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Police set for better engagement with UK tech firms

The policing lead for digital investigation and intelligence says new structures will improve engagement and collaboration between the UK tech industry and police forces

UK police are set for better engagement with the UK’s technology sector, according to the national policing lead for digital investigation and intelligence (DII).

“For the first time, we have a vision moving forward,” said chief constable Stephen Kavanagh, who also chairs the DII capabilities management group and digital policing board (DPB).

“We will not solve [the problem of responding to the challenges of the digital age] on our own,” he told members of technology association TechUK at an event in London.

“It is through more effective engagement with UK tech firms, through understanding what prevention looks like and through better-informed user communities,” he said.

Kavanagh is determined to ensure UK policing is better organised to meet the challenges of law enforcement in the digital age.

As a result of various digital initiatives, he said the police increasingly have the ability to articulate what the problems are and what the ambition is for policing, which will help tech providers know what policing is looking for, he said.

“If you put that alongside the Police ICT Company and the commercial processes it introduced, then instead of the frustrating experience the tech industry has had of trying to identify where to plug into law enforcement, you get the innovation and new ways of thinking that are needed,” he said.

With the impending inaugural meeting of the DPB in May, Kavanagh said he expects to see an improvement in police forces’ engagement with tech firms in the next three to six months.

Bridging the gap between industry and police

In addition to examining the interdependencies between public contact, investigations and evidence, the DPB will identify some key pilot projects to run at local level.

“This will be aimed at providing the UK tech industry with a consistent opportunity through the Police ICT Company to help build capabilities and confidence in local policing,” he told Computer Weekly.

“I need to help the chiefs of all 43 UK police forces to have more capable and confident police in dealing with the victims of digital crime to fill the gap between us and the complex national and international crime the national crime agency [NCA] is dealing with,” he said.

Industry to drive innovation

Just as the automotive industry drove innovation to reduce vehicle theft, Kavanagh believes industry will help drive the innovation required to tackle cyber-enabled crime.

“For example, identification could be accredited so if someone is selling an expensive item online, their identity can be verified before contact is made or the item is sold. That is the type of innovation TechUK is beginning to offer,” he said.

TechUK’s Partners against crime report, he said, is a good document that could have been written by law enforcement, but it was written with industry and shows a common understanding of the challenges and potential solutions.

“It is not about procuring the cheapest product, it is about finding the one that is the most effective in keeping the public safe,” he said.

According to Kavanagh, there is a common interest in the UK tech sector in helping the police forces be more effective.

“We can all see the gap between the crime that is taking place and the capabilities of law enforcement is too wide,” he said.

Kavanagh hopes to use the new Police ICT Company and the DPB to reduce that gap and keep people safe.

“Through the DPB we can be more dynamic by doing more pilots with a consistent benefits analysis, which means we will be able to spot what is working well and roll that out quickly,” he said.

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