The nature of crime is changing rapidly. Violent crime has risen 19% in the past year alone; robbery has increased by 30%, knife crime has soared by 80% over the past five years and domestic violence has reached five-year high. Alongside rising levels of ‘traditional’ crimes, police forces across the country face a variety of new challenges – from terrorist offences to cyber crime and fraud. How does the force of the future respond to this?
The nature of crime continues to evolve, with the threat from cyber crime growing in scope and sophistication; from fraud and data theft, to exploitation, stalking and harassment. In response, police forces must stay ahead of the game in terms of their own levels of sophistication. Policing infrastructure and approaches must evolve quickly to ensure that officers are equipped and prepared to face a multitude of challenges that did not exist five-ten years ago.
The force of the future will attract and retain the best talent
A key focus area will be equipping new recruits with the skills and knowledge to respond to a more complex landscape of crime. Nationally, transformation of policing Learning & Development (L&D) is already underway. The College of Policing has rolled out the Policing Education Qualification Framework, which provides more academic rigour in the training of new recruits. New officers will receive teaching in a broader range of subjects, such as digital policing, wellbeing, resilience, vulnerability and risk.
However, academic rigour alone is not enough. In the future, forces will need to be at the cutting edge of operational training. Learning environments will move from classrooms, observations and shadowing, to mock court rooms and hospital wards, cyber crime laboratories and simulation centres. L&D teams will have to ensure they are able to adapt to the pace of change, becoming agile in their response to the changing needs of forces. This will require rapidly deploying new learning in order to ensure operational staff stay abreast of the changing face of crime.
Learning delivery styles will alter too – with immersive learning at the forefront, delivered through augmented reality, virtual classrooms and gamification. Such training methods are already being trialled; the New York Police Department recently began a pilot programme using virtual reality as a training tool to simulate real life policing scenarios, such as active shooters. These new training methodologies will support learning across forces, and will also bring together a number of services and agencies (e.g. military, counter terrorism, ambulance and fire services) to learn how to manage complex scenarios.
Such varied and engaging approaches will not only ensure that future officers are better equipped to carry out their role, but will signal a step change for the policing profession. Far more focus will be placed on critical analysis and reflection skills – attributes that will serve as core pillars of modern police service culture going forward.
The front line will use technology as a force multiplier
Whilst advances in technology can complicate the nature of crime, the force of the future will leverage technology to speed up processes and free up officer capacity.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) platforms will sift through vast amounts of data from apps, databases and reports from the public, so that information can be fed to officers on patrol in real time. Digital systems are under development that will allow the rapid identification of illegal digital material; speeding up the pace of investigations and improving victim experience. Even further in the future, driverless car technology could be used to securely transport suspects while officers remain on patrol.
Facial recognition technology already exists for the biometric processing of video imagery, and has been trialled by the Metropolitan Police Service, and forces in Manchester, Leicester and South Wales. In the future, this technology may be integrated into body worn cameras to create a map of possible suspects’ movements.
However, facial recognition trials have also faced controversy, with questions being raised around ethics, human rights and efficacy. An independent analysis of trial data by the University of Essex found that matches were only correct in approximately 20% of cases. In order to leverage this technical advancement, the force of the future will need to ensure that there is a strong legal case for its use, and the confidence of the public is gained.
A smarter force needs a smarter workplace
Technology will not only provide innovative ways of fighting crime, but also support a better place to work for officers and staff. The force of the future will move away from the typical ‘command and control’ leadership, to a more flexible working approach enabled by technology, where results are judged on outputs and not presenteeism. The Metropolitan Police Service is currently leading the way, by actively recruiting part-time officers.
Giving officers the technology they need to access information and file reports on the move will also increase officer presence on the streets. By embedding a culture of ‘smarter working’, police forces will make the organisation a better place to work; enhancing the wellbeing, attraction and retention of officers, and potentially saving money through a reduced estates footprint.
The force of the future will form powerful partnerships
When it comes to fighting crime, geographical boundaries can be a hindrance. 40% of the organised crime threat in the UK is linked back to London – for example through ‘county lines’ drugs gangs – demonstrating how all police forces must have the right partnership arrangements in place to share resources, intelligence and capability. A county lines coordination centre has been established in Birmingham, which aims to use intelligence to develop a national picture of drug gangs’ networks.
Working collaboratively with the public will also change in the future. As population growth outstrips increases in officer numbers, maintaining a strong relationship with the community they are entrusted to keep safe may become more difficult. In the future, forces will see widespread adoption and optimisation of technology, such as the Self Evident app, which is used by citizens to share information about minor crimes in their local area. This will enable a new level of responsiveness and help to build trust with local communities.
With challenge comes great opportunity
The complexity of crime and the unstable conditions in which forces operate will only continue to increase. It is critical for the future of policing that forces harness their ability to evolve with the needs of the public. Police forces across the country must therefore be courageous and look to embrace change as an opportunity, setting a compelling vision and putting clear structure around delivery. This will ensure that both the public and police officers feel the benefits of change.
Harnessing modern training approaches, technology, and ‘smarter’ working practices will ensure that forces can stay ahead of the curve and continue to keep the public safe. Having the right expertise to deliver complex technology-enabled change and ensuring that leaders feel empowered to make important strategic decisions will be key.
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