At a time when every police agency is looking for ways to meet reduced operating cost targets, being able to garner a guilty plea or dismiss an incident faster can have a big impact on the bottom line.
Clearly, closing a case as quickly as possible and moving on to the next is what every over stretched police force wants. But it shouldn’t come at the expense of expecting front-line and back-office staff to work harder.
In a recent conversation, a former superintendent shared examples of some of the challenges and frustrations his police force faces on a daily basis. Today, many constables have to function as couriers. For example, let’s say there’s a fuel theft incident in a parking garage. The constable has to travel to the location and review the CCTV footage, make a DVD copy, and then return to the station and file the evidence, often a round trip of an hour or more.
To combat this problem, some police forces have taken the decision that the alleged victim must send the DVD to the station if he or she wants to have the crime investigated. While this certainly reduces transit time, it’s not practical or feasible in every case, and it’s still a labor intensive process. Furthermore, it increases the chances that crimes will go unreported which is contrary to the mission of policing.
A far better approach would be to assign a crime number and a link to a webpage where an investigator can securely upload the relevant CCTV footage. In fact, this very same process could be applied to citizens wanting to provide video or photographic evidence from their mobile devices or cameras, and to body-worn camera video for that matter.
This would eliminate the need for constables to serve as couriers, and also allow footage to be reviewed sooner so cases could be closed faster. This revamped way of doing things would also be another step towards meeting the Home Office digital evidence mandate which police forces need to comply with by the end of April 2016. Furthermore, having all of this information available digitally means it can be automatically added to a case file along with other digital evidence such as witness statements, recorded calls, etc.
However, we could go even further. If these surveillance cameras were ‘online’ then they could be made accessible directly from the station. With the consent of those operating the surveillance and security operations across shopping centers, streets, garage forecourts, rail and bus stations, and other public areas, it is possible that forces could create a ‘map’ of cameras that could be made available to them for an investigation.
The point is that if police forces spend less time cost cutting and more time focusing on helping investigators work smarter, then savings will inevitably follow. Digital Policing isn’t all about new technology and disregarding current processes – but there are clearly significant gains to be made by those brave enough to be forward thinking about their entire operation.