Interview: Social-enabled policing is the 'next wave'

From the Boston marathon bombing to the England riots, Oracle's Hong-Eng Koh explains how community policing can work in the age of social media

Social networking is not just a collaboration and communication platform. It is a lot of trust and behaviour. Some of the other smaller police departments in the country were more down to earth, very cordial with the society and that resulted in better outcomes.

Let us take the Boston marathon bombings. Many people claimed in the press that CCTV helped to identify the two brothers. It is not that simple.

I met the former Boston commissioner of police. He retired recently. He met me probably less than a year before the actual Boston marathon attack. He was interested in social media. He wanted to engage the community and look at different tools.

Before the attack, the Boston PD had already spent a whole lot of time building trust with the community. When the bombing happened, the Boston PD asked for help on their Twitter feed, in a very cordial fashion.

They asked for whatever videos and photos that were taken at the marathon. Consequently many people responded with videos and photos. Many photos that you see in the press and Internet of the two brothers were not from the public CCTV. They were from the citizens.

My point is that if you didn't build this good will before an incident, do you think people would of helped you? It is about behaviour, not about technology. Sincere, open, collaborative, interested, authentic, likeable behaviour should be practised, so more people will come forward to share information.

Engagement and trust are very important. At the same time, it is important to do the monitoring as well. It is not just one way. You are monitoring and you are also responding.

In SEP, the PD can tap into technologies, but it is ultimately about your behaviour, and about listening to what’s happening out there. If people witness a bomb explosion or bank robbery, chances are they are not going to call your emergency line. Chances are they are going to take a photograph and tweet about it. This is why listening is important.

It is also important because bad guys are practising gamification, they are bragging about what they are doing. We also have evidence that organised crime units are communicating openly by using code words. If you are looking simply at things on the surface, you will never pick up such things.

Q: Like most global firms, public sector organisations have to constantly do more with less. How do you think they can achieve this into the future?

HEK: Oracle provides the capability to engage and listen to the community while looking for code words.

The intelligence hub solution can even be of service provided by a trusted party. Some countries are looking at G cloud – government cloud, and some of these government clouds could be used by different departments. For example, if you have a platform for listening and making sense of code words, it’s not just police that would need that. Maybe the tax department or city councils might need it too. All you need is a different ontology, or the knowledge to interpret code words.

It could be a ‘wedding’; to represent a bomb. It could be local slang to stand for a location, traffic jams or accidents. That is relevant to smart city people.

Oracle has the technology to manage such ontology. To save money, a lot of solutions that we talk about can be a cloud service, and that could be shared among agencies.

Our policing solution also offers some cost saving.

Unfortunately, the local police, the responders, criminal investigators, the ops department, the intelligence department, they are looking at a person from different angles. To achieve SEP, the police must have 360 degree view of any person. It must be people focused.

Our policing platform allows that, from end-to-end, even before you are a customer of the policing department to one day if you become a victim of a crime, or another day you are witness to a crime. So we have a consistent view of you. That’s important because this is like customer service, and having a CRM.

In terms of cost saving, the policing platform allows different police functions to reside on a common platform or a single solution. But this is not an easy achievement. This is a multi-year project.

The National Finnish Police had a consultant do a review of their technology about five years ago. They discovered they had over 100 systems internally. And 93 per cent of their IT budget was used to maintain this legacy system. Every year only 7 per cent to think of innovation and new systems.

They went through a major transformation, almost after the consulting study, and review. And they became our key customer for the integrated policing platform solution. It’s a common platform now. The moment somebody makes the first information report, investigations are started, people are called for interviews, evidence is recovered and managed, suspects are managed and arrests are made, briefs are prepared and sent to the prosecution – everything is now on one platform.

This solution is very flexible, and allows you to configure changes, rather than build a whole new workflow or a new data model. This solution helped them save a lot of money.

There are several customers who have adopted this approach with our solution. The key reason is not cost, the key reason is to enable people focus. But because of this architecture you also help them save a lot of money.

This platform can also be a service. For a country like US, police departments can be small, some 10 to 20 officers. They could potentially be offered at a county level and individual city police will subscribe to this as sort of a private cloud.

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