How the cloud is helping police forces to manage digital evidence

How the cloud is helping police forces to manage digital evidence

Jamie Wilson from NICE says solutions using Microsoft Azure Government cloud are proving effective

Caspar Herzberg |

With the government urging police forces across the country to transform in the name of becoming ‘thoroughly equipped for the digital age’, it’s unsurprising that we’re seeing more conversations around the cloud and a buzz from our UK police forces looking to improve their digital capabilities. Whilst various forces are already deploying digital technologies such as bodycams, for many the reality is that these technologies are sitting amongst siloed, legacy IT systems. Reducing the ability to deliver information and intelligence to officers where and when it’s needed.

Evidence is the backbone of policing and as crimes continue to grow in complexity, it’s time for the police to look to the cloud to help manage the increase in digital evidence. As multimedia becomes abundant, evidence such as images and videos from mobile phones, CCTV, GPS data, SMS and Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) play a greater part in criminal investigations.

Transforming operations with cloud technology
As public sector budgets continue to be stretched, cloud technologies can provide police with new, more cost-effective and flexible ways to manage investigations and operations. By utilising existing IT infrastructures and internet connections, police forces can integrate cloud technologies and realise valuable benefits. Whether it be sharing data and co-ordinating with other departments on a local, regional and national scale or tapping into analytical tools – cloud-based technology is inevitable and police forces should be embracing the opportunities it presents.

For police forces running on traditional IT systems, a move to the cloud can be dauting. However, it’s important to deploy a solution which not only is end-to-end and scalable, but also recognises the privacy and security of sensitive information. This is why the NICE Investigate solution is hosted on the Microsoft Azure Government cloud, as it meets the most stringent compliance standards in the world – including the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Security Policy. Providing police investigators with an effective tool for managing investigations, and storing and safeguarding digital evidence.

Efficient evidence
With around five million CCTV cameras in the UK, collecting footage can be a timely task for police officers and often requires them to physically drive to the crime scene – inspecting the area for cameras. Once identified, officers will need to physically download the footage and take it back to the station. Although CCTV evidence is valuable, the sourcing and recovering of the footage is an outdated, inefficient process which racks up hours of investigators’ time.

However, cloud technologies are well placed to help the police use this valuable evidence to its fullest potential, streamlining the collection process and utilising officers time effectively. For instance, deploying a digital evidence management system (DEMs) can consolidate the evidence collection process. Cloud-based systems like this have the potential to improve the efficiency of the justice system by allowing businesses to register their CCTV cameras, enabling investigators to map out the locations of available footage in relation to a crime scene. This gives businesses the opportunity to share evidence but also allows police forces to start their investigations immediately, drastically cutting the amount of time spent collecting physical media.

Outsourcing the evidence room
Clearly security is a top priority for every police force but it can also be a hurdle to adopting cloud-based systems. While many police forces are already using or considering moving to the cloud, it’s important to remember that confidential and sensitive data lives at the heart of the evidence room, whether it be physical or virtual. Traditionally evidence rooms located in police buildings are well protected and require physical entry, digital evidence on the other hand can be accessed from anywhere and can be perceived as an increased risk. Using a cloud-based system that uses data encryption and multiple layers of security can help combat fears and help police forces release the benefits of expansive storage at a relatively low cost. Furthermore, cloud technologies can equip IT teams with advanced administrative controls to manage and monitor access, permissions and usage. The scalability of the Microsoft Azure cloud means that digital evidence management systems like NICE Investigate can easily adjust to meet the changing investigative workloads and evidence storage requirements of today's police investigators. 

But as more evidence becomes digital and police forces look to store the deluge of data from dashcams and body-worn video, the traditional evidence room no longer looks fit for purpose. With cloud storage files can be located centrally and this assists police officers in accessing the right information when needed. Additionally, as video files take up substantially more storage bandwidth than other file types, the scalability of the cloud allows storage to grow with the volume of media files received.

The road to cloud adoption
With cloud computing already delivering efficiency and cost savings to organisations across the private sector, it’s time for the local governments and police forces up and down the country to realise the true benefits of the cloud and the cloud based digital evidence solutions such as NICE Investigate and Microsoft Azure.

Jamie Wilson is public safety marketing manager for the EMEA region at NICE

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