Understanding end-users’ needs for new community policing technology

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Dr Su Anson | Head of Innovation & Research

Date: 25 July 2018

New technologies can enable a better collaboration between communities and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) to prevent and reduce crime. Innovative processes are in place and have been tested to provide early warning and share information with citizens while inviting them to actively collaborate in reporting crime.

However, there is an open discussion on how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of LEAs’ work while foreseeing challenges in the implementation of new technology.

Assessing new technology for Community Policing

Community policing, termed neighbourhood Policing in the UK, is concerned with Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) and communities working together. Technology can support this collaboration by enhancing communication and facilitating the exchange of information between LEAs and their communities.

Here at Trilateral, we work with many organisations to understand and assess the impact of new technologies. Recently, in the EC funded INSPEC2T project, Trilateral worked with Lancashire Constabulary to assess the impact on the end-users of a new community policing technology, the INSPEC2T solution, designed to facilitate engagement between Officers and citizens in Preston.

In developing the assessment of end-users’ needs we focus on:

  • Technology Risk Assessment
  • Context of Implementation
  • User experience

Technology Risk Assessment

When implementing a new technology, it is important to first understand the potentially relevant risks (e.g., societal, ethical, privacy, data protection) that can arise. For example, will the use of the technology result in any risk to the privacy of citizens and/or police officers? Considering potential risks, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders (e.g., potential users, technical experts) enables recommendations to be made to address the risks identified and prevent undesired outcomes.

Context of Implementation

An understanding of the current context and practices of the organisation adopting the technology is also important. This baseline assessment is not only used to evaluate the impact and value created by the technology but also helps to ensure that the new technology is compatible with existing technology and organisational priorities, structures and policies. For example, during the INSPEC2T solution development, Trilateral worked with Lancashire Constabulary to perform the baseline assessment in Preston. This involved conducting interviews with key stakeholders including policing staff working in strategic, operational, and technical roles, and partner agencies. The analysis of the interviews provided valuable insights into the current context Preston Police is operating in and the challenges to be considered when adopting the new technology.

End-users’ needs 

The INSPEC2T solution - New community policing technology

The next step in assessing the impact of a new technology is to engage with potential users to understand their impressions of the technology. This engagement enables potential users to learn about the technology before piloting it and to provide their feedback. At this stage, this feedback is incredibly valuable as it informs whether the technology meet users’ expectations and highlights overlooked risks or  ways to improve the technology functions.

The final stage of the assessment activities consists of piloting the technology. For example, the pilot of the INSPEC2T solution, involved over 60 participants including senior and community police officers from Preston Police, representatives from partner agencies, and students. Trilateral’s researchers participated in the pilots, shadowing police officers and students and observing the control room, to gain rich insights into the usability and acceptability of the technology from different user perspectives. Additionally, pilot participants completed surveys before and after the pilot to assess the usability and potential impact of the technology.

The advantages of assessing end-users’ needs and the co-design approach

Assessing end-users’ needs at multiple stages of the technology development will result in more user-friendly technologies that meet organisational requirements and that are more likely to be adopted. Drawing on the principles of co-design, Trilateral worked closely with end-users from Lancashire Constabulary from start (2015) to finish (2018) of the technology development process. This long-term collaboration enabled Trilateral’s researchers to build working relationships with key stakeholders and to use different research methods (interviews, workshop, surveys, and observation) to collect rich data to assess end-user needs and impact.

Building on our work in understanding end-user needs in a policing context, Trilateral is currently working with LEAs in the development and piloting of our risk management solution, STRIAD, designed for LEAs and community safety partnerships to build strong, sustainable, and future-looking collaborations.

For more information please feel free to contact our team.

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