ORLANDO; Oct. 8, 2018 – Three-fourths (76 percent) of policing personnel expect that they will need new digital skills to be effective in their roles over the next three to five years, and half (50 percent) are willing to learn new digital skills if they receive the necessary training from their employer, according to findings of a six-country survey released by Accenture (NYSE: ACN) at the annual conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).
However, the 309 respondents – all members of police departments from Australia, France, Germany, Singapore, the U.K. and the U.S. – expressed concerns about the workforce planning currently underway within their organizations, with two-fifths (40 percent) believing that the existing workforce planning and recruitment measures are ineffective. Three-fourths (78 percent) of respondents said it is difficult to recruit new personnel into their organization and a similar number (72 percent) believe it difficult to reskill employees to perform new digital tasks.
“This research tells us that while most police officers are excited by the opportunities new digital technologies afford and the impact they will have on their workplace, many are challenged in their use of the technologies due to a lack of training or access to specialist skills and knowledge,” said Rachel Phillips who leads Accenture’s workforce transformation team for the public safety practice. “Every policing organization must prepare its workforce in the use of new technologies and enable employees to benefit from the opportunities that the technologies will bring to their operations over the coming years.”
When asked to identify areas of policing operations most likely to be enhanced by technology over the coming years, respondents most often cited those relating to targeting and identification of known criminals and gang networks (32 percent), emergency response (31 percent) and police investigations (25 percent). The specific technologies that respondents expect to see their organizations use more over the next three to five years include body-worn cameras (48 percent), biometrics (37 percent), video analytics (42 percent) and predictive policing technologies (26 percent).
Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents said their organizations are currently using artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to at least some degree, with more than one-third (35 percent) of those using AI to enhance administrative tasks and processes, 31 percent using it to assist with forensics related activities and 27 percent using it as part of social-media content analysis to identify risks. Although only one in eight respondents (12 percent) said they were currently using AI-empowered chat-bots, almost half (45 percent) said they expect to use chat-bots in the coming years.
“The findings relating to AI are particularly surprising, with more than two-third of respondents already using the technology,” said Jody Weis, who leads Accenture’s Public Safety practice in North America. “The challenge for public-safety leaders is to ensure that AI is deployed responsibly and with best practice governance and transparency measures in place. Citizens must clearly understand the benefits of the technology, and civil liberties must be protected through human oversight.”
As technology adoption increases among public safety agencies, most respondents believe that technology will not lessen their interactions with citizens and the communities they serve. In fact, half (49 percent) said they expect the visibility of officers within their communities to increase, and nearly as many (45 percent) believe the need for traditional policing skills will increase over the over the next three to five years.
When asked about their career prospects over the coming years, two-fifths of respondents (41 percent) anticipated increased opportunities for job-sharing and more flexible work. More than half (57 percent) said they joined the police force because it was an exciting career, and two-thirds (67 percent) said they are motivated to remain in their profession. Respondents who expressed eagerness to embrace new digital skills were more motivated to remain in their roles than were those reluctant to upskill, at 75 percent versus 43 percent.
Respondents were also asked about anticipated changes to work practices and processes over the coming years. More than half said they expect to see greater sharing of resources and skills across public safety agencies (cited by 56 percent of respondents) and with citizen and community groups (59 percent), and more than four in 10 (43 percent) expect to see greater sharing of resources and skills between their organizations and the private sector.
“Our findings highlight officers’ dedication and commitment to policing and keeping the public safe and secure, as well as their willingness to learn new digital skills to better fight crime and enhance public safety,” said Weis. “However, rapid digital change demands smarter workforce planning, and leadership must anticipate and plan for the future skills needs of their organization. New technologies offer an unprecedented opportunity for police employees at all levels to shape a new type of workforce, one that is diverse and flexible and capable of coping with the demands of modern-day policing.”
For the Reimagining the Police Workforce: A Vision of the Future study, Accenture survey was 309 employees from policing organizations across Australia, France, Germany, Singapore, the U.K and the U.S. The survey, undertaken in collaboration with Longitude, explored the shape of the public safety workforce of the future, particularly in relation to the impact of digital technology and future skills needs. Respondents were both warranted and non-warranted, uniformed and non-uniformed / civilian employees, with careers durations of 14 years, on average. The online survey, conducted in early 2018, has an overall margin of error of ± 5.66 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence.
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