Policing, Information and Technology

Understanding the effects of technological change

Police officer using mobile technology

Understanding the effects of technological change is a critical issue in contemporary policing. Members of the AIMTech Research Centre have undertaken research that illuminates the use of information and technology within UK police forces. Here we share a series of multidimensional reports which will be useful to both practitioners and policy makers.

Policing, Information and Technology in the UK: A National Survey

Policing, Information and Technology in the UK reports the findings of a survey undertaken in 2016/17 that explores:

  • Perceptions of the current state of policing technologies
  • The degree of expected technological change over the next three to five years
  • Priority given to key policing technologies

It replicates and extends a study undertaken in 2013 and represents a self-reported evaluation by the force of their information communication technologies (ICT) infrastructures.

Download the report


Mobile Information Survey 2016/17*

This research looks at how police forces approach the use and deployment of mobile information solutions which allow remote access to force systems. The reports take into account two separate perspectives - that of the technical lead and operational lead for mobile information. The results from the research are presented in three reports written for policing colleagues:

1. Mobile Technology in UK Policing and the Emergency Service Network (ESN)

This report presents data gathered between 2016 and 2017 on the use and the deployment of devices and the capabilities they provide to police forces. It also explores the preparedness of forces for the ESN. Where possible we present comparative data from similar survey work undertaken in 2004 and 2006 and data gathered from other sectors.

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2. Mobile Technology in UK Policing: Benefits Identification and Measurement

In this report we address the current practice in the evaluation and measurement of the influence of mobile technology in UK police services. An important output from this study was the identification and validation of a benefits framework composed of seven measurement themes.

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3. Implementing Mobile Technologies in UK Policing

Four aspects of organisational change are here identified: organisational culture, supervision, stress and technology, and organisational structure. We then explore two ways of supporting effective implementation: training, and the sharing of information, practice and experiences.

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Delphi: Technology and Transformation: Barriers and Enablers*

This study presents findings from a Delphi research methodology exploring the barriers and enablers of technology and transformational reform in UK policing. By gathering multiple rounds of opinions from experts with backgrounds in technology, policy, industry and operations, the most striking finding was that whilst the greatest opportunity for transformation in policing was perceived to be inter-agency working (across policing, other emergency services, and other areas such as mental health), this also presented one of the biggest challenges. A paper based on the findings from this study was presented by Simon Williams at the Production and Operations Management Society (POMS) 2017, International Conference, Sydney, Australia.

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Professor David Allen undertook a small project to understand ITC sourcing relationships within UK police services. Data was collected in one force on a positive outsourcing relationship, and in a comparative force exploring why the outsourcing relationship failed.


Professor David Allen and Emma Forsgren led a small project to explore the use of Analytics in two forces. In force one, the recent piloting of newly developed technology gave the opportunity to interview ten staff in face to face semi-structured interviews to gain understanding from operational, technological and cultural perspectives. In force two, a more established in-house approach, developed over a 3-4 year time frame was analysed, focusing on self-service, agile analytics and multi-agency data sharing and problem solving. 

Case Study: Technology and performance management in UK policing*

This study investigates how technology assists the police to deliver expected service outcomes and how technology can best support service performance improvements in the future. It was clear there is still some way to go before technology replaces traditional paper-based methods of working and information often stored in silos, thereby restricting the depth of performance data gathered. Additionally, the evolving nature of what constitutes ‘performance’ is challenging the traditional ways police have worked and been assessed against. 

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Mobile Technology*

Dr Alistair Norman led a small project focusing on the ability to change business process as a result of mobility rather than the technical issues and challenges of the deployments. The use of smartphones with associated apps – and specifically the Kelvin Connect Pronto tool formed the basis of the first case examined and highlighted both the ability to streamline business processes as well as the need to manage integration of the revised process with existing business processes.

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Social Media*

Dr Emma Gritt and Emma Forsgren explore the use of social media within different policing activities, including:

  • Internally: For information sharing and relationship building
  • Externally: For use where different types of social technologies are adopted for the purpose of engaging and communicating with the public and supporting intelligence investigations

Findings emerging from the research suggest that social media is increasingly adopted as an everyday tool for work, however questions over applying these in practice still remain. Historical cultural values and norms, along with austerity (lack of time and resources) appear to be shaping adoption and uptake, whilst challenges arise from separating private and professional roles. 

Police Mobile Technology: Benefits Realisation

The cultural factors which influence the adoption and use of mobile technologies was investigated in a six month project by an interdisciplinary Project Team from the University of Leeds consisting of:

  • Professor David Allen (Information Management and Systems, AIMTech)
  • Mr Simon Williams (Operations and Information Management, AIMTech)
  • Dr Alistair Norman (Information Management and Systems, AIMTech) 
  • Dr Des Leach (Organisational Psychologist, Workplace Behaviour Research Centre (WBRC))
  • Mr Stuart Lister (Centre for Criminal Justice Studies in the School of Law)  


The Influence of Social Media on Information Behaviour: A Policing Context
Ongoing projects
  • Dr Nicky Shaw is undertaking a research project with West Yorkshire Police to Understanding Demand upon Policing in West Yorkshire from Missing Persons Occurrences.
  • Professor David Allen is the strand lead for Data Analytics in the N8 Northern Police Research Partnership. Professor Allen is working with Fiona McLaughlin and Dr Nick Malleson, School of Geography, in a novel research project which is underpinned by a principle of co-production and engaged scholarship. Activities within this project include collaborating with police analysts and academics across to North of England to the Data Analytics Digital Service (DADS). This is a cloud based platform which provides as number of services to support data sharing, analysis, and use. The platform and first module were launched on the 16th of April 2018. Working with policing and academic colleagues to deliver and develop a ten month training programme in data science to police analysts.
  • Fatema Zaghool is exploring how police services and other public safety organisations collaborate to create shared information services and systems.
  • Daniel Pugh (jointly supervised with the School of Law) is undertaking research with explores a novel approach to the evaluation of mobile data solutions in police services.
  • Declan Falconer (jointly supervised with the School of Law) is undertaking research on the use of body-worn cameras in policing.
  • Inge Giesolf is undertaking a comparative study on policing in the context of ‘smart cities’. Working in the Netherlands and the UK she is exploring the use and exchange of sensor data, analytical tools and social media. 
  • Professor David Allen, Dr Nicky Shaw, Emma Forsgren and Simon Williams are evaluating a project led by Avon and Somerset Constabulary to create a multi-agency integrated analytics hub, in order to identify and protect vulnerable persons, working across service, agency and geographic boundaries. Avon and Somerset Constabulary does not endorse any services, products or organisations.


*We would like to thank the police forces that cooperated in support of these projects. This work has been supported by an Impact Acceleration Award funded by the ESRC and EPSRC. Opinions or points of view expressed are those of the authors.