In this age of digital disruption, twelve months is a long time for any organisation, but especially in public safety. But as we worked through the various challenges in this year’s digital public safety summit, focused on “developing the public safety ecosystem”, one of the things that became clear was just how much progress has been made. Last year we were talking about many ideas. Now we are seeing real projects and implementations of those ideas. The reality is positively impacting citizens that public safety agencies serve.
We are seeing great examples of what is being achieved through technologies such as analytics, virtual reality and responsible AI. Public safety agencies are clearly grasping the advantages of the digital age to reshape and grow the public safety ecosystem.
A new public safety ecosystem is emerging as a growing and evolving, entity. Public safety agencies are not only increasingly prepared to work with each other, but also open to working with different types of increasingly diverse organisations, all with a common purpose of protecting the public.
I thought it would be interesting to revisit some of the themes that were explored at the previous digital public safety summit and identify what we learned at this year’s summit about the progress being made.
Data and Technology
The pace of technology change noted last year has, if anything, accelerated. Technology is now making what once seemed impossible, possible. We are seeing the rise of AI as part of everyday lives. Chatbots are supporting and guiding citizens’ interactions with public safety agencies but we are also seeing AI bots deployed to detect threats online and identify criminal activity such as human trafficking and extremist content.
The Internet of Things is starting to make the truly connected officer a reality, and sensors are now being used to relay critical information and awareness to officers in the field. Along with the increasing flows of data, what we are seeing is the development of capabilities to make sense of them. Public safety agencies are creating teams which include data scientists, visualisation experts, designers and law enforcement professionals to deliver deeper levels of analysis and new insight.
The progress in application of AI is rapid, with the potential application moving even faster. But we also need to exercise some caution. As AI develops, we need to make sure that it does so responsibly, ensuring that its actions are explainable and that the rules we use to ‘raise’ and guide it manage unintended bias or adverse consequences.
Public safety culture is embracing the change digital is driving. For instance, a global survey Accenture conducted across all level of police professionals from six countries showed 85% felt positive about the change they were experiencing.
We’re seeing innovation from the front line, with officers and staff developing new digital approaches to executing critical public safety roles and responsibilities. It is important however that cultural change is not neglected, and this remains an area of focus, especially as the workforce continues to evolve as a result of the digital age. There also remains a key challenge around harnessing and managing innovation to derive the maximum value from it. To ensure there is a culture of experimentation, with those things proven successful being scaled quickly to benefit all.
Skills and Capabilities
New types of training are evolving, for example using virtual and extended reality applied to very different types of situations – from tactical firearms training to complex and sensitive situations such as domestic violence – training the officer to respond. When it comes to attracting talent, it is important that public safety agencies make use of their two great strengths: difficult, interesting problems and meaningful work – of which they have plenty.
Living through an age of digital disruption means change is continuous and public safety organisations need to be able to adapt and change accordingly. That requires agility. In response, new technologies and new tactics are emerging focused on situational awareness and real-time risk monitoring. There’s also greater emphasis on disrupting, deterring and diverting, especially in the world of cyber and online crime, responding to the reality, that the pace of change does not respect traditional policy and legislative processes.
Probably the strongest theme from last year was the importance of collaborative partnerships in any future public safety model. And collaboration remains a priority. As well as closer working across the criminal justice system using technology, we’re also seeing forces reach out to unfamiliar partners, for example organising hackathons. And technologies such as blockchain that facilitate trusted sharing of secure information are also coming to the fore. With this we are seeing a partnership model evolve into a larger and more dynamic ecosystem model with more and increasingly diverse organisations working to prevent harm and protect the public – including the public themselves.
Overall, looking back since the last digital public safety summit, it shows how much progress has been made and highlights even more exciting developments for the future. However, the pace of change remains relentless with new threats and challenges emerging – therefore public safety agencies must continue to rapidly evolve. It was interesting to see a number of new key themes emerge from this year’s digital public safety summit – four key ones being: the changing future police workforce, data sharing and data platforms, multi-agency collaboration and radical ecosystems; summarized in this video.