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Monday, 3 December 2012

Police Intelligence Systems

I have am very fortunate to be involved with a consortium that is working to design the next generation of police information systems. Part of this project is to give police officers relevant real time information based on their location and assignment that keeps them safe and makes them more effective in their work, whether it be catching criminals or dealing with victims. The term for this is situation awareness.

The key to this is mobile tablet devices similar to iphones or ipads (that will replace the officers note book and pen) that through GPS signals knows exactly where the officer is located and through geo-coding of  incidents knows exactly where the officer is going.

The next question is what the officer needs to know. This is where semantics come into play  - are we going to supply the officer with data, information or intelligence? I think we can first rid of the notion that we may supply the officer with data. There is no exact universally accepted definition of the word data (or even whether it should be used as a plural or singular) but "facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis" (Oxford Dictionaries) seem to be as good as any. This is not what the officer wants s/he needs stuff that is specific and location/time based.

OK here we get into more semantics. I have been taught in the police that intelligence is actionable information. This does not work for me because it misunderstands the nature of information. Information is "facts provided or learned about something or someone" (Oxford Dictionaries). Intelligence by its nature needs to be accompanied by an assessment of how likely it is to be fact. Therefore only A1 (see above) information can regarded as information the rest is intelligence. That is why I have shown the 5x5x5 intelligence grading above that I obtained here.

Fortunately there is a wealth of A1 intelligence or information available to the operational officer. This information is a by-product of the force incident, crime and welfare systems and national criminal records, warning signals and wanted/missing records. I would argue that this is the type of information the officer needs for situational awareness. Graded intelligence should only be included if there is an over-whelming officer or public safety consideration.

This is where the circle is completed. Who collects this information? The answer is the same uniform operational officer that needs it for situational awareness. And how is it collected? Through "Apps" on the mobile device that provide the officer with the situational awareness information. Why do we know that the information is geo-located accurately? Because exact GPS locations are collected through the mobile device by the reporting officer. 

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