How the Public Make Contact with the Police

Today making the best use of technology is high on the agenda in UK policing. Senior officials are continually looking at ways in improving their use of technology, in order to keep more officers on the streets, aid in their investigations as well as making it easier for the public to report incidents and crime.

We spoke to Mark Burns -Williamson, Chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners on the use of technology in the reporting and management of crime.

Mark commented:

“People use technology in their everyday lives now and there is an expectation from the public that the police are making the best use of technology.”

The way in which citizens are reporting crime is changing as well as a huge strain felt on the 999 and 101 telephone systems – meaning that police forces across the UK are looking at ways in which they can provide better contact services to citizens through the use of technology.

Much like other service providers with a public contact need, the police must look at more ways in which the public can digitally make contact whether be online, via instant messaging applications or by other means.

This interview is part of our Policing Spotlight series where we explore key issues relating to policing in the UK, with senior law enforcement figures. To view the video interview and follow the series, visit our Policing Spotlight page.

How Technology Helps Incident Room Call Handlers

In an emergency situation police control room call handlers need effective technology solutions to help them respond and deploy the appropriate help to, in many cases, life or death situations.

We spoke to Steve Austin, Regional Account Manager of APD, a partner of Sopra Steria.

SmartContact  is a control room solution jointly provided by Sopra Steria and APD. It enables the public to make contact with the police via various channels for example through web chat or instant messaging. In some cases, the issue can be resolved swiftly through this means of communication.

A call handler is able to track an individual’s call history, through the audit trail of contacts provided by the systems Customer Relationship Management (CRM) capabilities. This crucially provides the call handler context in relation to a particular individual e.g. a vulnerable person who may contact the police in a particular way to report being in danger. This information is made immediately available to the call handler each time the individual makes contact.

Technology can and does help call handlers in police incident rooms manage critical calls more effectively providing increased assistance to the public.

This interview is part of our Policing Spotlight series where we explore key issues relating to policing in the UK, with senior law enforcement figures. To view the video interview and follow the series, visit our Policing Spotlight page.

Policing on the frontline – observations from an evening on patrol

There is no denying that as a society we face many issues, at a macro level we are tackling issues around immigration, organised crime and drugs. Locally, our police forces find themselves dealing with petty criminals, knife crime, drug misuse and domestic violence. Police officers find themselves trying to operate in the face of increasing bureaucracy, stiffer scrutiny, decreasing funding and dwindling officer numbers. 

A survey undertaken by the Police Federation earlier this year revealed that smaller numbers of officers were on patrol and in some cases working alone, with nine in ten officers saying they don’t feel there are enough of them to manage demand. Officers find themselves having to be more reactive than proactive, yet continue to work tirelessly, with the resources they have, in order to keep the public safe.

I say this because recently I experienced many of these issues first hand. As a long standing technology provider to South Yorkshire, assisting them in their emergency and crime response, I was interested to experience the realities of being on a patrol shift.  I joined two PCs Simon and Kieron of South Yorkshire Police on an evening patrol shift.

The police continue to do a great job despite depleted resources and increased pressures

During patrol Simon showed me what technology and communications they routinely used.  He was honest about the positive and negative aspects of what technology was delivering both to the front line PC and the command and control staff who support them. The picture is mixed and there is certainly more that technology can do to give front line officers better situational awareness, control of resources and better intelligence on which to base operations. 

After only a short time on patrol, we responded to a shop lifting at a major DIY store. Intrinsically not a serious offence, but dig a little deeper and you find that the perpetrators were part of a wider group of people, which would constitute an organised crime network. 

I was told that groups target various aisles in various stores and steal either to supply themselves or to sell on for the cash. They target large stores and stores with a ‘no challenge’ policy (in place to protect their staff). I can only imagine the cost to business of this endemic problem.

Our patrol decided that these particular culprits should be arrested. By making that decision it meant five officers and three vehicles were needed to arrest the offenders and take them into custody – female officers were required to attend due to some of the offending group being female.

This is a prime example of an issue that affects society at local and macro level, and one that our police officers have to contend with as a part of their day-to-day efforts.  

It’s not as simple as we need more police on the streets

In the example of the patrol shift I was on, what struck me are the systemic issues facing a Police Officer nowadays. After the arrest of the shoplifters, the two officers on patrol then returned to the station to complete paperwork for the remainder of the shift.

In a seven hour shift, the officers I was with were only able to respond to one incident. The rest of the shift was spent doing the required reporting, paperwork and chain of evidence needed to process these three people, all of whom were released later the same day to face charges again at some point in the future.

There are wider systemic and societal issues at play

The criminal justice system can at times exacerbate the issue. In crimes similar to the incident I witnessed, there is a cycle of re-offence, short term incarceration and then release to begin the cycle again.

With no threat of serious consequences, criminals will continue to offend in this way without the threat of their lives being significantly altered. This results in officers time and time again, having to focus their efforts on the arrest of re-offenders and the resource that comes with it.

Huge societal pressures coupled with lack of funding and suboptimal use of technology is making life harder for our police on the ground.

What also struck me is the disrespect shown to the police, and the wider criminal system. Due to changing attitudes and in the knowledge that they will not face severe consequences, some people feel it is OK for police officers to be disrespected, taunted and verbally and physically abused. It isn’t right, and although the police take it in their stride they really should be better protected.

Being on patrol for only a few hours felt like a microcosm of today’s society. With serious organised crime, as well as knife and gang related crime plaguing our local communities, our police officers are under unprecedented pressure to keep the public safe and combat crime, while being subject to abuse themselves.

Technology can help if maximised

My reason for going on patrol with an officer was to gain frontline insight into why we do what we do at Sopra Steria.

We are long term supporters of the public sector and law enforcement in the UK – providing digital transformation and critical technology to our emergency services, including information and communications technology to aid control room and incident response through our SmartSTORM and SmartContact systems. 

Policy changes to keep PCs out of the station and on the streets are a welcome development. However to do this right, officers and their vehicles have to be equipped with the right information and communications technology. For example, cars need to be transformed into true mobile operating units, with high definition screens integrating the full suite of information and communications technology which aid officers in quick and effective response.    

It is easy to cast over-simplified assertions on the realities of how safe our streets are today. My experience on patrol demonstrates a very complex landscape in regards to frontline policing.

In the quest for more proactive preventative policing, maximising current technology, and striving for continued innovation will go a long way towards helping our police forces run more effectively in serving and protecting the public.

Vern Davis, Managing Director, Aersopace, Defence and Security

Technology and the fight against child abuse

Technology has a critical role to play in the fight against the abuse of children and minors.

It enables law enforcement in identifying offenders online and assisting in the investigation of criminality relating to child abuse – including grooming of minors online, the distribution of indecent imagery and serious organised crime networks involving child trafficking.

Yet technology is also part of the problem, and as it advances so does the ability to facilitate abuse. Organised child abuse is now a pertinent issue internationally due to the ease in which perpetrators can access and facilitate materials and networks through web applications and other devices. 

We spoke to Chief Constable Simon Bailey, Chief Constable of Norfolk Constabulary and NPCC lead for Child Protection and Abuse Investigations.

Simon comments:

“Technology is enabling me to lead the fight against this criminality however technology is also being used to facilitate abuse”.

Simon highlights that the public should always bring any concerns of child abuse to the attention of the police. There is a question around vigilante groups and their motives in the safeguarding of the children at the centre of abuse. Ultimately the only way to protect and safeguard children is to contact the police as soon as any wrongdoing or abuse is suspected.

This interview is part of our Policing Spotlight series where we explore key issues relating to policing in the UK, with senior law enforcement figures. To view the video interview and follow the series, visit our Policing Spotlight page.

ICT in Policing – Insight Into User Perspectives

The Police ICT User Perspectives survey results were released at the end of last year by CoPaCC as a finger on the pulse on police and employees’ perspectives on their ICT infrastructure. It was the second instalment in the series, with the next due out in the coming months.

A recognised survey across law enforcement in the UK, and the largest public sector survey of its kind, CoPaCC surveyed a total of 4,000 police officers across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The comprehensive survey produced a staggering 18,500 free-text comments providing invaluable insight into perspectives on ICT within policing.

We spoke to Bernard Rix, Chief Executive of CoPaCC  on some of the key findings from the survey.

There are a number of opportunities for improved ICT within policing relating to the fundamentals:

  • More efficient use of passwords
  • Improved printing facilities
  • Investment in bandwidth to support new systems
  • Integration of systems

CoPaCC’s  recommendations were:

  • For forces to look at the findings from the survey not just through the lens of improving systems, but improving the infrastructure that accompanies them
  • IT helpdesks are typically Monday to Friday, 9-5pm and they need to be 24/7 365 as forces are

The fantastic volume and depth of data collated from the survey means that as well as the overall report already published, CoPaCC will soon be publishing a series of ‘deep dive’ reports that look at the data in more depth.

These reports will be published in September as the CoPaCC Police ICT: Forces in Focus series. This series deep dives the results of the ten forces providing the largest response to the survey. The main report in the series will compare and contrast the ICT provision of these diverse forces and benchmark them against the overall UK results. Three further regional appendix reports will provide in-depth analysis of each of the ten forces individually.

The reports will chart the quantitative results and provide unique insight into the specific challenges faced by each force in the eyes of their officers and staff, through analysis of their in-depth comments.

This interview is part of our Policing Spotlight series where we explore key issues relating to policing in the UK, with senior law enforcement figures. To view the video interview and follow the series, visit our Policing Spotlight page.