjust to a world of fluid talent recruitment and devise flexible employment models to attract and retain the right people.

Begin QuoteWe’re definitely recruiting on more of a digital pathway, taking on people who are headed to a digital profession, to deal with the sort of services we have to provide now for the work we do.End Quote
Dave Thompson, Chief Constable, West Midlands Police (U.K.)

Public safety IT leaders hiring strategies

44 Animation
look predominantly to the private sector to hire talent
58 Animation
look predominantly to the public sector to hire talent
but only 42% say they've made significant structural changes to their workforce

Learn fast, follow fast

Public safety agencies do need to understand emerging technologies and how they can be applied, but they do not necessarily need to be ahead of the adoption curve. With restricted budgets and limited scope for taking risks, agencies can be “fast followers” – leaning from early adopters in all sectors and adapting their implementation approaches accordingly.

Begin QuoteOne of my roles is setting up innovation days to understand the capabilities of some of these things, and where they might lead in the future. There’s sporadic knowledge at different levels in the organization, but it’s good for people to be able to see and touch and understand how other organizations—not just public sector organizations or police forces—are using them.End Quote
Angus McCallum, CIO, Metropolitan Police Service (London, U.K.)
Not when, but how:
In order to fast-track innovation and be relevant for the future, public safety agencies must view the speed and scale of digital disruption as an opportunity as much as a threat.



James Slessor

James Slessor

Managing Director, Global Public Safety

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