Client Conversation: Innovation in Policing - Innovation in Policing icon “Being able to help those who work in the police force by unlocking the power of technology would be the biggest mark that I can leave on my policing career.”

Picture the scene (lean on an episode of The Bill if you must). You’re stood in a control room, the hub of ‘999’. You’ve been there three years as part of a contact management role where you’re immersed in the panic, stress, fear of those calling… and sometimes, also, those picking up the phone.

The operators you’re watching over want to help, they’re trained to do so. But what a week, month, year, career, it’s been. How easy it is to make a mistake, or to seek the right avenue to help those who need help, but to no avail.

“If you come into the system the wrong way, you’ll probably come out of it the wrong way too,” concludes Ben Hargreaves, whose memory we’ve infiltrated there for a split second.

“How easy would it be to blame them when the people calling are the real victims. But so often I just saw a team of disempowered people. People who didn’t have access to the right tools, to be able to channel issues effectively and quickly.

“You’re dealing with other agencies, you have backlogs everywhere you look, and the subject matters are often intense and harrowing. It’s easy to become worn out very quickly.”

It came as no surprise when Ben looked into the statistics around police force sickness and mental health. This disempowerment wasn’t just your casual ‘I can’t be bothered with work today’.

“In that moment, a drive built within me to help those inside the police force, not just those that the police force is there for. It’s all the same thing if people within the system are better equipped to deliver what they want to deliver for victims of crime.
 
“My first target was to find a better way to manage the paperwork, the systems and the processes that often get in the way, rather than help.”
 
"So often I just saw a team of disempowered people. People who didn’t have access to the right tools, to be able to channel issues effectively and quickly." Ben Hargreaves, Domain Senior Specialist, BAE Systems Digital Intelligence
A light pen moment
Client Conversation: Innovation in Policing - Innovation Triangle icon Rewinding ever so slightly, Ben joined Dorset Police back in 1997 as a Student Officer (as it’s now known). Quickly, he ascended the ranks to Detective and began investigating major crimes. Roles of Sergeant, Detective Sergeant and Detective Inspector all followed. And even at this early stage, long before his control room epiphany, there was a burgeoning frustration building about certain inefficiencies.
 
“I suddenly found myself exploring all kinds of new technologies,” he says. “I remember doing a Home Office-funded project around the use of a light pen which would send scripts via Bluetooth back to a server where it was then stored.
 
“I was just fascinated with how we could make best use of the information we had and how it was recorded. It was all ending up in a system that nobody ever really looked at.”
 
Between the light pen phase of Ben’s police trajectory, and his control room final straw, he set up the Specialist Domestic Violence Court in Dorset – a move which he recalls as an introduction to delivering public protection at scale.
 
Merging his first-hand experience of dealing with severely at-risk people through this role, and his later exposure to the control centre, proved to be a defining combination. Something had to change.

The transformation triangle
At this point in the conversation, I pose quite a generic question, tapping into one of the buzz themes of the moment. ‘Are the police doing digital transformation’?
 
To my surprise, Ben is armed with a triangle analogy that perfectly illustrates the police force’s relationship with data, and its consequent struggles to filter critical information at pace.
 
“The first side,” Ben sets up his triangle, “is data acquisition. The Force has found a number of ways of finding data and acquiring it – we’re talking digital downloads from mobile devices, computers, control room calls, partner agencies, IoT sources… we’ve got data!”
 
He adds: “Side two is storage. How do you make sure that the incoming deluge of data is in compliance with GDPR, but also that it can be accessed and retrieved when needed? Additionally, can it be searched with filters and flags in a relatively hassle-free way.
 
“The final side, however, is understanding the data. It’s no good just getting more and more information, finding tidy places to put it, and then not knowing how to use it. And this is the side that’s missing, because it all falls to humans. And we’re fallible, we’re finite, we’re tired, we make mistakes.”
 
Hence, the need for digital intervention.
 
Ben does put forward a couple of success stories to this end with initial trials in the tech arena, but he knew a more intuitive, game changing innovation would be needed, longer-term.
 
“We needed to reach a point where technology could aggregate and present relevant information in a more digestible way, so humans can then kick in with what they do best – decisioning and actioning,” Ben adds. “By unpacking so much of the initial process, I knew we could make outcomes more achievable and workloads more viable.”
 
“We needed to reach a point where technology could aggregate and present relevant information in a more digestible way, so humans can then kick in with what they do best – decisioning and actioning” Ben Hargreaves, Domain Senior Specialist, BAE Systems Digital Intelligence
Welcome to our community
Client Conversation: Innovation in Policing - Community icon “I mentioned earlier that using technology to unlock benefits within the police force would be the biggest mark I could leave on my policing career,” Ben continues. “Working with BAE Systems is a fantastic opportunity to do just that.”
 
Oh yes, we may have missed that bit out. Ben’s ‘enough is enough’ moment did indeed lead him to our front door.
 
He recalls: “The catalyst was Paul Gibson, also ex-police. We had worked together back in the early 2000s and crossed over numerous times after. He was far more capable in the tech space than I ever was, and in 2019 was telling me about some of the cool solutions BAE Systems had. In particular, he’d earmarked Intelligence Reveal as a real opportunity for policing, based on the issues I’d raised with him over the years.
 
“He knew the challenges I’d seen around data and bringing elements together, and suggested we try the product.”
 
The rest, as they say, is history. And while there were initial limitations in terms of capacity and getting the most out of the automation product, this partnership set the wheels in motion for much bigger breakthroughs to come.
 
“Through this initial partnership I suddenly found myself where I wanted to be,” Ben explains. “I’m suddenly in a community of leading innovators and thinkers posing solutions to challenges I’d been facing every day for 25 years. I played my part in bringing those experiences to life, and had no shortage of strong opinions on what the future could look like.
 
“BAE Systems responded in kind with ideas on how to make that future a reality.”

From post-it note to product
We enter a brief period of namedropping at this point in the conversation, building up to another critical partner in crime… well, in solving crime. You get the picture.
 
“Richard Thorburn! I’d been asking Paul for quite some time about the role of AI in removing manual effort from jobs, so workers could focus more on insight, creativity, actions and decision making. How could we reach a point where computers searched through the data, assembled information, and presented it clearly, to usher in that final stage seamlessly?
 
Richard and his team then explained how they’d been conceptualising a product that could identify risk based on small indicators.”
 
Without getting too technical, the concept in question essentially reverses the data journey. Ben had spent his career watching small pieces of information arrive before becoming almost irretrievable to form the bigger picture. Richard’s idea was to collate those small pieces of information and bring them back in a more understandable and actionable package to investigators.
 
The result: the Intelligent Lead Assessment Service (ILAS).
ILAS Video Still Image Tile
ILAS: Intelligent Lead Assessment Service
Supporting the UK 2025 Border Strategy
“Richard loves this quote – ‘ILAS went from post-it note to product in two years’,” Ben jokes. “That is pretty much what happened though. It was a meeting of minds, conceptualised over a few meetings, and channelled to a critical area of police investigation. This being the exploitation of children for criminal gain.
 
“I look back at that time now and I was Head of Crime, in charge of 800 staff, accountable for one of the biggest command areas in the force. Trying to create ILAS at the same time was almost impossible and it nearly got overwhelmed by everything else.
 
“But I said ‘nope’, this has to be a priority! This is going to make a difference! This is really going somewhere!

“I thought that in two years’ time I’ll be sitting here knowing I made the right decision in seeing it through. And I did.”
 
"The solution deals only with the data and matter-of-fact developments, so all conclusions are fully explainable and traceable back to the underlying source data." Ben Hargreaves, Domain Senior Specialist, BAE Systems Digital Intelligence
Knowing what you know
Client Conversation: Innovation in Policing - Knowing what you do icon ILAS is an inference and reasoning engine that uses tradecraft from analysts and investigators to – in this context – identify children that are most at risk, based on the data and intelligence stored in the Force’s systems. The solution is transparent, unbiased, and adaptive to real-time situations. For example, Ben notes that a child that had moved up 100 places in the risk category, even from a remotely low position, would be flagged due to the changing nature of their status.
 
By digitising this process, not only are potential dangers identified and then presented to investigators much earlier, but any potential biases are now open and transparent so they can be proactively addressed. The solution deals only with the data and matter-of-fact developments, so all conclusions are fully explainable and traceable back to the underlying source data.
 
Ben adds: “At the moment we’re using the police records management system in conjunction with ILAS, which gives us about 60-70% of the indicators we’d like to include, to inform the whole map and situation. Now, if we were able to hook ILAS up to partnership-driven data across health, social care and the like – which we’re looking to do – then we edge ever nearer to the 100% figure we ultimately need.”
 
Ben’s more recent epiphany off the back of this partnership came at the start of 2022, upon realising the impact of ILAS. “There has to be implications way beyond me and Dorset Police,” he thought.
 
Mere months later, he had embarked on a secondment opportunity with BAE Systems to provide further insight into what the country’s Police Force needs, and how solutions like ILAS can change the sector even more in the years to come.
 
“It’s in the National Digital Strategy and Police Vision 2025 that more collaboration between commercial organisations and the public sector should be taking place. The operational knowledge sits within the public space, but there’s no way we’ve got the capability or capacity to productise that at scale.
 
“And really, the kinds of impacts we’re looking at aren’t just vital for Dorset. They’re vital for all police forces, and for the country.”
 
Stay tuned for another soundbite. He’s basically writing my subheadings for me at this point.
 
“What ILAS has hopefully made others realise is that ‘we don’t really know what we know’. We have all this information but no capacity to consistently channel it to the right places.”
 
He takes me back to that control room scene, and the torrent of information operators were being hit with, continuously.

“It’s a massive game changer to think that all of that data can now be stored, replicated and regurgitated back so that decisions can actually be made as a result. ILAS isn’t a way to replace people – those experts are constantly supervising ILAS’s activity and output. We now just have a more effective way for their tireless work to make a difference.”
 
And if they’re hitting their mark, Ben has certainly hit his.
 
 
Subscribe to Government Insights to hear more about the perspectives and experiences of our clients and stay up to stay with the latest insights from our experts
 
 
 
 
 

About the author
Matt Boyd, Head of Futures, BAE Systems Digital Intelligence

matt.boyd2@baesystems.com


 

 

Further reading: