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From CCTV to Victim Support - hands on innovation with Police Now

Over the last month, Principle One’s offices have been buzzing with the activity of a new team bubble that has been occupying the office two days a week. We have been excited to welcome our second cohort of officers from the Police Now National Graduate Leadership Programme, who have teamed up with a new starter intake of software engineers to spend a month exploring how technology could be used more effectively on the front line.

Chris and Mohammed are now reaching the end of their secondment, combining core systems engineering, agile delivery and business analysis training with hands on work to tackle real world problems they identified from their roles within Safer Neighbourhood teams. After their first training course in agile delivery, they have been acting as proxy product owners, each sharing their operational problems and working with a technical team to explore potential solutions.

Chris brought us the challenge he faces in ensuring that both victims and suspects of crime are kept up to date with the progress of an investigation; front line officers often work over 20 parallel investigations, with an obligation to provide an update every 28 days, and frequently only have a phone number as a method of contact. This is a particular problem with long term investigations such as burglaries, so the team chose to focus on this as their use case for their first sprints.

Recognising that amending existing legacy systems may be simply too hard and too time consuming, the team developed a vision of a simple web application that could be used to manage the contact with a burglary victim from the initial report throughout the ongoing investigation and onwards into court. This could capture victims’ contact details and preferences for updates about the investigation as well as prompting the officer when an update is due, improving consistency in the support provided to the victim and increasing officer productivity.

For Chris, the secondment was a chance to take a step back from the front line and consider how industry partners could help bring a different perspective to the issues he and his colleagues face. “I have thoroughly enjoyed understanding how a technology solution can be brought to life from an initial concept and then rapidly move into development . Everyone has been very welcoming, helpful and supportive in taking on my project idea.”

Mohammed’s challenge centred around the enormously time consuming task of sourcing CCTV footage as part of an investigation. Within the course of an investigation, he will often have to piece together a jigsaw of CCTV – identifying potential council, public and domestic sources of footage, working around the edges of CCTV black spots before he can even begin to track a suspect or piece together a sequence of events.

Mohammed set his team the goal of creating a resource that would help speed up this process, “crowd sourcing” information about existing CCTV and storing it on a secure cloud platform enabling officers like himself to rapidly visualise what information may be available and where there may be gaps. The team also spent some time thinking about the barriers to adoption for this platform and how it could be used more widely across the criminal justice system – for instance to help explain CCTV footage in court.

The systems engineering training that formed part of the secondment gave Mohammed a chance to return to his background in science and demonstrated the importance of understanding the wider systems of interest – both in technology and stakeholder terms – when it comes to delivering successful and long lasting change. “The opportunity at Principle One has allowed me to engage my analytical thinking, stemming from my studies in Physics. Having close mentoring from many different team members, each bringing different expertise and skills to the challenge we set, I have been able to get to grips with taking a systems engineering approach to policing problems in a very short time.”

The end of the secondment also marks the end of the first four weeks at Principle One for Temi Olukoko and Abigail Adewoyin, who have joined the team as software engineers. Tackling these innovation projects meant building on the technical skills they have brought from their previous roles and rapidly building an understanding of our customers and the challenges that they face.

Abi has joined us after completing the Black CodHer bootcamp, where she has spent the last nine months focused on software development. Black CodHer is a pioneering initiative set up during 2020 by Niyo Enterprises and Coding Black Females to provide a route into technology careers for women from ethnic minority backgrounds. When taking on the role of a business analyst, Abi was also able to draw on her Law and Criminology degree and exploring the idea of improving the experience of victims of crime resonated strongly with her. "Learning concepts such as user-centred design has helped me think critically about how we can use technology to meet the needs of victims who often feel out of the loop on the status of their case."

For Temi, having previous experience as a developer, the induction training was a chance to take a step back and explore analysis, modelling and solution design rather than simply taking the next task from a Jira burn down list. “Being exposed to the engineering approaches used at Principle One has enabled me to think outside of the box! I’ve learnt how to critically analyse the problem, model the solution and consider design before trying to build something. Spending these past few weeks working closely with an end user has allowed me to develop a new, broader approach to problem solving.”

Looking back, these innovation projects were particularly ambitious, even by our standards, and we have been delighted to see each team push themselves to think creatively and critically about the issues faced by neighbourhood officers. As we explored each problem, we found that while technology solutions could easily be found to each, understanding the barriers to change and understanding the wider systems of interest proved just as important in finding a viable solution. We look forward to keeping in touch with Chris and Mohammed as they return to Police Now and apply what they have learned with us back on the front line.


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