Futures Centre: Implications for the AFP

Implications for the AFP

The AFP continues to do things well in this rapidly-changing and complex operating environment. Complexity of law, globalisation, advances in technology, communications and electronic commerce, climate and demographic changes all impact on the challenges of policing therefore, AFP responses must also evolve and become more complex.

The increased complexity of the operating environment will place greater demands on the AFP’s capabilities and will require the application of new types of skills.

Globalisation and advances in technology have moved economic and social activity well beyond single jurisdictions, providing criminals with much bigger pools of victims and the ability to undertake activities from foreign safe havens beyond the reach of local policing authorities. International criminal syndicates can collaborate on an unprecedented scale. There are also signs that the strategies of some crime groups and state actors are beginning to align more closely, blurring the lines between organised crime and legitimate entities.

Data and value can be accessed and transferred across multiple jurisdictions at the press of a button. Crime organisations will mirror big business in embracing digital innovation and will employ tools, analytics, programmers and hackers to capture value. The AFP will need to access and harness big data and develop an appropriately skilled workforce to combat future serious and organised criminality.

Traditional physical barriers such as borders, guards and gates have become increasingly difficult to make less permeable. As passenger volumes increase and facilities expand, Consequently, the demand for AFP services at major Australian airports and other establishments is likely to grow.

The calls on AFP resources to assist the development of policing in Australia’s nearby region are also likely to continue. Policing expertise and community engagement will be increasingly important in helping to manage instability in many regional countries. Climate change and more intense weather patterns will disproportionately affect fragile states in Asia and the Pacific, leading to likely requirements for AFP contributions to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

The AFP will need to continue to develop its operational capabilities against those wishing to disrupt the Australian way of life, working in close collaboration with state and territory police, the intelligence community and international law enforcement partners. The trend towards unheralded violent acts using commonplace weapons perpetrated by unknown individuals, or those who have been assessed as low risk, is likely to continue alongside more sophisticated attacks.

Given the complexity of the future operating environment, demand will continue to outstrip the AFP’s capacity. Everything new the AFP does will come at an opportunity cost to existing commitments.

The AFP will need to become a more technologically capable organisation, with more effective strategic planning and the flexibility to allocate resources to rapidly evolving specialist technologies. It will need to be able to respond to and disrupt new types of crime in an environment of increasing complexity and uncertainty.

Criminals will be able to perpetrate crimes, such as child abuse (including the active targeting of vulnerable children via anonymised use of the internet and virtual currencies), theft or sexual assault in virtual environments. They will continue to use malware (including ransomware) for a range of criminal purposes, from the creation of fake login screens for banking apps, to holding victims to ransom by blocking access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid. The AFP will need to adapt its current practices to maintain an effective presence in this virtual criminal environment.

Technological developments will greatly reduce the time frames for police to deal with crime. At the same time, matters that could previously be resolved by the work of a small number of detectives will increasingly require the application of specialist capabilities in areas such as cyber, forensic accounting, law, intelligence analysis, technical interception and surveillance across multiple jurisdictions. These capabilities have traditionally been reserved for matters of only the highest priority. More emphasis will need to be placed at the point of referral with the application of intelligence-informed targeting and processes.

The use of multidisciplinary and multi-agency teams, comprising detectives and specialist investigative capabilities, to resolve standard investigations will become the norm. This will require a recalibration of the AFP’s existing workforce and greater public sector partnerships.

The AFP will have to rely more heavily on external experts from the private sector, other government agencies and the research community to help identify supply chain dependencies and exploitation risks and develop ways of mitigating them. Private sector partnerships will require new approaches to reform some traditional practices, such as engaging with industry to jointly develop more efficient ways to achieve all required security clearances and meet engagement requirements. The AFP will also need to undertake broader engagement with international partners to support global efforts to respond to cybercrime.

The AFP’s strategic workforce plan will need to reflect the requirement for a diverse, inclusive, ethical, skilled and experienced workforce, with higher levels of technical expertise, in fields such as cybercrime, and intellectual property offences. It will also need to provide the tools to support them.

Recruitment will have to be geared towards multiple entries from apprentice to graduate pathways. New generations will enter the workforce who are more likely to seek ‘out of portfolio’ careers, rejecting traditional models of lifelong service with one employer and testing the traditional model of recruitment, in which police officers and subject matter experts are trained in-house over many years.

As criminals develop unanticipated new methods, the AFP will have to be able to generate new capabilities and expertise through strategies such as filling more temporary positions with independent workers for short-term contracts.

The evolution of technology and the criminal and terrorism threat environment over the next five to 10 years will test the boundaries of existing legislation. It will be essential that the legislative framework under which the AFP works keeps pace with the rate of change. The effectiveness of global legal frameworks, which are focused primarily on nation-states will be challenged, as more and more evidence lies offshore. Further, as its reliance on traditional DNA and biometric evidence is tested, the AFP will need to research new, more secure identification techniques such as brain scanning and microbiome analysis.

The AFP should assume a greater leadership role in the delivery of national investigative standards and training curricula for its Commonwealth law enforcement partners. The establishment of an investigations training and accreditation centre of excellence could deliver national investigative standards and training curricula for all Commonwealth law enforcement agencies. Such a centre could establish capability benchmarks for the standard of investigations, and drive continuous improvement by sharing capabilities and experiences. It would help generate a common understanding of techniques and investigative tools, including technology, harmonise the interpretation of legislation, ensure better information-sharing and help strengthen the personal networks of law enforcement professionals.


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