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Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Best Police in the World?

The British Crime Survey is now called the the Crime Survey of England and Wales, which it always was because it never included Scotland. On 29th of November the Home produced a detailed analysis of the public's perception of the police which be found here.

This is an interesting document for various reasons;

  • It is produced by a coalition government which has scrapped police perception targets as police performance indicators.
  • It is clear that in that all the measures have improved after the Labour Government introduced Neighbourhood Policing (NP), reversing a downward trend in the Tory years on the 1980-90s.
  • The public's confidence in the police continues to rise in the recent coalition years, but this is in a period where policing style has not changed. The real test is is in the years to come with reduced budgets and pressures on NP to perform to the same standard with fewer resources.
  • It is amazing to me that police manage to serve all members of society in a way that within broader parameters they have similar responses to quetions, the biggest difference is between adults and young people but that is no surprise.
Over all this report is a ringing endorsement of the professionalism of police in England and Wales, long may it continue.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Situational Awareness - Where do criminals live?

This is a carry on from the previous discussion. Situational awareness is a location based tool that allows as police officers to have the heads up regarding dangers and policing opportunities in the area in which they are working.

I am really thinking outloud so I am allowed to disagree with myself or clarify what I have previously said once I have had time to think about things.

I think most people would agree that if a police officer is to attend a home to deal with an incident it is useful in a situational awareness sense to know if for instance a known dangerous criminal lives there or is otherwise associated with the address (girlfriend, parents, etc).

It will not surprise you to learn that criminals especially career criminals do not lead conventional livestyles so when they get arrested they try to hide where they really live from police. Now this is where things get really difficult; what if a violent dangerous criminal is under surveillance by a police team and knows that he frequents and address not recorded on the police database, should they compromise their operation to enhance the situational awareness of the patrolling officer and how is this information meant to be conveyed to the officer and how should they react to ensure this information is not compromised. This is A1 intelligence what if it is not, say from an informant, does that make a difference. Should the dessemination grading (the third 5) be honoured even when it is assessed that police officers lives are at risk.

Increased situational awareness is accompanied by new dilemas. Some may argue ignorance is bliss, treat every situation of its merits; that what we had to do in my day etc, etc. The police are looking for technology to fill the created by budget cuts, there is no higher priority than protecting the protectors.

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.