With a leaner and more productive model, the force is able to focus more attention on Robert Peel’s first principle of law enforcement: that the primary objective of the police is to prevent crime from happening in the first place. In the UK, data scientists are working to transform the way the police interact with citizens. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary is currently working with the London School of Economics to predict policing demand in England and Wales. In the capital, the Metropolitan Police Service has piloted a tool to identify individuals at risk of committing violent crimes—information that can be used to tackle gang-related crime.
Similar techniques are being used to settle the sometimes fraught relationship between police and the public in America. Researchers at the University of Chicago have highlighted the link between stressful incidents—such as responding to suicide or domestic-violence calls—and episodes of adverse officer interactions later in the day. These insights have been used to develop a police misconduct warning system. Wearable technology, that can monitor signs of stress, might soon add a further layer to such systems.
These initiatives promise much, but they also bring a new lens to questions regarding the legitimacy of pre-emptive action and the balance between security and privacy. A previous misconduct warning system, for example, was closed in Chicago when unions raised concerns about how officers were being treated once declared “at risk.”