Over the past few years, policing agencies have stagnated when it comes to innovation. Yet, innovations are possible!
If you are interested in police affairs, you will certainly not be surprised to read that innovations in the world of law enforcement are rare these days. Unfortunately, the good old police culture tends to lead these organizations into ways of doing things that are mainly based on “tried and true” methods, rather than ways which have the potential to change currently accepted methods. “Better safe than sorry” is probably the adage of many decision-makers in the field.
In fact, the last great new concept to have been proposed for the police world is certainly “intelligence-led policing” (ILP). This concept is interesting as it emphasizes the use of improved intelligence in policing activities, with a view to making operations more effective and efficient.
If applied appropriately, one finds that ILP can actually bring significant improvements into the conduct of the police affairs. From a strategic point of view, it allows law enforcement managers to anticipate changes in the security environment, and consequently not to be taken by surprise when new threats appear.
On the operational side, applying ILP makes police forces more effective when fighting crime on a day by day basis. This can, for example, lead to choosing higher value targets when undertaking a police operation, or put another way, obtaining “a bigger bang for the buck”. In other words, this allows for the targeting of suspects whose apprehension will have the greatest destabilizing effect on the criminal organization being attacked.
If ILP is very interesting and brings a number of benefits for police forces – some even speak of it as a paradigmatic change in the policing activities, one must however admit that it is not a panacea. Indeed, a seasoned observer will quickly understand that ILP’s impact has been unfortunately limited, essentially for two reasons.
First of all, few policing agencies have adopted the concept completely. Often, the concept is adopted in speech, but not in practice. Put another way, management “talks the talk but does not walk the walk”, which inevitably leads one to the belief that management does not really understand the concept.
Secondly, ILP dates from the 1990s. So it is already more than a quarter of a century that this concept has been proposed in police management documents. As long as many police forces have not truly adopted the concept (see previous point), it remains pertinent to ask where the next great law enforcement innovation will come from. Because for 25 years this one has not been universally adopted.
The Predictive Police: the Next Revolution?
Predictive policing is probably the most fashionable new concept at the moment. Without going into too much detail, let us simply say that predictive policing aims to prevent the commission of crimes. That is it is proactive as opposed to the current practices which are reactive.
Many have compared this concept to the police in the movie “Minority Report” who make arrests even before the commission of the crime. While this may be a little exaggerated, predictive policing refers to the implementation of forecasting and analysis techniques that allow the prevention of crime in areas at risk. It is thus possible allocate police resources based on predicted crime hotspots. It is therefore not so much a case of predicting a particular crime, but rather to preventing it by predicting areas at risk.
If the concept is very interesting, it is surely not a revolution, for the simple and good reason that for there to be a revolution in police activity, it must occurs at all levels, that is at the strategic, operational and tactical levels. However, predictive policing concerns itself almost exclusively at the tactical level.
The police based on the data
The real revolution of police activity therefore remains, in my humble opinion, still in limbo. It rests in the hands of the decision makers, but they are not yet able to grasp the scope. The real revolution is policing based on data, or data-driven policing.
Borrowing elements present in big data analysis, policing based on data will go even further than the predictive approach since it will be able to observe the actual birth of criminal organizations. By having the right data analyzed in real time, the law enforcement agencies will therefore be able to “feel” the changes in the security environment and thus be able to truly anticipate the effects on criminal activities and, by extension, on security activities.
If shepherding in the next revolution in law enforcement is in the scope of those responsible for law enforcement, it is necessary that they embrace the changes that are required to get there. Two things will certainly be necessary in order to exploit a new concept: effective, efficient and innovative technology, and competent data manipulation resources. The future will tell us if police services will be able to adopt these principles. But already we understand that it will take people willing to push the concept intellectually, because for there to be a revolution, there must be of the revolutionaries.
Mr. P for PARM