News

06.08.18

Modern policing: the future is bright

Source: PSE Aug/Sept 2018

SPONSORED INTERVIEW

The public sector, and policing in particular, has often been criticised as being slow to adapt to change. But now, says Louise Fellows, O2’s new managing partner for Homes Affairs, things are changing. She sits down with PSE’s Daniel Broadley to discuss what her organisation is doing to support the UK’s police forces.

Louise Fellows has worked in telecoms for 27 years – 11 of those at O2, and seven with the public sector. It’s fair to say, with her plethora of expertise and O2’s 30 years of sector experience – making it the only telecoms company with a dedicated team of policing experts – she’s well placed to discuss the current state of the public sector.

“Policing is a new area for me,” Fellows began. “Much like the NHS or local government, it’s a public service. The macroeconomic challenges are the same, but with a specific mandate of keeping people safe.”

Making a difference is at the heart of Fellows’ work, driven by the fact that the technology and solutions her company provides can make positive changes to the lives of citizens and employees within public service and, ultimately, the public purse.

“I always address the public sector as if it’s my money they’re spending,” she said. “How can I help them to spend my pound more effectively?”

In her eyes, it’s about giving back to the community. Fellows is a board director on two not-for-profit organisations; one which helps connect businesses to local communities, and another which helps young people learn about the world of work. So where does this come in to her work with the police?

“It’s important that collaboration takes place right across the public sector. Organisations can sometimes be a bit competitive with each other,” she explained.

“It’s so important now for the police and the public sector as a whole to connect with each other, for example with health and social care, prison and probation, etc.

“Localised policing will be increasingly more important, so it’s not just about the police officers themselves, but how they connect and share knowledge and skills with the rest of the public bodies within their communities.”

O2 has been working with some of the biggest police forces in the country on digital policing and cross-force collaboration, including Surrey and Sussex, Derbyshire and the City of London, amongst others.

“When we’ve worked with these customers, we’ve worked to help empower these forces in their frontline and their back office,” Fellows said, adding that her team has worked closely with forces to understand each one’s community.

“Every community has different economics. Every badge has a different identity. What’s important to us is that we understand the landscape of a community that a police force serves – we’ve had people go out with teams of police on the frontlines so we can really understand the types of communities they’re serving, thus informing our plans about what technology and services we provide.”

Just some of the innovations O2 has supported include wi-fi-enabled police cars, allowing connectivity on the move (this can also be applied to ambulances when accessing patients records); creating electronic forms to speed up admin; enabling easy access to national and local IT systems; and introducing tools that can alert police officers to fast-moving events, such as a terrorist incident.

Fellows revealed that they are also exploring ways of working with prisons and probation services to support the rehabilitation process for category C/D offenders. This would include making educational materials more accessible, both in prison and the outside world, via mobile devices such as tablets.

Adapting to change

The public sector, and policing in particular, has often been criticised as being slow to adapt to change, something Fellows argues has now changed.

“There was a point when no one with the public sector would touch anything but a BlackBerry. Now, I’m not sure I know many councils that don’t have smartphones, so there’s definitely been a shift, and I think security has played a big part in that. Specifically, we have CAS(T) accreditation which no other operator has, and therefore security is absolutely paramount when moving to new devices.”

She said that, when speaking to her team, she’s seen them deploy innovative technology to forces who adopt mobile work practices in a way that could put some enterprises to shame, adding: “If we can save an officer an hour a day, or push it to two hours, we can shift that service to a new dimension.

“I think the advantage we have is, serving 32 million customers in the UK, we have a certain demographic. We can support public services to know a lot more about the movement of citizens in the UK. From a data perspective, we understand our customers.

“Our business is a consumer business. If we look at our competitors, yes, we may have more customers, but it’s about how you serve those customers and how you understand what they look for, how they behave and what their needs are. Where we are unique is we take a lot of time to do that. I think that’s why we’ve grown so significantly, especially in our dealings with the public sector.”

Challenges, or opportunity?

When asked about the challenges ahead in working with the police, Fellows took an optimistic stance and argued challenges are simply opportunities.

“For us, it’s more about continual learning rather than specific challenges. It’s never been more challenging with the police as they’ve lost probably 20% of their resources; officer numbers have reduced, demand on forces is rising, and the mission of the police is changing.”

Austerity has hit the public sector hard, Fellows added, and her challenge (or opportunity) is to understand how each economic challenge affects each public service, thus informing the technology and solutions they have to offer.

“A police officer being more visible is what people want, so our job, against the backdrop of these challenges, is to understand what it means to that police officer and how our technology can help to deliver the best service.”

However, Fellows thinks that devolution has helped local areas. Places with devolved powers “aren’t governed by a national view of the world,” and can look at things more collaboratively across the local area.

“If you look at Surrey and Sussex, for example, their two forces combined with great strength and work closely with the national policing organisations, but also with the local authorities, NHS, even charities and educational bodies.

“Devolution should be a real positive in tending to each local area’s individual needs.”

Looking ahead

Now, Fellows’ focus will be finalising the Home Affairs three-year plan, something she’s keen to “virtually align with the police’s 2025 Vision.”

“Our job is to keep learning and to better understand their world and how it changes so quickly. Policing now, as we all know, isn’t typical policing when you take into account cybercrime and social media, so we need to keep learning how technology can help them,” she added.

“Secondly, we want to support greater collaboration between forces to ensure we can support areas that are already good at that and share best practice with other forces.

“That can only be delivered by the whole of policing working collaboratively together in the public interest, and we want to play a part in that as a partner.”

After years of cuts and austerity, the future of modern policing, with these innovations, collaborations and digital reforms, is certainly looking bright.

 

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   18/10/2018 at 07:39

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