Getting a shift on
Ian Blackhurst discusses how once a day briefings could soon be consigned to history.
Policing is an information-intensive business, and it is most often visible when it is about the here and now. But it is also about preparing for what is to come, and knowing what is happening in the here and now, with context and knowledge. It is certainly not a static business. Situations develop so quickly that information given in a briefing can lose relevance and currency as the shift progresses. How can officers be expected to turn the rhetoric of intelligence-led policing into practice if the structure of their information dissemination is stuck in a time warp? Expecting officers to rely on basic data searching capabilities and the radio for updates when on patrol is unsustainable. Change is overdue. Actionable intelligence requires much more than one briefing at the start of a shift. Enabling officers to self-brief remotely and receive real-time updates will keep them visible and productive in their communities. Technology that does not require going through a gate-keeper is a game-changer. Picture the scene. At the start of a shift, officers are notified of a known sex offender recently rehoused on their division. Appropriate multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPAs) are in place and the shift sergeant has ensured the patrol officers have the latest intelligence update concerning the offender. The risk to the public is in hand at the moment of briefing. But then, several hours later, officers are radioed about Danny, a vulnerable ten-year-old boy who has not turned up for school. Let us look at two different ways a scenario could play out. A missing child The police know that Danny has a troubled background and moderate learning difficulties. He has recently been given a PlayStation and often chats online to other players, who he has not met and does not know. Chris is a regular player he chats with and who is friendly and sympathetic when Danny complains about his stepdad. It becomes clear that Chris shares many of the modus operandi of the known sex offender. Dannys name and description are radioed to officers on patrol. The missing persons unit is liaising with the family to obtain a recent photo of Danny but it is proving difficult, as mum can only find one taken a few years ago. Danny has gone missing before, but the officers are not able to access the records remotely. They wait for the control room to update them about any possible sightings. Accessing vital clues the golden hour In a missing person case, the minutes and hours immediately following the report are crucial, which is why accessing critical information rapidly is imperative. In the case of a vulnerable child a high-risk case seeing the bigger picture helps differentiate the routine from the extraordinary. Having access to as much relevant data and intelligence as possible enables officers to have a consolidated and informed view of risk. And it is important that officers have mobile searchable access to all data, and not just one database (as is often the case). This would enable response officers to view previous incidents or records involving Danny at a glance, as well as those of multi-agency partners. So, let us imagine a different scenario. A different story Instead of one briefing at the start of the shift covering all the main crime patterns, officers could be briefed remotely several times throughout their shift, with real-time intelligence and updates. Live updates about the sex offender living in their patch are pushed to the officers, direct to their mobile device. GPS (Global Positioning System) monitoring has shown he has started deviating from his normal routes. There is concern a pattern appears to be emerging, as his routes include going past schools and parks. One school on the route is Dannys. The photograph of Danny that his mum provided is also now in the hands of the officers, meaning they do not need to return to the station for a hard copy. The golden hour ticks by, yet officers are spending more of it looking f