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New policing realities

Challenges facing policing

Despite uncertainties, looking at current challenges for policing and future trends, we believe that there are six new realities that the police must face head on. In the coming decades, policing will be:

  1. Serving a fully digital world. Every crime now has a digital footprint; every police function harnesses digital technology, and data is one of policing’s most powerful assets.
  2. Outgunned by private sector and civil society. Private investments in crime prevention and investigation will vastly outweigh public investments by the state, and private crime fighting capabilities often exceed those in police services. Long term trends in public finance, particularly the growing pressures of health and care expenditures, will ultimately constrain policing resources for a sustained period, even if there are short periods of relief. 
  3. Responding to a much faster pace of change in every arena. Constant business innovation creates new criminal opportunities but also new policing tools, while immediate social connectivity creates rapid spread of news and ideas on both sides of the crime arm’s race.
  4. Harnessing cyber-physical systems, with exponential growth of sensing technologies and connected (‘internet of things’) devices blurring boundaries between the physical and virtual world. 
  5. Using an unknowable volume of information and knowledge. Digitisation, data analytics and ongoing research and learning generate levels of knowledge that are so significant they cannot be entirely known by one individual, requiring decentralised decision making and new sense making and knowledge management capabilities.
  6. Operating with near-total transparency. Increasingly omni present surveillance of the public and the police means that we should now assume all police actions in the public realm and many in private and virtual spheres are capable of immediate and future scrutiny. There will, however, remain pockets of policing (CT, undercover, cyber) where technology may assist in maintaining secrecy – requiring more sophisticated forms of scrutiny.

These new realities have profound implications for the capabilities required for policing in future – the skills, processes, structures, models of innovation and workforce motivation required to deliver on the police mission. We use the term Policing 4.0 to describe policing that has adapted to these realities, not simply embracing and reacting to the new technologies of the fourth industrial revolution but responding to the broader social and economic changes they interact with.

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