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Police productivity review advocates more investment in technology innovation


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Police forces should be investing more in new rather than legacy technology and the Home Office should ring fence funding to support innovation, according to a new report from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC).

Its Policing Productivity Review includes a section on ‘technology as a productivity multiplier’ that highlights the need for a step change in the relevant work.

It acknowledges the progress of existing initiatives, notably in a number of forces using robotic process automation (RPA), but says 97% of their science and technology investment goes on maintaining existing technologies and that this will lead to a build-up of technical debt and falling behind the general use of technology.

Instead, it advocates that 20% of spending should go on innovation adjacent to existing technology, and 10% on next generation tech.

This will require the mandation of spending on innovation over a number of years, under the oversight of the NPCC and the Home Office, and ring fenced funding of £50 million per annum for at least two years, the review says.

It also advocates making it easier for forces to adopt new solutions through three measures.

Provide assurance

One is that the NPCC science and innovation coordination committee should provide an assurance function for science and technology solutions, including guidance on cost-benefits, ethics, productivity impacts and workforce implications. The efficacy of this should be reviewed by the chief scientific adviser for policing and the Police Science Council late in 2024.

The second is that there should be an assumption that forces will adopt solutions put forward by the NPCC committee, and that this should be reviewed by September of next year.

Thirdly, the Home Office should provide active leadership with a regulatory framework that enables the implementation of innovative solutions.

In addition, there should be an effort to attract the relevant talent into policing, the chief scientific adviser should implement structures for exchanging ideas and collaboration, and force management statements should be amended to draw out the value of science and innovation.

The review also emphasises that the adoption of new technologies should involve close consideration of public trust, ethics and any relevant legal issues.

Additional issues

It also outlines issues and recommendations around the workforce, model processes and the endowment fund to increase productivity in policing.

Writing in the review’s foreword, Alan Pughsley, former chief constable of Kent Police, says: “When taken together, all the recommendations in this review have the potential to free up about 38 million hours of police time over the coming five years. This will of course require considerable effort from policing and from its partners. This is the equivalent of another police officer uplift.”

Publication of the review has come days after the NPCC announced plans to set up a new science and technology committee and the appointment of a lead on robotic process automation.

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