In 2015, experts from the UK’s Ministry of Justice, Home Office and Government Digital Service joined together to create the Digital Justice Project.
Over the course of twelve weeks, the team investigated what a “joined-up justice system would look like agnostic of organisational boundaries.” The team found mapping the current system to be massively complex, thanks to numerous silos and systems. As the justice system was never actually designed, but grew organically over hundreds of years, the team knew change was needed.
The project culminated in the team presenting two recommendations for transforming the justice system for the
twenty-first century; Improving the front door to justice and enabling stakeholders to access the right data at the right time.
The Future of Public Safety
Digital Justice hasn’t been the only organisation to identify the benefits data access could provide law enforcement agencies across the globe.
One report uncovered that improved access to data such as CCTV footage, could reduce time spent on low-level crime (which currently costs about £130/€150 million a year in the UK) by at least 25%. Not only saving cost, but freeing up
officer time so they can spend more time on the streets protecting the public.
Improving collaboration and data sharing is central to modernisation too. Take the European Judicial Cybercrime Network. It was established just last year to enhance cooperation across Europe in cybercrime investigations and for sharing expertise, knowledge and best practice.
Despite the benefits a technology-equipped and digitally skilled justice system would provide, many agencies struggle to modernise. It’s a problem that is even concerning government leaders. In 2016 at the Police ICT Company suppliers summit then Home Secretary Theresa May declared:
“Today too much money is still spent on expensive, fragmented and outdated systems. Police officers all too often use technology that lags woefully behind what they use as consumers. And there is an unacceptable lack of digital join up with the criminal justice system and other agencies.”
Growing pools of data
One problem I regularly hear while speaking to police forces is the management of data pools, increasing in volume day after day. This isn’t just an IT issue, it’s something that’s challenging Officers on the frontline. Even the smallest case generates a lot of data and the problem is that it’s almost impossible to classify any evidence as valuable or not. Complex cases can take years of investigative resource and data needs to be readily accessible throughout. A Police Officer might not deem something as valuable today but it might be critical in the future.
Data can be hard to access too. In terms of managing sources such as body-camera video, data tends to be controlled by point system or functional owners. As a result, data is typically siloed, difficult to access and expensive to manage when providing access to an entire force.
The changing nature of crime
Cybercrime and online bullying are two examples of relatively new crimes police forces are having to adapt to. Cybercrime has attracted substantial media attention, and according to Europol, 85% of European internet users feel at risk from it. Moreover, law enforcement agencies are not only having to deal with the crime, but many new types of data
including dark web conversations and social media posts too.
Moreover, data access and availability aren’t the only challenges facing police forces. Any database holding the sensitive data justice systems work with also needs to be secure. A technology-equipped and digitally skilled police force requires solutions which provide audit trail right down to the mouse click. Officers should also be able to control who can view or manage data down to a single piece of evidence.
So, what steps can police forces take to move their transformation and modernisation efforts forward?
- Don’t try to boil the ocean. Start small, choose 3 or 4 evidence types like body-worn video or CCTV and start ingesting those types of evidence into a central platform and applying them to cases. Then grow your evidence types over time as officers get used to the system.
- Nominate a Senior Officer as the Transformation Ambassador. Police forces need a senior sponsor to push the agenda. To overcome engrained ways of doing things, you need people with strong messages and influence that can cascade down.
- Establish a project team which includes operational staff. The senior officer should build a cohesive project team which includes several officers. Transformation is not just an IT project, it is about enabling and driving efficiency in policing. Criminals from Birmingham to Utrecht are harnessing technology to increase the impact of their crimes. To tackle this trend police forces need to take advantage of today’s technology too.
Through solutions such as Hitachi Digital Evidence Management Hitachi is focused on supporting Police
Forces around the globe to transform and modernise. And we look forward to sharing more solutions and case studies with you over the coming weeks.