techUK says police need more digital skills

Report from IT industry association calls for three tiered approach for raising capabilities among police forces

Police forces in the UK need to increase their digital capabilities approach involving training, a tookit and a framework for bringing in external skills, the country’s IT industry association has said.

Back of policeman in hi vis jackettechUK has made the recommendations as part of a broader review, titled Digital Policing, which also calls for more online crime reporting tools, an increased use of cloud systems and new approaches to identity verification.

It refers to the Home Office’s Modern Crime Prevention Strategy, published last March, which included an emphasis on the growing importance of digital sources in police investigations. techUK says that while this is welcome, there is a “digital skills gap” in police forces that has to addressed.

This has prompted three recommendations:

  • A national training scheme accredited by the College of Policing to give all officers some understanding of digital intelligence and investigations.
  • All frontline officers should be equipped with a digital toolkit accessible through a handheld device, which would explain various procedures for dealing with digital evidence.
  • The Home Office should set up a framework for accessing external skills to support police forces.

Henry Rex, programme manager for justice and emergency services at techUK, said: “With initiatives such as the Digital Policing Board and the Police Transformation Fund great strides have been made to ensure police are well equipped to tackle crime in the digital age.

“However, more needs to be done. Whether it’s accessing and embracing transformational technologies or developing the right digital skills set for officers, police must work with Government and industry to ensure they are best-placed to take advantage of innovative tech.”

Video needs

Another element of the report focuses the need for more online crime reporting, working through multiple channels and with the capability for videos and images to be submitted online. The report says the current system, whereby officers have to collect video footage, is outdated, inefficient and may deter some reporting.

The rise in cyber crime and online fraud has created a need for new identity verification and management tools, which could include a digital version of the driving licence, and the ability to link third party attributes to a digital identity.

In response, techUK says the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency should work with the IT industry to develop and trial the digital licences; and the Home Office and police forces should encourage the public to take up the new technologies to improve online safety.

Other recommendations are for police and crime commissioners to encourage chief constables and IT directors to develop plans to transition to cloud computing; and for live streaming of video footage from CCTV and body worn video into control rooms. The report says this could help to reduce the £72 million a year it cost police forces and fire services to respond to false alarms.

The report reflects many of the themes covered in the Digitising Policing report published earlier this year by UKAuthority, with the support of Microsoft. This focuses on the need for more sharing of digital developments by police forces, aligning information strategies with broader policing policies, and making use of agile methodologies in developing new approaches.

 Image by Terry from UK, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons