For the record
Written by: Sam Fenwick | Published:

Motorola Solutions recently hosted an event on how emergency services are harnessing technology for public safety. Sam Fenwick reports on the main talking points.

Paul Steinberg, SVP – technology at Motorola Solutions (shown far left), began by looking at the issues around digital policing. He noted that certainly in the US, the administration burden for police officers has increased significantly when compared with the 1980s – it now takes up 40 per cent of their time, and 30 per cent of their time is spent in the station. He also drew attention to the sheer amount of data that modern police forces have to grapple with, noting a sexual offence case in the UK that required the review of 44,000 texts and instant messages. He went on to discuss the company’s approach to AI.

The event marked the announcement of a trial, which was performed by Surrey and Sussex Police and gave officers access to drivers’ licence images at the roadside via Motorola’s Pronto mobile working application, helping them quickly identify whom officers had stopped for traffic offences. The trial reduced the time taken to identify a driver from 16 minutes to just five.

Ian Williams, senior consultant at Motorola Solutions (and former chief inspector and digital policing lead at West Yorkshire Police), said this capability “will be rolled out more widely in the near future. What we’ve found with other [similar] systems is that when people know you have that sort of technology, they stop lying to you, they suddenly ‘remember’ who they are.”

Also present was superintendent Stevie Dolan of Police Scotland (shown centre right), who was there to discuss its ongoing roll-out of Pronto. Dolan said the time saved is making a real difference to officers’ well-being, while boosting their efficiency. He added one of the benefits is that Police Scotland has designed the forms so an officer will clearly see what details they need to record and the order they should be recorded in – “we are already seeing improvements in data quality because every officer is recording every day they should on crime reports”.

On camera

The other announcement was around body-worn video (BWV) camera integration. Currently, officers have to complete a number of manual steps when using a body-worn video solution, including booking out the camera and associating it with them at the start of their shift, remembering to switch it on as well as uploading and tagging the footage into a data management system.

“The integration that we’ve done between [BWV, Pronto and CommandCentral Vault] solves all of those problems because now an offi cer can book out their camera simply by their warrant card – you can select the best camera for them, the one that’s most charged, the best one to take, it will put all their details onto the system so it correlates who they are and who they’re working with,” said Williams.

“Because of the GPS technology with the cameras, we’re able to correlate the location of that officer [to where] they took [the] footage [they shot during an incident with] information that’s already in Pronto [regarding the same incident] – so the officer is simply represented with ‘you dealt with this, is this evidential, is this non-evidential?’.”

He added that there is human oversight at the end of the process “to check that it’s all correct”.

Safety feature

Graeme Jones, BWV lead at West Midlands Ambulance (shown far right, main image), said while violence and aggression against its staff only occur in 0.2 per cent of call-outs, “that’s still 1,600 incidents a year, so it’s a huge issue”. He added that while it is easy to just consider the impact on the “individual that’s either been abused or physically assaulted”, there is also the additional pressure on staff created by the absence from work it can create, the impact on staff ’s families and the physiological impact of returning to work after such an incident.

To address this, West Midlands Ambulance has been carrying out a threemonth trial of body-worn video in conjunction with Motorola Solutions. Jones explained it was decided the BWV cameras would only be used when clinicians thought “the situation is escalating or [they are] being threatened”. He said this made it easier to explain their presence to patients.

After looking at the areas in West Midlands which had the highest instances of violence and aggression against staff, BWV cameras were rolled out across three ambulances stations that service Birmingham. While initially there were concerns about how the cameras might affect the “great relationships” the service has with patients, “we learned really quickly that [they] genuinely didn’t have [any] concerns, and lots of patients said ‘we’re surprised you haven’t [been using them] already’”.

The other question the service had was around how aggressive patients would react to the presence of the camera. “We thought we would [produce] lots of video of people being aggressive to ambulance staff , [but] we didn’t catch any – which is a great thing because [it] did a great preventative job. We’ve not statistically shown the outcome [because we’re not yet at the end of the trial] but, anecdotally, we’ve got some great stories.”

Jones also said this year the service has been working to enable its staff to access NHS patient data on tablets while out in the field, which is particularly useful when the patient is unconscious.

Watch and learn

Andrew White, assistant chief officer at Lincolnshire Police (shown centre left, main image), added that it is going to start carrying out a peer review of BWV footage from incidents in which police officers have been assaulted, in combination with “the initial call information and log data to try and understand [if there was] anything that officer might have done differently that could have reduced their chances of being assaulted.

“We can’t think why we haven’t thought about doing this before because it is such a rich [source of information], we have the video and sound of an officer being assaulted and yet we’d only ever use that in court previously for a prosecution, as opposed to thinking: let’s reflect [on this] as a learning experience and pull out some learning that we can then feed back into our public safety training. We think that could be really powerful.”

White also said that while police technology “has had a really unhappy history over the last decade or so”, the ease at which new solutions can be integrated with existing systems appears to be increasing. “[That] is really important because we’re never going to replace everything at the same time.” He added that the integration between Pronto and his force’s record management system is a key enabler of the benefits it has seen from Pronto (roughly an hour saved per shift).

White said “the market appears to have moved away from smaller bespoke players to platformbased systems, systems that aren’t dependent on the UK police market [to keep] them going; we’re part of a bigger global [ecosystem], so things that have dogged us consistently in the past, [such as the] high cost of upgrades” are being shared across a much larger customer base. “For the first time in policing technology [I’m] optimistic for the future.”


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