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Preparing for the future in U.S. policing

Six steps to police transformation.

Overview

For police agencies everywhere, the principles of maintaining law and order and protecting public safety remain the same. But the environment in which this mandate is carried out is changing dynamically.

The findings of a recent Accenture study which included a series of in-depth interviews with 20 senior police leaders from across the U.S.1, found that most organizations share common challenges and goals. And in this era of disruption, most agencies are rapidly moving to adapt, innovate and transform to meet the evolving challenges in law enforcement.

While there is no “silver bullet” solution, Accenture’s recent study among senior police leaders in the U.S. identified six steps police forces can take to help them address these challenges, embracing operational, organizational and technological change to build a foundation for the future.

1Source: Accenture online survey of 2,000 citizens across the United States, conducted by Penn Schoen Berland, September 2014.

Background

Our study identified three core trends that are driving change in policing:

  • Budget pressures and evolving threats to community safety, are forcing agencies to look for new operating and organizational models that improve use of resources, increase speed and efficiency in the delivery of services, and support greater collaboration.

  • Rising citizen expectations around access to police services and information, transparency and accountability, and a desire to collaborate more in reducing crime through community policing programs, are requiring police to engage with citizens in new and cost-effective ways and reshape their organization’s mission and culture to adapt to changing societal demands.

  • Crime is increasingly more sophisticated, organized and complex, requiring police agencies to develop new strategies and harness an array of technologies that can support intelligence-led policing, leveraging digital tools from mobile to surveillance, data-rich networks and analytics to proactively fight crime, while carefully balancing individual privacy and civil liberties.

Key Findings

Step 1. Engage citizens:
Police services must embrace a range of communications channels that enable two-way dialogue and interact with citizens in new, more personalized and cost-effective ways. Citizen engagement should be online, social as well as face-to-face, and underpinned by trust. Police departments have generally embraced digital communications, especially websites and social media. But most chiefs acknowledge they are just beginning to take advantage of all the opportunities digital to mobile channels present.

Step 2. Empower police officers:
Police investigations rely on accurate and timely information. Officers need to be empowered with technology that offers real-time access to information when and where needed to achieve operational benefits and cost savings. U.S. police leaders are now investing in new technologies, ranging from mobile computing devices to real-time crime centers, analytics software, body-worn cameras, information sharing systems and more, to improve investigations, productivity, and information sharing.

Step 3. Optimize ways of working:
Embracing operational and organization change, along with new technologies, police departments can better utilize resources, lower the cost of providing and delivering services, and support efficiency gains to address future demands. By using predictive modeling to align resources to demands, agencies can not only react in real-time, but proactively make the best use of assets, including allocating officers to areas where they are most needed to increase productivity and results.

Step 4. Predict and improve services through analytics:
Analytics is a critical part of a new wave of technologies that lie at the heart of real-time intelligence. Predictive analytics allows police organizations to get the most from their data, providing analysis to better predict and respond to crime trends and patterns. Systems that incorporate social factors and local demographics, help police anticipate crime, tackle chronic recidivism and manage risk more effectively. Data analytics is also being used to predict crime hotspots, enabling proactive crime-fighting strategies.

Step 5. Enhance collaboration:
Now more than ever, public safety organizations need to cooperate, share information and resources with each other regionally, nationally, and even internationally. As well, collaboration needs to encompass more than just fellow police agencies to be truly effective. The private sector, other public service organizations, and, of course, citizens themselves—are all sources of information that could be important to a criminal investigations and need to be drawn into a collective effort to meet public safety challenges.

Step 6. Proactively manage change:
Police leaders need to manage and implement change effectively across their organization, to help their organizations understand and accept new ways of working, roles and identities, as well as new technologies. Focusing on education and skills-development programs engages stakeholders, reinforces a culture of learning, and ensures successful adoption of new tools, structures and processes to support individual and organizational performance.

Video

Preparing police services for the future

Hear Accenture’s global police services team describe six steps that public safety agencies can take to help transform how they serve citizens and prepare police organizations for the future.

Recommendations

In a time of unprecedented change, police organizations have a unique opportunity to transform. Considering these six steps, police services can adapt and evolve their operations and organizations to better predict and respond to crime, utilize resources, improve policing strategies, engage and serve citizens, and prepare for the future of public safety.


Author

Jody Weis

Jody Weis is director of Accenture’s Public Safety business in North America. Previously, he served as Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, the second largest police agency in the United States. Prior to that, he spent 23 years in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, most recently as Special Agent in Charge (SAC) for the Philadelphia Field Office, overseeing one of the FBI’s largest field operations.


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