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UK Police’s 10 Year Digital Plan Focuses On Communications, Forensics

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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A 10-year strategy sees UK police forces taking wider advantage of digital tech, while training to handle its risks

UK police have set out a 10-year plan that lays a heavy emphasis on wider use of digital technologies and on training to combat Internet-based crime.

The strategy, published (PDF) by the UK National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) following a year in development, lays out plans for expanded use of digital technologies for communicating with police and reporting crime.

Digital forensics

Police woman officer security © pcruciatti ShutterstockThe digital shift reflects changing public expectations, according to the strategy.

“We must understand the wide-ranging concerns of citizens and be able to communicate across all forms of public contact, including new technologies and social media, which will require significant analytical and forecasting capabilities, which must be reflected within the workforce,” it states.

By 2025 police want the processes for sharing evidence to become “completely digital”, while officers will make better use of digital evidence.

“From CCTV footage to emails to phone records, evidence has now gone digital and there is a requirement to ensure it is accessible, readable and has long-term integrity,” the strategy states.

Overall, digital technology offers the possibility to cut costs, improve processes and “revolutionise the criminal justice process”, the document finds.

Training

The strategy also puts an emphasis on digital skills that will be needed to understand and combat the rise in “cyber-dependent criminality”.

“The Internet has provided the opportunity to commit new types of crime, enabled some crime types to be committed on an industrial scale and facilitated many forms of ‘traditional’ crime,” the document states. “Phishing, trolling, malware, online scams, revenge pornography and the proliferation of child abuse imagery go largely unrecorded, unanalysed and, as a result, are not fully understood.”

As a result the plan says that by 2025 officers must be “trained and equipped” specifically to deal with Internet-based crime.

A study by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) published earlier this month found that while there was a “universally” recognised need for digital skills, they currently “remain a significant gap” across most UK forces.

“Police forces continue to struggle with the large number of different IT systems and, in particular, how they work together to share and search for data,” the report said. “Very few forces are focusing on developing their officers’ and staff’s digital skills, despite a universal acceptance that digital skills are becoming an increasingly important part of police work.”

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