How do we police the digital age?

Opinion by Giles Herdale - Essex Police. National Lead on Digital Intelligence & Investigation Strategy.

How is policing going to adapt to the seismic changes caused by the digital revolution? How is crime changing as a result of technology and what does this mean for the needs of victims? At a time of continuing austerity with pressures on the police service seemingly from all sides how can forces develop new skills and capabilities to police the digital age? And how do we reduce vulnerabilities and get better at designing out crime online? These are some of the most pressing issues facing policing in the UK, and this week marked a major milestone in the progress towards developing a digital policing strategy, led by Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh.

On Tuesday 17th February over 50 national police leaders, policymakers, academics and practitioners gathered at the NCA offices in London to develop a digital intelligence and investigation strategy. There is much work innovative already in train, from building new digital forensics capabilities in partnership with commercial providers, to the establishment of new regional cybercrime teams, and work to develop better reporting services for victims. But there was considerable consensus that this work needs better co-ordination and stronger national leadership if policing is going to respond to the scale of the challenge.

And this poses challenges beyond doing existing things in a better or more joined up way. The nature of digital communication enabling anyone to communicate with anyone instantly and globally fundamentally challenges a policing model based on proximity of victims, offenders and locations. The very real legal and practical challenge of tracking digital communications across the world means that reactive investigative interventions will have significant limitations. So we need to think laterally about better ways of problem solving, and developing new partnerships, based on the principles of agility and responsiveness.

These are not issues that will be easy to address. But they are ones that the UK will have to face. Remember that the UK has one of the highest penetrations of online retailing in the world, and very high usage of social media and other online services. No one country can address what is a symptom of globalisation on its own. So policing and law enforcement not just in the UK, but in partner states, will need to adapt rapidly if it is to remain relevant and continue to command the public trust that it currently enjoys. We'd welcome the input of police practitioners, industry, academia and victims of crime as we develop a framework for addressing digital investigation and intelligence.

Giles Herdale:

 

 

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