Digital works – and here’s the evidence

How police forces have turned to tech to respond and recover from a pandemic

In January 2020, at the Police ICT Summit in Manchester, the National Policing Digital Strat- egy was launched. Te initiative, published by the National Police Chiefs Council and the Associa- tion of Police and Crime Com- missioners, builds on its previous PolicingVision 2025 aims. It is designed to support and encour- age forces to take advantage of new technologies and opportuni- ties, in order to respond to the digital challenges that forces are facing right now and will do in the decade ahead. Te ink barely had time to dry

on the new strategy when forces were tasked with the consider- able challenge of supporting the government in its handling of Covid-19. In doing so it created an even stronger impetus to ac- celerate the introduction of new ways of working, supported by the adoption of innovative new technologies. Te good news has been that

many forces in the UK have already made significant progress in their digital strategies in the past few years, such as Merseyside Police, North Wales Police and the South East Regional Integrated Policing Programme (SERIP), which includes Tames Valley, Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex forces. Notably, each of these forces have focused on using technologies to improve how in- vestigations are handled and how the exponential increase in digital evidence they are confronted

An officer from Cleveland police force uses NICE Investigate, NICE’s digital evidence management solution

with, is managed throughout the chain of custody.

In response to Covid-19, North Wales Police was one of the first to take the initiative and digitally transform work processes around evidence collection and sharing, using a digital evidence manage- ment software (DEMS) solution, to help reduce the spread of infection. Superintendent Jason Devonport said: “We’ve transitioned our processes from officers travelling to collect digital evidence on a disc or USB to being able to do all of this online. As well as eliminat- ing unnecessary risks around handling media and travelling to various locations, this also means our officers are able to review vital evidence faster as well.” Te work of North Wales Police

was further validated when the England and Wales Crown Pros- ecution Service (CPS) made the request to all forces that digital media should not be physically handled. Te cloud, once viewed

with suspicion by many forces, then became a necessity as a cen- tral repository for ingesting and sharing evidence digitally without the need for it to be handled multiple times. Te approach from the likes

of North Wales Police and, more recently, Cleveland Police and Leicestershire Police is strength- ened by the fact that both the CPS and Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) have approved DEMS technology.

As Allan Graham, project manager for Leicestershire Police, says: “In addition to sharing evidence quickly to the CPS for pre-charging decisions our officers were also quick to recognise the ability to speed up remand deci- sions. Getting body-worn video and CCTV footage to the CPS fast enough to obtain a pre-charge or remand decision was simply not possible with our previous manual evidence sharing methods and this often resulted in a suspect being

bailed or released under investiga- tion. With DEMS we were able to share digital case evidence imme- diately and that meant decisions could be made much faster.” With fingers crossed it, seems

that the pandemic is beginning to finally subside and forces can begin to focus their attention from recovery and response to coronavirus to their longer-term digital transformation strategies. From crowdsourcing evidence via thousands of pieces of digital media as part of an investigation, to building detailed simulations for complex responses to limit risk, using in-home sensors to assess a crime scene, or machine learning to detect patterns in an investigation — what seemed like science fiction a decade ago is now a reality. l


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