Policing has unmistakably changed in the past decade. Digital transformation has caused a disruptive shift in countless different ways inside police organizations across the world. In the UK, evolution is happening at a national level but being pioneered by a handful of the country’s 43 individual police forces.
Jonathan Blackwell is a superintendent at Cumbria Constabulary, working across the Durham and Cumbria Constabularies in Northern England. His role is to make sure that the investments and policy changes that the force makes are in the best interest of the public – meaning the best possible outcome for the UK taxpayer.
Technology plays a huge role in his work, which he describes as being on a journey towards mainstream digital policing.
While traditionally well-funded metropolitan police organizations might have been the most innovative, that is no longer the case in 2021. Cumbria Constabulary has been participating in the National Enablement Programmes (NEP), a country-wide initiative aimed at using technology to enhance the quality of policing. Cumbria is among those to have embraced NEP guidance the most, finding a long list of ways to improve the efficacy of policing in the county.
Digital policing in practice
A major part of the strategy at Cumbria is to help officers get on with the thing that they are hired to do – police work. Blackwell describes the philosophy as allowing officers to operate with the same tools and access as if they were physically located at the police station.
“What we actually want is the ability at the scene to interrogate the information so they can make really quick, fast time decisions, using all the information and intelligence that they would have if they drove back to the police station.”Jonathan Blackwell – Superintendent, Cumbria Constabulary
Using mobile, cloud services like Office365, Red Sigma and other new collaborative processes, frontline officers are able to do more effective policing no matter where they are. This has led to a big reduction in trips back to the station, in needless face-to-face meetings and time spent working against technology, rather than in harmony with it.
Reliance on connectivity
Central to the projects at Cumbria is the easy exchange of information, as well as agile, seamless access to the right information at the right time – no matter where the officer may be. This, of course, requires the implementation of high quality hardware (smartphones, tablets and laptops) as well as cloud software that can be readily deployed almost anywhere.
“The mobility piece for me was about more than giving out a handheld device. The important thing is what officers and staff are able to do on those devices. And that comes back to interrogating the information. You then need a web-based operational information system that they can access in that environment, whilst being mobile. We’re trying to achieve a really effective mobility piece that goes right the way through, from some hardware through to being able to access various systems, whilst out and about.”Jonathan Blackwell – Superintendent, Cumbria Constabulary
Crucially, this entire project depends on support from reliable, high performance networks. While Cumbria can maintain its own access points and local networks, for the majority of its highly-mobile workforce, these networks are operated by the carriers. As Blackwell puts it, “If we haven’t got connectivity, then the rest of it is pointless.” That’s why Cumbria also makes use of NetMotion as its core secure access solution.
As well as providing the security, compliance and policy controls that the organization’s IT leadership needs, it also ensures that devices enjoy a reliable, resilient connection, no matter what. As officers and staff switch between networks – and even experience total disconnects – NetMotion maintains the session to minimize disruptions and prevents the need for frequent reauthentication. Even more importantly, the technology also automatically optimizes the network when in congested or weak coverage areas or while conducting mission critical actions. From improving the quality of video calls to making the network more resilient, NetMotion is an essential glue in supporting the wider digital policing strategy, delivering the best possible network conditions for the next era in UK policing.