While policing in the UK is respected around the world and sets many standards for other forces to follow, it faces similar pressures to other industries in terms of modernisation and delivering the service that the public expects.
This pressure is particularly relevant now, at a time when governmental funding for the police service is higher than it’s been for more than a decade: nearly £17 billion for 2022/23. This means that the police must demonstrate the best value from this level of investment, including using new technology to streamline processes, improve efficiency and remove bureaucracy.
Why is this so important?
At a time of rising funding, growing populations and evolving challenges for policing, this is a critical time from a technological standpoint. If the service isn’t able to make the most of new and existing technologies, it will become increasingly difficult to handle demand and successfully modernise how the force operates.
Ultimately, adopting the right technologies in the right places can help the police meet the five key digital ambitions outlined in the National Policing Strategy:
- Seamless citizen experience: connecting citizen interactions and giving the public more choice in communicating with the police
- Addressing harm: identifying risks and protecting the vulnerable
- Enabling officers and staff through digital: equipping staff with knowledge, skills and tools to handle complicated crimes and issues
- Embedding a whole public system approach: sharing insights and tools to tackle public safety issues in collaboration with public sector partners
- Empower the private sector: enable the private sector to play a role in maintaining public safety
In order to achieve these goals, the first step is to understand current policing effectiveness and productivity, and the barriers to progress. That way, it’s easier to understand how technology can be applied to enable more streamlined ways of operating.
The advantages of streamlined operations
There are many areas in which policing operations can be streamlined through technology. Implemented successfully, they can change the way officers work every day, take full advantage of data and insights, and enable better collaboration with other partners and operations.
Using routine police data better is especially important for streamlining operations, in areas such as (and not necessarily limited to):
- Enhancing the mobile workforce: handheld devices connected to internal systems can connect neighbourhood patrols and officers to vital data and intelligence, and allow them to generate and print citations quickly
- Multi-channel communication: giving the public several different means of communicating with the police – for example, through social media or through AI-powered chatbots – can enable easier crime reporting and better case prioritisation. In turn, this can reduce the strain placed on contact centres and control rooms
- Custody management: if data surrounding custody is centralised and easily accessible in one place, then the whole custody process can be simplified, across data input, record access, evidence processing and hearing organisation
Improving business efficiency through more streamlined processes
Much like the public sector, there are many wider areas that can also be improved by streamlining day-to-day operations in policing, helping drive efficiencies across entire forces:
- Compliance and control:policing naturally involves the use of large quantities of sensitive personal data and other information, making compliance with GDPR absolutely critical. Moving document management towards digital makes this easier, as control over the access, sharing and disclosure of different pieces of information can be managed better.
- Process automation:any time-efficiencies that the police force can find will make a major difference to the service they can deliver. Handing repetitive manual processes over to automation can save officers time, and support better verification and reporting functions
- Efficient, sustainable print: with more documents and data digitised, the demand for physical print services is much smaller, and therefore can be remodelled for better cost-efficiency. Right-sizing printing infrastructure to match the needs of the force can also reduce energy and resource surrounding print, therefore improving a force’s sustainability credentials
There are many different solutions that police forces can explore to streamline their operations, and unleash the potential of their data without compromising its safety. Some of these solutions are more complex than others, but a relatively straightforward place to start is through digital document services, which can supersede manual-heavy, paper-based data processing and maximise the use and value of all the data within the police service.
The Police Force could also benefit from utilising the government framework; ESPO 390_22 Document Management Solutions LOT 4 specifically designed for use by the Police.
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