UK law enforcement agencies can now access data cleansing and analysis tools via the Microsoft Azure cloud, potentially saving police hundreds of hours of manual data processing.
The tools available are Chorus Analyser and Chorus Investigator, software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications developed by startup Chorus Intelligence to help police analyse case data, link disparate sources of information and quickly develop new lines of inquiry – all from a single workstation.
“Up to now, I’ve been spending days manipulating spreadsheets to get this data,” said a Derbyshire police officer. “Chorus is doing it in minutes.”
In its Policing for the future report in October 2018, the Home Affairs Committee found that most police forces in the UK struggle with out-of-date technology and poor digital capabilities.
The report also highlighted the lack of interoperability between the systems and databases used by different police forces. This means that when sharing data between forces, such as for tackling county-lines crime, the data would have to be cleansed manually each time it was transferred.
Boyd Mulvey, CEO and founder of Chorus Intelligence, said: “I think one the most prominent challenges the police have is giving officers in the field, and analysts, access to data that they can quickly interrogate and get the operational answers they need. We enable an analyst to do in a morning what it would have taken them a month to do.
“The product has essentially been designed by the police for the police. All of our customer relationship managers are ex-police, and most of them are ex-police analysts, so they are people who have been doing this for a living.”
Chorus software has been available to every UK police force since December 2017 through the Police ICT Company, which estimated early last year that Chorus could save the nation’s police forces up to 1.5 million hours’ work.
The move to Microsoft Azure not only provides police with another avenue through which to purchases the software, but it could also allow them to leapfrog their legacy systems, reducing the need for heavy capital investment in IT infrastructure.
“None of the police networks talk to each other,” said Mulvey. “So Surrey police don’t really connect with Norfolk police, for example, apart from in the police national database, which is a very rigid, very old 20-year plan.
“One of the main problems with the way other organisations have tried to solve the legacy problem is they’ve tried to go back into the systems and update them, which is a very time-consuming, very complicated, very expensive way of solving the issue.”
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Mulvey added: “So what the police are doing is kind of leapfrogging from standalone, past their networks and straight to cloud, and if you go onto the cloud, you can then remote access it from multiple police forces anywhere in the country.”
Mulvey’s comments echo the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s Policing Vision 2025 plan to deliver specialist capabilities to the police through a network to make them more affordable.
Mike Riordan, UK police lead at Microsoft, said the deployment of Chorus’ technology on the cloud also means police do not have to spend as much time managing their servers.
“All too often, UK forces struggle to adopt improved operational services due to their legacy technology stack, and the SaaS delivery method from Chorus, which has been approved by the Police ICT Company, provides the speed to service which policing requires to counter today’s threats,” he said.
Microsoft’s datacentres were reviewed and approved by the National Police Information Risk Management Team in 2017. However, as has been revealed by the Information Commissioner’s Office’s year-long investigation into the Metropolitan Police’s Gangs Matrix, the underlying quality of police data can be questionable, leading to data protection issues.
Mulvey added: “Many of the problems in terms of people ending up on the wrong [watch] list are from the police creating data, putting people on a list, and categorising people when they shouldn’t do. Analysing data held by the police to categorise whether you are likely to offend or whether you are a gang member, we don’t do any of that – we simply cleanse externally sourced data [from outside the police, such as call logs and CCTV] in order to help them actually prove involvement in a criminal act.
“Because you’re dealing with people’s lives, you have to make sure that the data you present in court, or the data that you act on from an intelligence point of view, is very accurate and factual. If it’s wrong or even misleading, you can lose a case and quite rightly too. You’re dealing with people’s freedom here.”