In January 2020, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners published the new National Digital Policing Strategy for 2020-2030 [1]. The strategy was developed by the service in response to the digital challenges the sector face, but ultimately for the benefit of the public they serve.

“If we are to achieve these goals, we must improve the way we use data and technology and, importantly, the development of the people who lead, manage and use digital capabilities.” [1]

We held a Digital Policing conference in which Tom McNeil chaired. Tom is a Lawyer as well as a Public Sector Strategist and Policy Fellow at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Science and Policy [2].

Tom opened the conference by highlighting the pivotal role of digital technology in the Police and Criminal Justice sector. It is noted that technology presents massive opportunities in criminal justice. Moreover, the creation of innovative technology creates purpose, employment opportunities and can increase the wellbeing of society.

It is important to keep in mind that criminals are using new methods of technology to communicate and organise, therefore the police need to keep on top of emerging technologies to know how to best tackle them.

Additionally, Tom emphasises the value of data within the Police and Criminal Justice sector. Data can help us create more holistic representations of problems, to enable more inter and multi-agency problem-solving methodologies

But how do we ensure that officers and staff are digitally literate?


Training and Procurement for a Digitally Literate Police Force

David Tucker is the Lead of the Crime and Justice Faculty at the College of Policing, he spoke to us about the college’s approach to digital training and procurement.

In the context of digital training, they identified some key factors to consider:

  • The vital importance of ensuring that technology will deliver a solution to the identified problem
  • How do we make sure that technology is procured in a way that meets the nature of the problem to be solved?
  • How ethical considerations can be incorporated from the start of the process of considering procurement of new technology for policing
  • How do we get existing and new to role officers and staff interested in digital?
  • How do we ensure they have the right skills to meet the demands of digital crime?
  • How do we collate and share insight into understanding digital capabilities? [3]

David is firm in their assertion that we need to understand that just because current officers and new officers are familiar with technology, it does not mean that they are familiar with how technology should be applied to policing. Particularly in an ethical and legal framework.

Technology in police forces must help officers improve services to the public. David emphasised the need to ensure that operational colleagues can make the most of all digital resources when responding to an emergency.

Specialist Training in Digital Policing at the College of Policing

The College has developed digital projects to equip officers and staff with the tools to use technology to increase their performance at work. When training officers and staff on digital policing materials, understanding how the services will keep people safe is at the heart of everything.

Digital training at the College of Policing involves:

  • The National Police Curriculum. This includes Digital Media Investigators, Digital Forensic specialist courses, CCTV, PNC, PND, Visor, Internet Intelligence and Investigation, Communications Data acquisition and analyst and digital policing foundation Level 1 and 2
  • Courses that are continually reviewed and developed to meet the needs of today’s challenges and opportunities
  • Embedding all digital learning standards into the NPC and PEQF to ensure that digital is available to all learners
  • New projects that are broader and relevant to the wider policing curriculum starting with vulnerability and safeguarding

College Digital Intelligence and Investigation (DII) project [3]

The DII project helps front line policing respond to digital elements of investigations. Trainee officers sign onto the DII project. It involves:

  • The Capability Improvement Hub: An outreach team and scanning function which engages with forces, NPCC areas, academia, and other organisations to identify existing and emerging Digital challenges and opportunities
  • Digital Learning: Self-directed, interactive learning to support front line officers and staff to build a better awareness of how to investigate and gather digital evidence
  • Knowledge resources: Bite-size knowledge on the go. Resources funded by the Home Office
  • The Skills Framework: To support frontline capabilities to understand what digital skills they need to have or acquire to be competent and confident to deal with digital crime

Key aims of the DII project:

  • Make connections and share notable practices to close knowledge gaps and to inform better training through the Capability Improvement Hub
  • To build a better awareness of how to investigate and gather digital evidence through interactive learning
  • To train officers and staff to be able to triage a situation and protect evidence if specialist support is needed
  • To train officers and staff to use technology to support and advise victims and witnesses

Using Interactive Training Resources

The College of Policing has developed Operation Modify [3]. This training plan uses interactive design to improve digital thinking in the police.

They have designed a game that is used as a training resource. The game consists of episodes and has an engaging storyline in which the trainee receives points for finding evidence and clues.

[3] Modify Training Game

Episodes within the game cover the top ten subjects that are on the agenda for officer and staff digital procurement training:

  1. Digital Media: Internet of Things
  2. Digital Scene Management
  3. Core Digital Data Collection
  4. CCT and ANPR
  5. Core Digital Data Collation and Interpretation
  6. Digital Forensics
  7. MISPER Support
  8. Online Fraud
  9. Internet, Intelligence, and Investigation
  10. Digital Victims and Witness Support

Knowledge at the Point of Need for Officers and Staff

The college has developed a CyberDigiTools app that allows officers and staff to access digital and cyber information from their phones [3].

It gives officers and staff access to information at the point of need, from any location, even when offline. It was developed to address identified gaps in knowledge.

The app uses the same knowledge as Operation Modify. The college regularly curates and updates content to ensure that is relevant.

CyberDigiTools It is available as an Android app and the IOS app is under development.


Looking ahead

The College of Policing wants to ensure that the digital training projects are maintained and embedded within their strategy.

Additionally, they want to continue to develop their approach to gathering and sharing insights and good practices.

They aim to deliver tradecraft events, engaging more practitioners to share their insights on digital policing.

The college has big ambitions to design, develop and deliver nationally consistent guidance for priority areas of digital policing. With that, they aim to design, develop, and deliver four new learning products to enhance the college’s overall digital learning offering.

Recommendations

Tom McNeil offers a cautious point of view toward the use of technology in the Police and Criminal Justice sector. They discuss that we must treat technology and digital innovation with an appropriate level of caution.

Human relationships, intuition and empathy must not be side-lined in place of technology when delivering public services. We must be careful not to assume that everything is more efficient with less human involvement.  We should be self-reflective on this journey.

Additionally, David Tucker champions the Avon and Somerset Force, who have made their data available to all officers, so they can keep track of their performance and use data to solve community problems.

Finally, David states that we are not seeing enough focus on the use of technology to improve operational colleagues’ services to the public.

There is a greater focus on using technology to combat cybercrime. While there should be more of a focus on the use of technology to improve services to the public in the crime and justice sectors, such as the Avon and Somerset Force have implemented.


[1] National Digital Policing Strategy for 2020-2030. 2020. Association of Police and Crime Commissioners

[2] McNeil, Tom. 2021 Lawyer, Public Sector Strategist and Policy Fellow, University of Cambridge’s Centre for Science & Policy

[3] Tucker, David. 2021 Lead of the Crime and Justice Faculty at the College of Policing.

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Technology presents massive opportunities in criminal justice. This article will examine the role of digital technology in modern policing, whilst outlining training methods of the College of Policing in digital literacy.

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