“We are very clear...there is no such thing as status quo here. We have to keep looking into the future.”
For Mark Evans, deputy chief executive, service delivery at NZ Police, this perspective is important as ICT is increasingly becoming a critical component of policing.
At the recent Technology for Transformation (T4T) Summit in Wellington, NZ Police discussed - and demonstrated - some of these technologies in action, from drones to wearable technologies.
In an exclusive interview with CIO New Zealand, Evans and Superintendent Rob Cochrane, chief information officer at NZ Police, share lessons learned from the conference.
They reveal that an upcoming area of application of technology in policing work is in health and wellness.
“We know with a heart rate that is over 160, your decision-making can deteriorate,” says Cochrane. “It is around understanding that if your heart rate is high, what can you do to reduce your heart rate so your decision-making quality is increased? How do you control your body and heart rate to get the best outcome?”
There is no such thing as status quo here. We have to keep looking into the future
“It is still early days,” he notes. “It is a use case of how we can use technology to understand their biometrics, so they know what to do when they make a decision.”
“It is around how to use technology to keep people healthy, but there is a major safety element to that as well,” adds Evans.
“Ultimately, when you think about the privacy of that information, we need to work with our staff to understand how we might use that.”
The two Police executives apply this insight to other technologies that are being deployed or being considered across the agency and the government sector.
“We have got to have conversation around privacy and public as a police service,” says Evans.
“There is the technology piece, and then part of the conversation is around the community. What’s acceptable? This is quite important. I do not want to lose sight of the fact that we are going to run these things in parallel,” he explains.
“So, while we are looking at technology, we are looking at privacy and social license aspects.”
Inaugural tech summit
The two-day Technology for Transformation event was organised to showcase current capability and emerging technology at the NZ Police.
The event, open to all government employees, also aimed to connect with other public sector employees so they could learn how technology creates new ways of working and to encourage greater collaboration across the sector.
According to Cochrane, more than 600 people attended T4T over the two days at the Royal New Zealand Police College. The attendees ranged from Police executives to recruits that have just started their training.
“This is the first time the NZ Police has held this type of technology forum,” discloses Evans.
“It reflects a bit of a sense of technology being fundamentally important to policing, and certainly, of policing in this country,” he adds.
“We were very keen to lift the awareness of the importance of technology as a business enabler.”
He also says that the NZ Police is doing well in a number of areas, particularly digital development, mobility, and service delivery.
He points out the importance of making the technology summit “a partnership event”.
“The future is very much a collaboration with key strategic partners,” says Evans, and these range from multinationals to local New Zealand companies.
Not in isolation
“The whole theme of the summit is with a combination of technology working together, we are going to get the best outcome, and you need to work with partners to allow that to happen,” states Cochrane.
“It is picking the right things that are going to make a difference.”
“5g is really an important part of the Police around actually being able to slice a network and having emergency services dedicated to the spectrum,” notes Cochrane, on some of the technologies that stood out for him.
“It will open up some avenues for Police,” he adds. “The ability of Police to stream 4K quality video in real-time back has real value.”
He adds that the analytics in CCTV or video data will reduce human costs of trying to analyse the data, versus AI or machine learning running across the video to identify key themes.
“The use of drones is another example,” says Cochrane.
He notes the cost of running a helicopter with the cost of running a drone, for a lot of police-related incidents, and also for 3D mapping.
“If you look at the 5G capability of a drone to actually map the crash site, and allow police to clear the road and get traffic moving, that has benefits on the economy especially in Auckland,” he states.
“You can't look at technology in isolation.”
The mobile advantage
“It is really important we made really positive steps around how we built our mobility programme,” adds Cochrane.
“Our partners, our workforce, and ICT working alongside each other fully allowed them to understand a day in the life of a police officer.”
He cites the work by Kiwi firm Smudge. “They work with our people from the front end and spend as much time going out in police cars as much as staff operating in the field, to see what is going to make a difference for them.”
Evans notes how the mobility programme of the NZ Police was one of five winners in the 1st World Class Policing Awards in November 2019 in London.
The global award cites NZ Police for its ‘more street than station approach’ mobility programme.
“It highlights how New Zealand is leading edge in terms of law enforcement agencies around the world,” says Evans, who joined Commissioner of Police Mike Bush in receiving the award.
“In some areas, we are bleeding edge.”
Smartphones and Police-specific apps allow officers to access and share the latest data and react quickly to developing events and incidents.
The Police estimates mobility has brought productivity gains of at least 30 minutes per officer per shift – totalling over half a million hours per year. These hours are redirected into prevention-focused activities.
A part of the programme, the CheckPoint app, was introduced in the hours following the terrorist attack in Christchurch in March 2019.
It provides officers with quick access to content on policy, procedure, and religious protocols to support them in making reassurance visits to places such as educational facilities and places of worship.
Cochrane also talks about their approach to a constantly changing business technology landscape.
“We need to think about how we support our staff moving from on premise environment to cloud environment,” he explains.
Cochrane says Police has also started planning for its first ICT graduate programme, which will be implemented this year.
According to him, the graduates will provide the ICT leadership with useful, different lenses.
He shares that they also had a “good conversation” with other companies that have been implementing graduate programmes in their ICT functions.
“What was clear was that they weren’t employing all technology students,” says Cochrane. “They were employing a broader wide range of qualifications.”
Evans says one of the things he was encouraged by, was the number of front-line staff that attended the forum and talked to the technology providers.
“They work with the device, and they see what it is in front of them that will help them do their job.”
“They live in a world with smartphones and they expect the systems to essentially replicate what they got into their phones.”
“We've got lots of young people, because we are recruiting lots more members into the police service and we are really looking into opportunities in that space,” he says.
“One of the things that Rob [Cochrane] has been working on is how we can create a positive culture within the technology group.”
“That is the main thing in the workforce, to be purposeful, agile, and feel confident that they are well supported around doing things differently,” he explains.
“And, certainly, in policing over the past two years, we are trying to create a more agile, imaginative, and innovative culture.”
“What I have seen is much more collaboration and partnership together,” adds Evans. “You can only do that if you have trust and understanding and a common view of the problems you are trying to solve.”
“Technology is about people - and relationships,” he adds.
As for lessons other government agencies can learn from, he says.
“The biggest one for us was you need to make really good decisions about who you partner with, who you're going to work with in the tech space, and really understand it is about getting better outcomes for New Zealand.”
“It is not about buying widgets or being transactional,” Cochrane stresses. “You really have to make investments on both sides of the organisation to work together for better outcomes. Ultimately, it is going to be good for New Zealand.”
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