Joined up Justice - Exploring the Art of Possible through Digital Integration

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Across Europe central and local government departments are challenged by the need to drive greater digital initiatives enabling digital integration across their own department and the departments with which they collaborate and coordinate.

Firstly, there is centrally mandated pressure to reduce costs and drive efficiency through intelligent IT deployment. Secondly, consumer expectation from digitally-savvy citizens demands that departments innovate and offer consumer-friendly services through mobile devices, the cloud and in real-time.

Crime and justice services in particular have much to gain from embracing digital integration. However, the complexity of their ecosystems – multiple, disparate departments – and the sensitive, confidential nature of the information gathered and processed makes forward movement a slow march. Across much of Europe, departments delivering crime and justice services to citizens are shackled by bureaucracy and paralyzed by fear of public inquest and litigation if they get it wrong.

Autonomous departments with their own budgets, lack of cross-agency funding and no centralized leadership means that departments which collaborate and coordinate on a daily basis are divided by digital walls which seem unlikely to be broken down.

Whilst an end-to-end crime and justice system, linked by a single holistic IT system, is unlikely departments can ill afford to ignore the benefits of innovative technology; nor should they be railroaded into short-term fixes which are not equipped to deliver long-term benefits.

A Path to Joined-Up Justice

At Unisys we are seeing many examples of departments within crime and justice improving operations through the innovative deployment of technology.

Police forces are harnessing big data and analytics by deploying case management systems capable of digitally capturing and processing vast quantities of data concerning suspects, people of interest and case evidence. Sophisticated processing systems can analyze this data, drawing significant trends in minutes or hours that could take weeks or months using traditional man power.

Integration between courts, police and probation services are improving the efficiency of trials. Specifically, document tracking means that evidence can be presented in a timely and organized fashion across departments improving the chances of successful trial completion. Integrated time management and coordination ensures that witnesses and defendants are called at the correct time and to the correct court, reducing the huge cost of delayed trials. This also enables more efficient use of police time with officers spending less time in court waiting rooms, and more time on the beat.

Perhaps most exciting of all is the expanded integration of traditional crime and justice services and other non-traditional, associated agencies – such as charities, community groups, social services etc. – these can have far-reaching potential way beyond just efficiency or cost saving. As we learn more about crime prevention, digital integration can help address the root causes of crime. For example, we know that 90% of crime is committed by 10% of the population and patterns show that alcohol, drugs and especially mental health issues are underlying causes of that 90%.

Five Steps to a Joined-Up Digital Strategy

When making crucial decisions about technology and digitization strategy, CIOs and digital leaders should consider a number of factors:

  1. Make incremental changes: In the absence of a holistic, cross-sector strategy, look closely at the incremental changes you can make across your department.
  2. Plan for the future: Pick solutions which offer openness and standardization. Whilst integration with certain departments might not be possible now, maximize the future potential for integration by choosing solutions that present data in standardized, open formats.
  3. Consider infrastructure requirements: Ensure that infrastructure can support new services and the necessary data requirements to power those services. For example, many police forces are now gathering huge volumes of video data from body worn police cameras and as video evidence from witnesses, but if back office infrastructure can’t securely store such data, then investment in expensive recording devices or video gathering platforms will not show ROI.
  4. Anticipate the needs of citizens: Citizens demand a better service from their government. Victims and witnesses expect access to government to be on a par with their consumer experience – mobile apps, web portals, 24/7 access to services and information are pre-requisites, not exceptions.
  5. Adopt best practice: With widespread impetus towards digitizing government processes, leaders in crime and justice should seek out best practice and learn the lessons from other government departments. In doing this they can get ahead of the digital curve on what citizens want.

Crime and justice departments across Europe are at a severe risk of missing out on the advantages of digitization. The consequences of failing to join-up justice through increased digitization and integration are not just financial. Increasingly, citizens will lose confidence in the public justice system if they don’t see their experiences mirroring those which are commonplace elsewhere in their lives.

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