The Big 5 - or is it 8?

Keeping ahead of criminals and technology is a significant part of modern policing

Keeping ahead of criminals and technology is a significant part of modern policing.

By Catherine Bennett

In 1989, Marty McFly promised a future of hover boards, flying cars and self-tying shoe laces. While police patrols may still be on the roads, law enforcement agencies now operate in a reality where technology influences every move – providing more opportunities than could have ever been imagined.

For AFP National Manager of Technology and Innovation (T&I) Marianne Vosloo, adapting law enforcement technology to meet emerging challenges isn’t about predicting the future.

With criminal enterprises working to use rapid technological advances to their own advantage, Marianne says that harnessing the insights across all our data sets will give us an edge enabling us to stay one step ahead. “If we can implement the right technology enablers, we will be moving towards a workforce focused on even more preventative and intelligence-led operations,” Marianne said.

Ready for the big task ahead

The criminal investigations of the AFP are some of the most protracted, complex matters in Australia. In any one investigation, police can seize terabytes of data, all of which needs to be collated, stored and analysed for potential criminal offences or national security risks. Now more than ever, it is crucial that law enforcement agencies are using technology to the same extent as those they are working to combat.

In any one investigation, police can seize terabytes of data, all of which needs to be collated, stored and analysed for potential criminal offences or national security risks.
In any one investigation, police can seize terabytes of data, all of which needs to be collated, stored and analysed for potential criminal offences or national security risks.

Commissioner Andrew Colvin introduced the AFP’s Futures Centre earlier this year, a large body of work that focuses on how police must adapt to continue to meet the global complexity, technological advancement and changes in crime and criminal operating models. This includes increasing the organisation’s commitment to technology.

The AFP’s Technology and Innovation portfolio acts as a business partner to the AFP’s cyber infrastructure, and extending across international borders to the 32 countries that make up the AFP’s International Network. At the core, T&I is responsible for enabling every section of the AFP’s operations – from communication with partner agencies, to high-risk tactical investigations; Technology and Innovation has a part to play.

Marianne says it is crucial that the AFP harnesses technology at an enterprise level to prevent, deter and predict serious crimes. To an organisation dedicated to keeping Australia safe, the ability to proactively predict and prevent serious crime – such as terrorism, cyber-attacks or even child exploitation – is invaluable.

The AFP says it is crucial that it harnesses technology at an enterprise level to prevent, deter and predict serious crimes.
The AFP says it is crucial that it harnesses technology at an enterprise level to prevent, deter and predict serious crimes.

She admits that revolutionising the AFP’s internal technology and communications to align with its new future transformation goals is no small task. Joining the AFP earlier this year, Marianne has started implementing what she refers to as “the 4 Strategic building blocks”, key enablers to the AFP’s success.

“As the AFP focuses on being a capability led organisation, we need to make sure that with every activity we undertake we are enabling or improving the capabilities of the organisation wherever we can,” Marianne said.

“Our Programs of work (referred to as the BIG5 & quickly growing to the BIG8) touch on almost all aspects of AFP business and complement each other to enable uplift in AFP operations, based on an integrated technical environment.”

Two programs form part of what Marianne refers to as ‘Foundational’, and are both designed to greatly improve the AFP’s storage, compute, access and movement of data inside the law enforcement boundaries.

Data volumes are exploding; more data has been created in the past 2 years than in the entire previous history of the human race. By 2020, about 1.7 megabytes of new information will be created every second by every human being on the planet. (Forbes.com)

These predictions will continue to exponentially rise in today’s operational climate. Part of the foundational building blocks program are to ensure that all data– whether CCTV or body warn camera feeds, public uploaded content, seized videos or images, interview records, briefs or even emails – can be securely moved, stored and scaled-to-size based on demand.

Data volumes are exploding - more has been created in the past 2 years than in the entire previous history of the human race.
Data volumes are exploding - more has been created in the past 2 years than in the entire previous history of the human race.

Improving or uplifting the foundational elements need to work in harmony with the ever-demanding ‘business as usual’ streams, as it is critical to “keep-the-lights-on” at the same time. Extending our capabilities utilising these foundations aim to capitalise on the opportunities afforded through additional business-driven programs to enable the AFP to uphold its future vision.

One of these programs are focusing specifically on delivering a seamless, operational communications platform for the rapid dissemination of information to front line officers, aviation and protection personnel, for use in day-to-day situations or national security incidents.

Dissemination of information, ie putting information at their fingertips, will aim at being location-aware based on a comprehensive intelligent federated search that will drive smarter policing.

Marianne said that great work was being done in the preventative policing space already but as technology continues to advance, it only makes sense to assess the AFP’s current abilities and see where practices can improve and become less reactive.

One AFP program is focusing specifically on delivering a seamless, operational communications platform for the rapid dissemination of information to front line officers, aviation and protection personnel.
One AFP program is focusing specifically on delivering a seamless, operational communications platform for the rapid dissemination of information to front line officers, aviation and protection personnel.

All programs are well and truly in the delivery stage, both Marianne and the broader organisation are keen to draw benefits and value as soon as possible to allow for a continual review of these ideas in real-life use.

“Because it is such an integrated portfolio of work we need to deliver minimal viable products in shorter timeframes, improving them as we progress instead of delivering in one big bang at the end” she said, “keeping in mind that a technology-focus alone will not be enough.

“Transitioning the organisation to its new ideal will rely heavily on the transformation of our people, the way we work and our processes to successfully enable a capability-led organisation. Part of the reason I took this role was the opportunity to be a change agent in the T&I portfolio as well as in the broader AFP. Reshaping the way we think, through innovative collaboration are strong critical success factors,” Marianne said.

In her time at the AFP, Marianne said the thing she was most impressed with was the passion and dedication of her team, who are often working behind the scenes to ensure the seamless continuation of AFP business.

“The people in Technology and Innovation are extremely passionate and I can see how they are absolutely dedicated to the AFP’s cause,” she said.

“That goes a long way in ensuring our efforts are focused in the right space. Although technology is playing a role in everything it is not always considered at the outset but as somewhat of an afterthought. We are determined to change that.”

While the challenges presented by technology today are almost unprecedented, it is a realm the AFP recognises it needs to continue to advance within, liaising with industry and partner agencies more effectively than ever before to identify traditional and non-traditional technological capabilities that ensure they are working smarter than those looking to harm Australian interests.

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