Analytics: the Digital Policing Revolution

Policing and the digital revolution

Have a look at this clip from Youtube (‘Analytics’ – it only lasts a couple of minutes) linked below and ask yourself, while you’re watching it, if this guy can do it, can a neighbourhood PCSO access such real-time intelligence as well?


Analytics might be described, for policing purposes, as the capability to deal with mass and bulk data in real time from within police systems, digital information and intelligence from the world wide web. Traditional analysis, on the other hand, can be slower, more retrospective crunching and assessing of information by collating and trawling through various separate sources.

We all would probably accept that the world has pretty much gone digital, so is it time for policing to catch up, or maybe get ahead? You may think this is more Minority Report than Dixon of Dock Green, but remember the Peelian principle: ‘the police are the public and the public are the police’? Policing just reflects changes in wider society. Just what would be the opportunities from advancing analytics for policing in combating emergent risk, threat and harm?

Jon White, Threat Assessment Unit Manager for Leicestershire Police, says, “Data quality is a massive issue for police forces, but that doesn’t stop the likes of Google making sense of the data and processing it accordingly. Policing needs to be more like Google Now which learns about an individual’s habits and begins to volunteer things that someone needs to know, at the right time.”

So it seems the capability to access more, dynamically, is a concept already available, and in action, in the commercial sector. But, are there any ethical or legal restraints that are different for policing? Professor Bill Dixon, of the University of Nottingham, says, “Big data has an enormous amount to offer to police forces who know how, and when, to use it – but only if they also respect the privacy of the digital citizen and can strike the right balance between liberty and security.”

Getting that balance right in the interests of public accountability, legitimacy – and safety – is just one part of this challenge. The current imperative to innovate might be explained as a set of needs:-

– to have technology at the push of a button to provide real-time intelligence, as business as usual;

– to be able to access a real-time artificial intelligence picture about criminality;

– to have swifter and effective analytics and science, using things like Machine Learning, data federation, virtualisation, modelling and prediction;

– in short, a digital revolution!

It’s about having that conversation about analytics – beyond analysis in a way – for a dynamic alternative. As ever, EMPAC is motivated not just in commenting, but in acting: to drive innovation in policing across the East Midlands. To that end we’re working on a symposium right now to get policing professionals as well as cutting edge academics in one room to explore the challenges but also the opportunities and ways forward. If you have a particular skills set you think would be relevant and want to get involved give us a call!


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