Ahead of next month's Modernising Criminal Justice conference we interviewed some of the polices forces from across the UK to find out more about their current challenges, how they're implementing technology to help with post-Covid recovery, and, looking to the future, what trends they see in police technology being implemented in the coming year.
A huge thank you to West Yorkshire Police, West Midlands Police, British Transport Police, West Mercia Police, the Metropolitan Police and Wessex Police for their help and insights.
Shared challenges across the UK
Right across the UK, the biggest challenges that were reported by our delegates are: the difficulty keeping up with the volume of workload; managing the backlogs in courts created by the pandemic; and ensuring the police maintain public confidence by checking that first-contact methods are accessible to all, regardless of age, prosperity or background.
"One challenge is ensuring the force maintains public confidence by allowing first-contact methods to be accessible to all and reflective of the current communication methods used by all facets of society, both young and old. This means keeping open traditional methods of speaking to the police and reporting incidents and calls for service, as well as ensuring newer communication methods are available. This is made more challenging by the sometimes fast-paced rise and fall of popularity of some communication platforms. Forces need to be agile in their approach to working with various methods of communication and ensure that investment in technical solutions are able to integrate with other systems to allow for change to implemented more efficiently and effectively."
- Representative, British Transport Police
Other issues that were brought up very closely echo what AC Nick Ephgrave of the Met Police spoke to us about in his recent interview, including: staff burnout due to increased workloads and lack of respite over the last 12 months; crime being on the rise again post-pandemic; and ensuring technology infrastructure within the police keeps pace with the technological advancements within our communities.
"Our people have done magnificently well through the pandemic, but the outcome is that they haven't have their holidays or rest days. We’ve had to ask them to step-up and do more, and I think there’s going to be a price to pay for that in terms of burnout and big chunks of leave that need to be taken. So that’s a logistical challenge and a well-being challenge for our organisation, whichever force you’re in."
- AC Nick Ephgrave, Metropolitan Police
Using technology to overcome Covid-19 challenges
The last 12 months have seen huge leaps in how we use technology to operate: no least, enabling staff to progress investigations even if they are shielding or having to work from home, and without having to come into contact with victims and witnesses.
Some of these remote processes that have been implemented with great success are:
- Ability to apply for search warrants remotely
- Seeking extensions to custody detention times from the courts
- Conducting interviews with solicitors remotely
- Taking statements digitally, using existing IT portals
- Interviewing defendants via telephone and video to prepare Pre-Sentence Reports
- New, digital ID procedure, allowing staff to conduct ID procedures remotely and advance investigations that would have otherwise stalled
- Increased use of e-mail and text to keep Victims and Witnesses updated
- Creation of a bespoke Witness Care website that provides virtual court tours, updates on Covid measures and testimonies from both the magistrates and Crown courts, to ensure they understand the court process
- Increased use of Cloud Video Platform (CVP) for victims and witnesses to give evidence – in some cases even enabling Victims to join a hearing from abroad
- Gaining secure access to the local CPS’ EGRESS system, allowing the force to transmit CCTV and Hard media case files digitally – saving time, reducing security risks and increasing efficiency
- A Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS) to reduce the use of hard media for the viewing and transfer of digital evidence
"The use of virtual technology is key in gaining the best possible outcomes for service users, victims and the public."
- Representative, Wessex CJS Recovery Group
Enhancing technology and digital tools for the future
It’s not just because of the fall-out from the pandemic that the UK's police are implementing innovative technologies. Looking towards the future and out of lockdown, we asked our delegates where investment is being made in the next 12 months, in addition to force-wide projects such as the Common Platform.
On the whole, most projects seem to be a continuation of the processes that were sped into effect due to the pandemic, but which worked so well that they're being expanded; for example:
- Extending IT systems to support remote access to not just a few interview rooms, but to all interview room suites. This will include those used for V/A interviews because the IT also allows the introduction of digital evidence much more easily into an interview, on top of the video connectivity.
- Allowing victims to produce a Victim Personal Statement (VPS) through an online portal that is open and available 24/7, to improve witness care.
- Increasing and improving upon the use of Digital Evidence Management Systems (DEMS) to assist in the digital transmission of hard media, possibly even with a view to eliminating the use of hard media all together.
- Introducing a bespoke Geospatial Intel & Tasking software product that will allow the force to automatically send notifications to officers based on their specific ‘real time’ location.
For more information and to share your force's ideas for the future, why not join us online at Modernising Criminal Justice on 23rd June: www.modernising-justice.co.uk
We'll be addressing the issues of improving public trust in the criminal justice system, reducing reoffending, and how technology can help modernise both the police force and the rest of the CJS.
Jessica Kimbell, GovNet