West Midlands police save £5m with digitisation
A partnership between West Midlands Police (WMP) and Accenture offers some direction for those seeking to understand how digital innovations can secure better policing outcomes. Having faced the second largest funding fall of police forces in England and Wales under the Coalition Government, WMP realised they would not achieve their objectives for 2020 without redesigning their working methods. Shifting communications to online channels has already saved the force £5 million, while apps that allow officers to resolve tasks remotely will reduce the amount of time spent in transit. On their own, these initiatives sound small—but the plan is more than the sum of its parts. WMP’s 2020 model promises to deliver savings in each year of the parliament and deliver a better officer and citizen experience.
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.”