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Police need a "new set of skills" to meet digital challenges of the future

PUBLISHED: 10:16 15 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:16 15 February 2019

More Police officers are set to be patrolling Norwich city centre under Norfolk 2020 plans.  Picture: Nick Butcher

More Police officers are set to be patrolling Norwich city centre under Norfolk 2020 plans. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2018

As traditional detective methods become redundant police must adopt a "new set of skills" to prepare for the future, Norfolk's chief constable has warned.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey at Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters, Wymondham. Photo : Steve AdamsChief Constable Simon Bailey at Norfolk Constabulary Headquarters, Wymondham. Photo : Steve Adams

As traditional detective methods become redundant police must adopt a “new set of skills” to prepare for the future, Norfolk’s chief constable has warned.

Crime is rising across the board, and while better recording practices go some way to explain it, chief constable Simon Bailey said sex crimes are increasing as predators exploit online avenues and internet pornography warps the perception of normal relationships.

Looking ahead to the future of policing, as part of our special week-long focus on the future of Norwich, Mr Bailey said detectives will increasingly rely on data experts to wade through the “phenomenal” amount of memory on mobile and computer devices.

“Like the vast majority of forces, we are seeing exceptional increases in reports of serious sexual offences, domestic abuse, adult abuse and complex cyber-enabled crime,” Mr Bailey said.

“We have to contemplate that more of this crime is being committed, and I do think there is more sex crime taking place.

“A lot of the increases are being driven by the availability of online pornography and the perception of what a normal relationship is.”

The problem has been highlighted before.

The 2017 HMIC PEEL effectiveness report for Norfolk found a “backlog of crimes” waiting to be investigated and others waiting to be closed as funding is cut and crimes become ever-more complex.

More Police officers are set to be patrolling Norwich city centre under Norfolk 2020 plans.  Picture: Nick ButcherMore Police officers are set to be patrolling Norwich city centre under Norfolk 2020 plans. Picture: Nick Butcher

And in their Policing for the Future report in 2018, the Commons Home Affairs Committee concluded police forces are “woefully under-resourced for the number of online child abuse investigations they now need to undertake” and are “failing to meet the challenges of the digital age”.

“Police forces are not adequately equipped to handle the volume or type of digital evidence now generated, including in online child sexual abuse cases,” they said.

Mr Bailey said he needs a new recruitment drive to employ experts in handling big data to support his detectives in the future.

“The traditional detective skills which have become the foundations upon which all my officers have based their careers, in lots of cases are no now longer relevant,” he said.

“You will see an increasing number of members of staff who are experts in recovery of digital evidence from devices, and experts in handling of big data manipulation and identifying and isolating material that is there.

“I will be looking at a new set of skills where people will have to be specifically trained in terms of the handling, management and analysis of data in a way we have simply never had to conduct before.

“I will probably see detective officers supervising the members of staff responsible for data acquisition and analysis.
“They need those additional resources and skills around them.”

Mr Bailey said the internet gave sex offenders an ability to carry out their crimes in a way they weren’t able to before.

“There is the ability to go online and get dating apps, the prevalence of indecent images of children and the fact you can put in your credit card details and access sexual abuse of a child,” he said.

“People who were predisposed previously weren’t able to realise their desires.”

He added that tech companies who create apps on which predatory offenders operate have a “social and moral responsibility” to police the platforms, or “we might have to consider legislation”.

“It is so important parents are aware of the risks of the internet and have conversations with their children at a very early age so their children are resilient and are able to spot the signs of exploitation, grooming or abuse,” he said.

“We need a really effective PSHE in our schools and start to educate children at primary schools at an early age about the risks.

“As a society we need to recognise exploitation of the vulnerable and spot the signs early on when we have concerns, and draw it to the attention of those responsible for safeguarding and protecting the most vulnerable.”

Investigation hubs

Artist's impression of how the new police investigation hubs at Broadland Gate Business Park and Swaffham could look. Image: Norfolk ConstabularyArtist's impression of how the new police investigation hubs at Broadland Gate Business Park and Swaffham could look. Image: Norfolk Constabulary

The data-led detective model will be supported by two state of the art investigation hubs at Swaffham and Postwick.

Set for completion by the end of 2020, the hubs will become the new home for all of Norfolk’s detective teams.

Seven police stations and another seven front desks closed under the Norfolk 2020 plan, but two new stations will be built in Norfolk and others redeveloped.

The police stations in Acle, Caister, Bowthorpe, Tuckswood and North Lynn will all shut.

Two other stations, at Coltishall and Europa Way in Norwich, are currently used for storage but will also close and be sold.

The force will sell the buildings and use £12m of its reserves to build two new investigation hubs at Broadland Gate Business Park and Swaffham to house all criminal investigation detectives, child abuse and sexual abuse teams in the two locations, rather than having them spread out across the county.

“The development of hubs sees us bringing together all our detective assets into two state of the art buildings at Swaffham and Postwick,” said Mr Bailey.

“At the completion of their construction at the end of 2020 they will then be inhabited by my detective teams, and the hubs are going to save £1.25m a year based on the fact I am going to be delivering detective assets in the most efficient and effective way.”

The police drone. Photo: Norfolk policeThe police drone. Photo: Norfolk police

The Swaffham building near Waitrose will cost £3.5m and the Broadland Gate building will add £4.7m to the bill, with another £1m needed for IT costs.

But Mr Bailey said any police force had to keep neighbourhood policing as its bedrock.

“The foundations of the policing model are predicated upon really effective neighbourhood policing,” he said. “I think that is incredibly important, and will be as important in 2040 as it is now.

“That is why there are more uniforms in Norwich now than there were before with PCSOs, and we are starting to see the impact of those officers, with reductions in thefts, burglaries and serious acquisitive crime.”

New technology being exploited by police to date includes the use of drones able to fly in winds of up to 50mph and with a live feed to officers on the ground.

Norfolk Police doubled its drone coverage - from two to four of the hi-tech machines - following the success of a three-month pilot scheme launched in 2017.

The drone units have already been used for industrial and firearms incidents, forensic photography, searches and pre-planned operations.

• The Norwich Society and Evening News are holding a public debate about the future of the city at the Forum on Tuesday, February 19 at 6pm. Admission is free, but booking here is recommended.

• Our Future of Norwich takeover week is brought to you in association with Norwich City Council and Norwich Business Improvement District (BID).

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