Do you think cops are willing to embrace technology?

In the coming months, it is expected that law enforcement officers will gain access to more and more technology solutions
16 October 2018

Do cops need more tech training? Source: Shutterstock

If you’re a fan of popular television shows like CSI and NCIS, you see cops using a lot of technology — but is that something they really do when on the streets in New York or California?

It is quite unlikely, according to a new survey. However, it’s not because they don’t have access to exciting technology solutions or are averse to using technology and favor old-fashioned methods to fight crime.

A new study suggests that police professionals welcome new technologies but need training and enhanced workforce planning in order to benefit from these new-age tools.

This is an interesting insight for enterprises who’re working hard to develop facial recognition, forensic voice recognition, and advanced crime-prevention algorithms for this government-funded industry.

Accenture, who carried out the study, found that 76 percent of policing personnel expect that they will need new digital skills to be effective in their roles over the next three to five years, and 50 percent of them are willing to learn new digital skills if they receive the necessary support from their employer.

However, it’s interesting to note that all the law enforcement officers surveyed — whether from the US, the UK, Singapore, Australia, France, or Germany — expressed concerns about the workforce planning currently underway within their organizations.

About 40 percent of the cops who spoke to Accenture said that the existing workforce planning and recruitment measures are ineffective, while 78 percent of respondents said it is difficult to recruit new personnel into their organization and 72 percent said they believe it difficult to reskill employees to perform new digital tasks.

“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 Rachel Phillips who leads Accenture’s workforce transformation team for the public safety practice.

“Every policing organization 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,” Phillips added.

When asked to the identify areas of policing operations most likely to be enhanced by technology over the coming years, 32 percent of respondents cited those relating to targeting and identification of known criminals and gang networks, 31 percent cited emergency response, and 25 percent cited police investigations.

The specific technologies that respondents expect to see their organizations use more over the next three to five years include body-worn cameras, biometrics, video analytics, and predictive policing technologies.

Almost two-thirds of respondents said their organizations are currently using artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to at least some degree.

More than one-third of those surveyed said they’re using AI to enhance administrative tasks and processes, 31 percent are using it to assist with forensics related activities, and 27 percent are using it as part of social-media content analysis to identify risks.

Although only one in eight respondents said they were currently using AI-empowered chat-bots, almost half said that they expect to use chat-bots in the coming years.

From the looks of it, however, it seems as though the law enforcement community in the US, the UK and some of the more developed nations around the world are beginning to realize the value of investing in technology.

“Police officers all too often use technology that lags woefully behind what they use as consumers. And there is an unacceptable lack of digital join-up with the criminal justice system and other agencies,” said UK PM (then UK Home Secretary) Theresa May two years ago.

Since then, the UK seems to have made rapid progress with technology, deploying facial recognition at the border, in stadiums, and on the roads to better monitor and spot criminals.

Similar investments have been made in the recent past in the US as well, helping Palantir, one of the companies that provide advanced AI and other emerging technologies reach a US$20 billion valuation.

Other companies too are making significant gains thanks to the deep pockets and new interest from governments all over the world.

“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,” said Jody Weis, who leads Accenture’s Public Safety practice in North America.

In the coming months, it is expected that law enforcement officers will gain access to more and more technology solutions — and the training necessary to use them for the benefit of the public.