Tuesday, 09 October 2018 11:38

Police forces preparing for a digital future: report

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Australia’s police forces expect that they will need new digital skills to be effective in their roles over the next three to five years, according to a newly published survey.

The survey, conducted for global management consulting firm Accenture, reveals that two-thirds (67%) of Australian police personnel expect that they will need new digital skills, and more than half (54%) are willing to learn such skills if they receive the necessary training from their employer.

The global study — Reimagining the Police Workforce: A Vision of the Future — surveyed 309 employees from police forces in Australia, France, Germany, Singapore, the UK and the US, and identified areas most likely to be enhanced by technology over the coming years.

Australian police personnel most often cited those areas relating to emergency response (37%), police investigations (29%) and targeting and identification of known criminals and gang networks (27%) as being the ones that could be improved by technology.

And the specific technologies that respondents expect to see their organisations use more over the next three to five years include biometrics (37%), body-worn cameras (31%), video analytics (23%) and predictive policing technologies (20%).

“This research tells us that while most police officers are excited by the opportunities new digital technologies afford and the impact they will have on their workplace, many are challenged in their use of the technologies due to a lack of training or access to specialist skills and knowledge,” said Matt Ilijic who leads Accenture’s policing and public safety practice in Australia and New Zealand.

“Every policing organisation must prepare its workforce in the use of new technologies and enable employees to benefit from the opportunities that the technologies will bring to their operations over the coming years.”

Nearly half (41%) of respondents surveyed said their organisations are currently using artificial intelligence technologies to at least some degree, with more than one-third (35% ) of those using AI to enhance administrative tasks and processes, 31% using it to assist with forensics related activities and 27% using it as part of social-media content analysis to identify risks.

And while less than one fifth (17%) said they were currently using virtual or augmented reality, almost half (44%) said they expect to implement this technology in the coming years.

“The findings relating to AI are particularly surprising, with almost half of respondents planning to implement the technology,” Ilijic said.

“The challenge for public-safety leaders is to ensure that AI is deployed responsibly and with best practice governance and transparency measures in place. Citizens must clearly understand the benefits of the technology, and civil liberties must be protected through human oversight.”

The survey also reveals that as technology adoption increases among Australian public safety agencies, most respondents believe that technology will not lessen their interactions with citizens and the communities they serve.

In fact, more than half (58%) said they expect the visibility of officers within their communities to increase. But many others (42%) believe the need for traditional policing skills will increase over the over the next three to five years.

“Our findings highlight officers’ dedication and commitment to policing and keeping the public safe and secure, as well as their willingness to learn new digital skills to better fight crime and enhance public safety,” Ilijic said.

“However, rapid digital change demands smarter workforce planning, and leadership must anticipate and plan for the future skills needs of their organisation. New technologies offer an unprecedented opportunity for police employees at all levels to shape a new type of workforce, one that is diverse and flexible and capable of coping with the demands of modern-day policing.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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