How is going digital changing the roles available within the police control room?

The use of technology in practically every area of modern life means that digital evidence is now available at almost any conceivable crime scene, accident or other incident. This could include CCTV or smartphone footage of an assault in public, a social media trail relating to online hate crime, or a record of which devices connected to the wi-fi router at a property that has been burgled.

The core roles of call taking and dispatching, as well as those of supervisors and team leaders are all still present in a digital era, but what new roles are being created because of digital?

Social Media Teams

There is an expectation that all emergency services will be actively engaged in using the technology to create a two-way, real-time channel of communication.

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The increased use of smart phones and social media platforms means that first reports of an incident appear more and more on social media. Technological developments advance at a pace, which required the emergency services and its partners to constantly stay on top of their digital game. According to the College of Policing, a number of major incident debriefs have identified communication and information-sharing areas that can be further worked upon.

Use of social media can assist in achieving this, given its capabilities to:

  • Disseminate information to wider audiences

  • Reassure the public that they are responding

  • Warn and inform of either rising tide or rapid onset emergencies

  • Conduct initial and continuing dynamic risk assessment

  • Interact with the public, allaying fears and quelling speculation and rumour

  • Monitor networks to better understand public concerns and emerging issues

  • Gain a better situational awareness on the ground to give practical advice and direction to the public to:

    • Stay away from sites of concern

    • Avoid routes to and from those sites

    • Contact the appropriate casualty bureau if they are concerned for relatives/friends

  • Improve information sharing and collaboration between agencies

  • Confirm the emergency is over and assist in restoring business and usual.

Earlier this year Gwent Police joined a growing number of forces in the UK in launching a dedicated Social Media Desk which allows the public to contact the police online 24-hours-a day seven days a week.

Since the Social Media Desk went live, they’ve received reports of:

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  • Historic rape

  • Domestic violence

  • Intelligence - all of which are completely confidential

  • Fail to stop road traffic collisions

  • Stolen vehicles

  • Anti-social behaviour

  • Requests for updates on incidents and cases

This is just one example of numerous emergency services, incorporating social media into their 24 x 7 environment and will only continue to be a growing channel for reporting, in particular, non-emergency crime, but also to inform, protect and update the public in emergency situations in a proactive way.

Online Operators

Online reporting of non-emergency crime has increased significantly in recent years.

As an example, Hertfordshire Constabulary released figures showing that online reporting has gone up by 19% from June 2018 to May 2019. 10,170 crimes were reported online through their website and we had 23,000 live web chats with members of the public. It is expected that these figures will continue to rise as more and more people embrace modern technology to contact the emergency services.

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From April 2015, it became mandatory for police forces to apply the online flag to provide a national and local picture of the extent to which the internet and digital communications technology are being used to commit crimes. The flag is used to identify cases where it is believed that an offence was committed, in full or in part, through a computer, computer network or other computer-enabled device. Whether an offence was in part or totally committed online may require more investigative resource than some other flags, so it is thought that the use of the online flag is prone to a higher degree of undercounting that other flags.

CCTV Teams

Modern and increasingly advanced surveillance camera technology provides growing potential for the gathering and use of images and associated information. These advances vastly increase the ability and capacity to capture, store, share and analyse images and information. This technology can be a valuable tool in the management of public safety and security, in the protection of people and property, in the prevention and investigation of crime, and in bringing crimes to justice. Technological advances can also provide greater opportunity to safeguard privacy. Used appropriately, current and future technology can and will provide a proportionate and effective solution where surveillance is in pursuit of a legitimate aim and meets a pressing need.

At some stage, perhaps via developments in Artificial Intelligence, algorithms deployed in applications such as video analytics and face recognition may become demonstrably and routinely more reliable than a trained human operator undertaking tasks even in complex scenarios. This may have a range of implications including, for example, the processes through which evidence is gathered and assessed in criminal and incident investigations. However, in the meantime the deployment of these technologies will not eliminate the requirement for the end users of this technology to be competent, effective and well trained in its use.

Digital Evidence Teams

Demand for traditional forensic evidence recovery in the form of fingerprints, DNA, footwear and so on, will continue to be of great evidential value to volume, serious and major crime investigations. However, the significant increase in the volume and variety of digital evidence, in its multiple forms, is causing the emergency services to think again about how to deal with both the opportunities and challenges in order to stay true their vision and values.

For example, some police forces have invested in body-worn video and a related storage solution but been unable to secure a holistic digital strategy. This ‘silo’-style approach to digital evidence presents significant challenges and inefficient processes to investigators as they’re required to literally trawl a whole range of systems in order to gather evidence relating to a particular investigation. Often the physical copying and transferring of CDs containing sensitive evidence is still a regular task for investigators.

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The disclosure of digital evidence presents further challenges. Any failure to do so effectively can lead led to the collapse of prosecutions or investigations with a significantly detrimental effect on victims and public confidence, so it’s important it’s handled with extreme care.

The growth of demand for the examination of digital devices and accessing personal cloud storage (subject to the appropriate lawful authorities) to obtain digital evidence is significant. The volume is difficult to quantify but it has been estimated that there has been an annual increase of 25-30% in digital devices submitted for examination with the volume of data increasing exponentially as the sophistication of devices constantly develops.

The power of having all communications instantly at your finger saves time, allows for quicker deployment and resource assigning - which ultimately helps reduce fatally numbers and improves response times. We’re at the forefront of control room technologies and constantly evolve our software to embrace the rapidly evolving digital tools used by the emergency services and the public.

Sources

  • College of Policing: Civil emergencies - Command, control and coordination

  • Surveillance Camera Commissioner Annual Report 2017/18

Find out more

We’re at the forefront of control room technologies and constantly evolve our software to embrace the rapidly evolving digital tools used by the emergency services and the public.

If you'd like to find out more about how we can help your control room take advantage of the latest technology, let us know at hello@apdcomms.com or call us on 01482 808300.