Across a broad spectrum of public service agencies—from social care to education or health—it’s becoming ever more essential to join forces to deliver an effective, rounded service. While police services and justice agencies are no exception, not all of them are embracing collaboration. In the second of his series of three blogs on policing and analytics, Allan Fairley, managing director for Accenture Public Safety Services UK, highlights three compelling benefits of collaboration that forces can no longer afford to ignore.
Recently, Accenture surveyed 165 leaders in police, justice and intelligence agencies across nine countries. The results were thought-provoking. While 65 percent of respondents said they had already teamed with the private sector to some extent to meet increased citizen service demands, they faced challenges when it came to successful delivery. Financial constraints, security concerns, an inability to share information, or a basic misunderstanding of responsibilities were all limiting the benefits realised from their partnership agreements.
The message is clear. Despite the public’s desire for joined-up policing, not all police services are embracing collaboration. This is despite the fact that, for many cash-strapped forces, shortfalls in cost or resources could be eased by joining forces with other agencies—including private sector or third sector organisations—to deliver services. At the same time, digital technologies and platform-based business models are providing further proof that at least two heads are better than one.
Adaptable, scalable and interconnected policing platforms can help to drive innovation and better capture, analysis and sharing of data to inform real-time police decision making. Above all, tapping into private sector skills, capabilities and technologies can dramatically enhance policing efforts both regionally and nationally.
So, why are some police services hesitant to embrace partnerships? For three main reasons. First, funding pressures are making them prioritise short-term costs over long-term collaboration. Second, security and data concerns make them wary—for example—of hosting potentially sensitive data and applications in the cloud. And third, the police are seen increasingly as the “service of last to resort,” and end up spending valuable time dealing with situations which could (and maybe should) be dealt with earlier by other public service agencies.
The good news is that the three reasons not to collaborate are mirrored—and outweighed—by three unanswerable reasons to do so. Our survey found that nearly two-thirds of police leaders are willing to embrace public-private partnerships and new commercial models (65 percent) and to consider “as-a-Service” models for technology deployments (67 percent). By collaborating with universities, research institutes or innovative private sector companies, police services can develop and—more importantly—implement innovative solutions to operational challenges. These partnerships offer three compelling benefits.
- Solve old problems with new data. Organisations such as Europol offer collaborative, integrated platforms to exchange, analyse and exploit data for police benefit. With the right data at the right time (and secured in the right way) police officers and citizens can be better protected, with officers benefiting—for example—from real-time information via mobile devices or social media as they respond to incidents. And by partnering with private companies, police forces can overcome budgetary constraints by accessing secure cloud computing at highly competitive rates.
- Improve what you do and how you do it. The nature of crime is changing, with less physical crime and more online or technology-related crime. And with at least one-third of all data passing through the cloud, police services can no longer rely on in-house intelligence and technologies. Our survey found that despite two-thirds (66 percent) of police leaders being aware of the Internet of Things (IoT), less than a quarter (22 percent) are piloting or implementing IoT-related projects. In the age of connected devices this is a worryingly low adoption rate, but one that can be boosted through increased collaboration and shared next-generation technology initiatives.
- Bridge the skills gap. No single organisation has all the skills it needs. Our survey found that more than half (53 percent) of respondents say the development of new emerging technology projects would require significant investment in the re-skilling of employees. To meet this need, collaboration can enhance the skills pool available to police forces. The Metropolitan Police recently detailed plans to set up a commercial arm called the Met Enterprise, which is partnering with a private sector firm to “commercialise its police training facility” and can provide “value-added training services to other forces and entities.” Innovative initiatives like this can play a huge role in bridging the skills gap.
With increasing service demands and diminishing budgets, police forces have no choice but to innovate. True collaboration breaks down the barriers around funding, innovation and trust that often hamper police modernisation efforts and enable forces to access the data, capabilities and skills they need. While partnership with other organisations is not a “cure-all,” it can free up resources so the police can spend more time doing what they do best: Preventing and fighting crime, driving investigations forward, and improving relationships with communities. Put simply, it’s time for police forces to put collaboration top of the agenda.