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The National Policing Digital Strategy (NPDS) outlines a series of digital ambitions for UK policing over the next 10 years. It builds upon the Policing Vision 2025 in identifying the critical data and technology building blocks required to fulfil their primary objective of making communities safer in a digitally disrupted world.
This blog will explore some of the key challenges and opportunities created by the disruption. It will provide guidance and support to forces embarking upon digital transformation and cloud adoption strategies, paying particular attention to the priorities and recommendations set out in the NPDS.
The NPDS acknowledges that cloud infrastructure and services will be fundamental to the effective adoption of new and emerging technologies, as and when they become available. Cloud facilitates a degree of agility, choice and pace of change that is not possible with legacy alternatives.
The shift to cloud will create a more modular and flexible technology estate, enabling the secure transmission of data between connected applications and technologies, and ultimately providing a foundation for innovation to scale across the service.
Ever evolving criminality, accelerated demand from cybercrime, and the increasing complexity and scale of digital evidence are placing additional pressure on the modern police service. Cloud technology can help UK policing respond to these demands, as well as the new and yet unknown disruption that the future will inevitably bring.
The adoption of cloud facilitates an endless list of use cases for the digitalisation of services and processes across UK police forces. Here are a few examples that our customers and partners from across the sector have shared with us:
More effective collaboration between teams, forces and the general public: The outcomes of transformation projects across UK police directly affects prosecution rates and timeframes. Victims, perpetrators and other parts of the judicial system are all impacted. Cloud is the enabler for better, more sustainable collaboration between public safety organisations.
Safe and secure remote working: Access to data, applications and services from outside of the corporate network is often clunky and inefficient. A more permanent solution is required that can be scaled to meet evolving demands.
Secure integration with third party and partner systems: Officers requiring access to CCTV footage from third parties are forced to view it from the provider’s control room, causing delays. The ability to securely transfer this data to an environment where it could be viewed at police HQ would accelerate the process.
Tools to increase citizen engagement with the police: It is common for police forces to appeal to the general public for photographic or video evidence from the time or location where a crime was committed. An online service where members of the public could securely upload media would save time, money and resources.
Faster and more reliable evidence collection: Body worn cameras capture images and footage that must then be stored securely, often in a cloud based environment. Depending on the camera provider, this could be AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud. The evidence is typically then transferred to a Digital Evidence Management System, which is not always hosted in the same cloud. This can create delays and issues around access and cloud to cloud security.
Logging and analytics: Individual forces have frequently taken the lead on initiatives attempting to innovate the tools and processes associated with data access, storage and analysis. For example, Avon and Somerset have launched Project Bluestone, a new evidence and data based approach that will transform the way police respond to and investigate RASSO. Securely transferring, storing and accessing sensitive data is a major challenge for forces.
Data integration: Securing sensitive data across legacy and cloud environments is problematic. IT leaders require a full and reliable audit trail to assist with compliance and assurance regulations. This includes when data is in transit.
Shadow IT: Officers are finding ways to circumvent legacy tools and applications to accelerate clunky processes. The utilisation of unauthorised technologies and practises can lead to security and regulatory noncompliance, data leaks, and unforeseen expense maintaining, supporting or closing them down.
The challenge ahead
The rate at which new technologies and services are being developed and consumed is expected to increase. It is critical that police services have access to these as and when they become available. The IT estate therefore needs to be agile and flexible in response to this innovation. It must facilitate the adoption of services from different cloud, technology and connectivity providers without long lead times, excessive costs or disruption to users.
Different programmes and initiatives across UK police forces already utilise cloud services from multiple providers. Hybrid and multicloud models provide the organisation with the ability to consume the best of on-premise, private and public cloud.
Organisations no longer need to lock themselves into long, expensive contracts to secure the best price or service agreements. Cloud provides choice and control, both of which are critical to the concept of a Police Force of the Future.
There is already a significant burden on police forces to demonstrate compliance with existing security and assurance regulations. As the digitalisation of services and processes continues at pace, these requirements are likely to evolve and grow too.
UK citizens demand and expect their data to be protected at all times. New and existing services and applications must be reliable, effective and, most importantly of all, secure. The sensitive nature of the data and information stored on police networks means that security must be a fundamental component of any transformation project.
Meaningful collaboration between departments, forces and the private sector will be critical to the effectiveness of the NPDS. Identifying and exploiting any efficiencies and economies of scale saves money, time and resources. The transfer of expertise and knowledge will be vital, particularly when it comes to security and networking where there is a skills deficit currently.
Sharing ideas and experiences allows for greater standardisation of methods and processes, while also reducing the likelihood of costly mistakes being repeated. Lots of forces are currently confronted by the same or similar challenges. It is therefore beneficial for a culture of collaboration to be nurtured across UK police forces as well as with the private sector organisations that support them.
Collaboration with the general public is also important. The purpose of the Police Force of the Future persona is to drive change that will result in better citizen outcomes. It is critical that the NPDS delivers tangible value to the person on the street.
Interacting with the general public is therefore vital to this whole endeavour. Individuals, teams and forces should not work in silos, but should be required to share experiences and work together. Cloud enables some of the key characteristics of the Police Force of the Future concept, so what is preventing services realising some of these benefits immediately?
The journey to cloud
While the utilisation of cloud across police services remains relatively low, most of the early scepticism has been eroded away as the benefits have been demonstrated, pathways to adoptions have been defined, and other public sector organisations have enjoyed success. Here are three key things to consider:
1) Consider your infrastructure
In order to effectively harness the full potential of cloud services, the underlying network infrastructure also requires careful consideration. Cloud can deliver a range of benefits – flexibility, scalability, control, cost and security, amongst others – however, for these to be realised the network that serves them must be all these things as well, preferably underpinned by some form of SLA too. Failing to achieve this can result in incurring more costs and admin overheads further down the road.
Hybrid and multicloud models allow police forces to leverage the best of on-premise and public cloud services. While it makes sense for new workloads to be hosted in cloud environments, it is highly likely that some legacy applications and services were not built in a way that is compatible with cloud. Over time, these can be rearchitected or replaced utilising cloud technologies, but in the meantime a degree of interoperability is necessary to meet existing requirements.
2) Start small
Police services need the ability to provision secure, scalable connectivity between their physical sites, on premise and cloud environments, partner ecosystems and remote workers. As and when new services and technologies emerge, they need the agility to begin consuming them immediately so that the benefit can be passed on to their officers and the general public.
Long lead times and unfavourable vendor contracts often cause unnecessary delays or expense. Traditional providers typically demand 90 days to perform any changes to their service, and frequently set prohibitive conditions around minimum bandwidth levels and contract lengths.
Begin harnessing the power of digital, data and technology for your force with bandwidth options starting at 100 Mbps, allowing you to start small and scale as your requirements evolve.
3) Sustainable change
The NPDS outlines the importance of sustainable and lasting transformation. From a networking perspective, this means future-proofing the underlying infrastructure so that it does not become an obstacle to transformation at a later point. Cloud Gateway’s flexible, cloud native security and networking solutions provide rapid, secure connectivity between your whole estate and cloud services providers, removing or reducing the administrative burden on internal IT teams.
Our network, security and cloud experts can support your force on its cloud journey, regardless of size or digital maturity. Read our Police Force of the Future ebook to learn how a Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) solution can accelerate your adoption of cloud inline with the NPDS.
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Police force of the future, building a business case for cloud adoption in UK Policing. We look at the five key priorities or indicators for police services attempting to digitally transform which the NPDS identifies.