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Pushing digital transformation

13 November, 2013

Speech by Policing Minister Damian Green on Monday 11 November 2013 to the College of Policing's Digital Pathfinders conference

I am delighted that so many forces, now 30, have signed up to be digital pathfinders and today’s event will provide the first of many opportunities for you to get together to highlight some of the transformational work that is going on within your forces. I hope and expect the remaining forces to come on board quickly.

Cambridgeshire have already offered to host the next meeting in January which provides momentum to the energy that you all bring to today’s event. I know that you have come here mainly to find out what other forces are doing and link up with suppliers to find out what is technologically possible. I really want all of you to come away from today with a clear idea in your head of what the next steps are for your force’s digitisation journey.

Transforming policing

The next phase of police reform – and probably the most radical yet – is about transforming how policing is delivered at the front line. I have stated publicly that at the heart of this is how officers use technology, and the importance of the role it will play.

Digital technology has the power to transform policing completely and I have an ambition that all forces are digital by 2016 and I am delighted that the College’s own National Policing Vision for 2016 supports this. I think we have only scratched the surface of what we can achieve with digital technology in policing.

Officers need to be able to routinely access information out on the street to cut crime without wasting time going back to the station. At the same time the public need to be able to access the police in a way and at a time that suits them.

Just think about how much the way we shop has changed over the last decade. We choose what we want online, choose when it is delivered to us, or choose where and when we want to collect it from.

Why should we still expect people to come into the police station to report a crime and give evidence when they might be able to do it online? Thankfully, the answer is we don’t. Sussex already allow the public to report crime and incidents online. And Avon and Somerset allows the public to track the progress of their crime online.

Transformative use of IT is pivotal to these changes, but business change – doing things differently - is also critical. This is about transforming how policing is done in a digital world and not just digitising inefficient analogue processes.

For example, things to avoid - digitisation should not mean making a paper form into a pdf and emailing it across to someone else in the Criminal Justice System. Or worse, recording digital evidence and then copying it onto three CDs, and sending one of them across to the CJS by post. If this is still happening in your force, it shouldn’t be.

This should be about re-imagining policing. At a very practical level, it means that rather than just putting the desktop interface onto a smartphone, it means totally redesigning it so it is natural and instinctive for the user, like Surrey has done with a front end user interface. Using tap and slide functions like the devices officers and most of us have at home means there is little need for instruction manuals, and a greatly reduced need for training.

Changing world

But there are some bigger questions too. What does neighbourhood policing look like in a world where more people are walking along the street looking at their friends on their smartphones rather than at people around them? How does digital technology support the Peelian principle of the police being the public and the public being the police? How does the Instagram world help you solve crime?

I’ve just come back from a visit to the US where the New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly showed me their Real Time Crime Centre and where I met some of the technology companies working with US Law enforcement, like Mike Leiter from Plantar.

How can data analytics, facial recognition and predictive policing make your work more productive? I know that Kent Police has already trialled predictive policing and that the Met are working with Plantar to test this technology in Southwark and Waltham Forest.

I am aware that doing things differently is not an easy thing, especially in big organisations. I know that from being a Minister in not just one but two departments!

I know that the College of Policing can offer support to forces around continuous improvement and organisational change which maximises the use of new technology. Doing things differently requires leadership. People need skills to maximise the use of the technology that is available – and expected by the public - in the 21st century.

Cambridgeshire is leading a huge piece of work called Project Metis which aims to totally transform the way they work and is as much about cultural change as technology. I know Simon Parr will talk more about this later.

Last summer I visited Hampshire a digital pathfinder force, where I saw digital transformation in action. I spoke to officers who explained the benefits of using laptops and tablets whilst out on duty. They can access intelligence immediately, helping them to respond appropriately to incidents as they arise. Officers told me they can park up in agreed areas, mainly crime hotspots, to upload information rather than returning to the station, allowing them to be visible in the community whilst recording necessary information. They are doing two things at once.

They are developing a number of apps to really get the best out of their mobile devices, including one on stop and search and another to carry out PNC data searches.

Digital improvements

Hampshire officers also told me about the huge benefits in using electronic witness statements including the ability to quickly and accurately input the information and the ability to authenticate the statement at the scene, all leading to an increase in victim and witness satisfaction with the way the process is carried out. As Alex was right to point out, I am the minister for victims and the criminal justice system and it is important that our digital improvements are across all of these.

Hampshire has also got 450 body worn cameras in circulation, very topical, and are planning to move to all officers having their own dedicated body-worn video. Officers were enthusiastic about being able to record the behaviour of suspects and victims which provided more compelling evidence at court.

And as you will have seen in the media recently, many people, including Alex Marshall, have set out how body-worn video can support police integrity. We need to learn from the experience in Hampshire, and elsewhere, and identify how body worn video technology can make the best possible contribution to policing.

Innovative work

But Hampshire is just one force embracing digitisation. You have all signed up to be pathfinders because your serious about doing things differently in a digital world. You are forging ahead with innovative work that you want to share with others, or you want to do something new, or both. Through talking to you, visiting your forces and seeing this work being developed or in action, we have a good understanding about the great projects that are happening.

For example, South Wales Police are piloting GPS technology which provides officers with briefing and tasking capabilities based on their geographic location. And it allows them to tell the public exactly how much time officers have spent in their area each week.

Forces are thinking about how they can use and provide publicly available information. For example, British Transport Police use social media to supplement CCTV footage and build a holistic timeline of information about victims, witnesses and suspects as they investigate their crimes. And Gwent police has a free app that allows members of the public to find out about policing in their area, including information on neighbourhood policing teams, up to date contact details and force news. This is basic information that the public wants.

Avon and Somerset are one of more than 20 forces exploring an e-commerce online payment system so it easier to pay for firearms and potentially other licenses. This will save the public from filling in paper forms and having to make a trip to the station to make the payment.

This sort of service is not remotely new in the commercial world, or in fact, in other parts of government, but this is a quite significant step forward to digitisation in the policing environment. They have also put in place a new HR system which understands police regulations, allowing them to automate all salary payments. It allows officers to book on and book off and, subject to supervision, their payments automatically update – cutting out the need for officers to claim overtime manually.

Dyfed Powys have developed and implemented a Primary Nominal Index which is providing officers with a unique identifier for all records held by a force on a particular individual. This unique identifier can cut across multiple databases within a force, something I know has been a challenge for some other systems. This speeds up all of their processes and providing a much more reliable intelligence capability. Both Avon and Somerset and Dyfed Powys are willing to share with other forces both their learning and the technology. I urge you to speak to them today.

Seamless information flow

I am pleased to hear that a number of your forces are testing digital case files, which will allow seamless information flow throughout the criminal justice system. Nottinghamshire are one of the first forces to test the new case file for ‘retail theft’ and early results show that of those cases deemed suitable to be sent forward to court all so far have had the successful outcome of a guilty plea. That’s good for justice and police efficiency.

I know this knowledge of what is happening elsewhere is the main reason that many of you have come to the conference. The afternoon sessions will give you a great opportunity to identify people who are doing similar things and share your experiences, identify people who want to do similar things and therefore opportunities to work together and identify suppliers who can help you achieve your ambitions.

I know there are people here today who specialise in providing secure mobile communications (Mobbu and Nine23), and can provide connectivity (Airbox). From this conference, I want you all to identify the next step to take on your forces’ digitisation journey.

Of course, the pathfinder initiative has also provided a valuable opportunity for you to flag some of the blockers that are holding you back. For example a number of you have raised with us that further clarity is needed on the use of mobile devices and I am pleased that the government’s communication security advisors are here to run a session on a wide range of secure devices. We need to bust the myth that only Blackberry are permitted, particularly given the state of Blackberry’s parent company at the moment.

You have also flagged the need for better interface with other parts of the CJS. We have heard you and this government, alongside our policing partners, will look to unblock any of those issues as soon as we can. We are not going to create a central IT system. But we are going to do the boring, but vital bit.

We will set the technical standards to ensure that data is collected in compatible formats and that systems can speak to each other. We will create digital storage solutions so that the increasing amount of digital evidence can be stored efficiently without being transferred on email.

And through the Emergency Service Mobile Communications Programme, we are providing a replacement for the Airwave service when current contracts expire, which will ensure that the emergency services have critical voice and broadband data connectivity so that interoperability between emergency services is assured.

A key theme that will run throughout the day will be what you want to get out of the pathfinder initiative. We are not going to tell you how to run this so it is down to you to tell us what you want and how best we can support you, but be assured we support you.

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