Keeping Bobbies ahead of the bunch

Police 2.0

The advantages are clear: a picture from a suspect, taken by a CCTV camera, for example, can be sent to all PCs participating in the manhunt, number plates can be cross-checked to identify suspects.

But, in the real world, the integration into an information network is a double-edged sword. Not only do policemen in action have problems filtering the available data, apparently they sometimes start using it in unwanted ways, especially in crisis situations.

During a panel session, one officer complained that a warning about a certain individual often leads to misinterpretation of the situation on the spot, and can then result in overreactions. And if information indicates that a certain area is dangerous, some officers apparently prefer to take their time. The tricky problem for operational headquarters becomes how to give officers on duty exactly the right amount of information - not too much, and not too little.

IO, IO, IO

The probable solution is different levels of access. Every member of staff logs on to the same system, but gets a different user surface. Security strategists in Berlin stressed that this "role concept" will be vital.

One can gauge how the police's future in the digital world might look like by a visit to the web presence of the Federal police force in Baden-Württemberg. The "knowledge portal" combines e-learning programmes with specialist portals ("Operations, Transport, Crime").

Access is restricted to serving members of staff, who get their own personalised website – which actually does look a bit like MySpace. In practice, Police 2.0 means that policemen working on "inquiry projects" can be grouped "dynamically", without them being in the same place, or even the same unit. Information from various sources is then sent to them according to their profile.

For the police, information superiority is becoming more and more decisive. But, with the dissemination of ICT, knowing more than the criminals has become difficult. In Berlin, when the BlackBerry sales promoter stressed that is virtually impossible to eavesdrop the communication, one disappointed-sounding police officer asked: "Does that mean your customers already have that?"

Well, probably yes. ®

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