Policing 5.0

Professor John Coxhead (who works with EMPAC, as part of the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, and the Universities of East London, Loughborough, Manchester Metropolitan and Wales) was invited to speak at the World Police Summit, hosted in Dubai in 2023, and one of the topics presented was research about Policing 5.0. In the context of policing innovation, creativity, enterprise and learning, 5.0 conceptualises a cultural and rationalist paradigm shift within our time that signifies a maturation of humanistic policing: in short, policing is about people

What is 5.0?

5.0 has become adopted within several facets of industry, that better blends humanistic contribution with technology. 4.0 has been more associated with the surge in technology, as witnessed via artificial intelligence, automation, big data analytics, robotics, the Internet of Things, machine learning, smart systems and virtualisation.

Whilst representing progress, that rapidity of change left some commentators anxious, and even fearful, about where people fit in to such a future, which, in its most extreme cases resemble a form of Luddite counter-action to change. 

How is 5.0 different to 4.0?

5.0 is a more mature and harmonious blend that utilises the best of technology and human insight, and deploys both to their own strengths, in a complementary fashion.

Policing 5.0 moves us beyond the data driven interpretation of science to a more holistic and contextualised application. 4.0 in many ways exposed and widened perceived divides between science and professional practice in policing, often putting these at odds against each other rather than merging them collaboratively.

The European Union have asserted that 5.0 differs from 4.0 in that it takes a more humanistic focus towards the production process and reinforces the role and contribution of industry to society (2023). That means a shift beyond the efficiencies of 4.0 towards the effectiveness of 5.0.

What ‘science’, for whom, and who gets to decide?

The cultural industrial growth cycles from 4.0 to 5.0 have, like previous industrial revolutions, been aligned to knowledge and skills as a form of paradigm shift in enlightenment. 

The re-set in 5.0 is about the harmonisation of co-locating human centric professional practice alongside technology, and this is highly relevant to contemporary policing.

Professor Coxhead explains, “we have seen for a few years now a push for data driven algorithmic forms of positivist science applied to policing, which has enhanced efficiencies in many ways. However, many of the pressing challenges facing policing right now are cultural, such as trust and confidence, in a social science context, and the predominance of a pure or hard science mindset appears to be resisting the social scientific in some form of power struggle.

“This is unhelpful for policing practice, which needs a balanced and blended approach, and moreover needs a 5.0 outlook to articulate how technology is a tool for the human mind and agency. 4.0 was never a threat to professional practice, it simply had not matured enough to find a harmonised place. 5.0 offers that personalised thinking – where the best of professional insight and judgement is supported by the best technology. That, ironically, mirrors how criminality (mis)uses the tool of technology all the time. We need to embrace future change as opportunity to do what we do best as humans, not resist it, or fall into the trap of a peculiar power struggle. I suggest there is a form of scientific neo Luddism around now that resists the role of the human using science as its servant: the critical humanists need to reset that balance.”

Social scientific policing

The opportunity in 5.0 now is embrace the human nature of policing, drawing upon the latest technology, but to conjoin this hybrid of insight and analysis in a social scientific setting. Policing is not a laboratory, and even the most authoritarian positivist ontology will never be able to make it so, no matter how much it might prefer such sterile control. 

Particularly for now, the importance of trust and confidence, as a social scientific concept, needs a mature hybrid of insight and data analysis to help inform situational professional judgment and empathy. Such a matter of policing culture should not be relegated as a form of ‘wokeism’ within authoritarian dogma, because policing needs science – social science – now as much as it ever has to win public confidence.

Police robots will not win public confidence. The public need to see the human face of policing, where the best skills and judgement, aided by technology, work collaboratively within democratic local policing partnerships. 

Policing 4.0 is a drag factor

Those who cling onto Policing 4.0 regard data as the centre of policing. Policing 5.0 affirms people are its centre, aided by technology, and asserts it is vital policing is released from outmoded algorithmic notions if it is to connect with the public it serves.

Policing 4.0 emphasises the (artificially created) schism between data and judgement, and we need to move beyond this one-dimensional mindset into a hybrid collaborative mindset where human professional judgment, insight and skills are served by smart technology, but the where the ultimate goal is ethical, trustworthy and humanistic policing by the people for the people.

Uniting our sciences

There has been a form of pendulum science war taking place affecting policing for some years, swinging one way then the other, but never working together in the best interests of policing improvement. 

Positivist, empirical approaches, modelled on ‘natural’ science, often focus on the technological detail, and often seek to understand things through numbers. In contrast, much ‘social’ science is more interpretive, and specifically looks at the context of the human in a social setting.

Academic and research disciplines are quite tribal in how they define and defend their (socially constructed) subject frontiers, and often many claim to know best based on their particular methodologies. One of the problems with this is that it has impaired holistic thinking which engages with the context as well as providing objectivity.

4.0 has been driven in the main by ‘science’ in the shape of big data analytical specialisms within Business Schools, and various computer science interest groups; whilst 5.0 is more inclusive in maintaining such contributions but balancing with other relevant sciences, such as ethnography. 

Policing 5.0 is technology enabled humanism

The existential threat to policing legitimacy right now is not technology; it is trust in the policing establishment, particularly in how police professionals interface with the pubic. Policing 5.0 offers to take the public with policing. Policing 4.0, in its remote distance from the public, is reinforcing a biased alienation from the public, at a time when the human bonds of 5.0 are vital.

Much of the contemporary challenge for policing surrounds social cultural matters such as relational trust and confidence. Trust and confidence will be gained through relationships not statistics, so the choice now is clear for policing: either follow selective numbers or work with people. Those who prefer the neatness of numbers and who fail to relate to humanistic policing will hinder policing evolving into the maturity it needs to form relationships with the public it serves.

Whilst several contemporary policing opportunities will be enabled through utilising innovative technology, most matters raised in the recent critical Casey Report (2023) are cultural rather than technical. One working definition of culture is simply ‘the way we do things around here’ and the key challenge that needs further work is the reality gap between structure and process, and what happens in practice (what gets done rather than what is said): 4.0 alone is ill-equipped to enable cultural change.  

Policing 5.0 celebrates all the best parts of humanity by using technology to free up the space and time to do more of just that, for example in unleashing human creativity and celebrating critical reflection and thinking. Policing 5.0 is a re-set opportunity, beyond pie chart gadgets and gimmicks, that enables relationships, trust, ethics and authenticity to flourish. No matter what metrics you care to judge policing by – the true measure is what the public think and feel, and ultimately they will articulate that on the streets, or through the ballot box. 




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