This is the first in a two-part blog series that examines the opportunities that cloud-based services offer to law enforcement agencies—along with the challenges of this fundamental shift in the way information resources are managed.

Police forces have a well-established culture of owning and managing systems directly founded on concerns about security and control of access to information. Three trends, however, make this position unsustainable:

  • Traditional models for acquiring and running systems, which slow the pace of innovation
  • Pressure to reduce costs
  • Increasing need to form partnerships with other police agencies, public-sector bodies, and the private sector. Partnership depends on information sharing and open approaches to developing systems.

One of the most radical—and successful—cloud-based public-safety and security services is Facewatch. Using a network-based model, Facewatch provides an online reporting tool that allows U.K. businesses and citizens to report crimes and attach video evidence. The service enables crime victims to cancel credit cards instantly through Facewatch’s partners; allows users to share images of wanted people; and provides a channel for feedback from the police on the outcomes of cases.

Facewatch offers immediate benefits to the public, businesses, and law enforcement:

  • Citizens: ease of reporting and rapid management of associated processes
  • Businesses: less time required to deal with incidents
  • Law enforcement: reduces or eliminates the need to interact directly with premises to recover video footage

For all users, there is greater transparency about processes and reporting on outcomes, as well as the ability for communities to share information about wanted persons and crime trends.

The Facewatch system has been accredited under the Secured by Design banner of the Association of Chief Police Officers in the United Kingdom and endorsed by the president of the Major City Chiefs Association in the United States. It is being used by the Metropolitan Police and eight of the U.K.’s largest police forces as a channel for crime reporting, and is under development with other forces in the United States and Australia.

Facewatch is a truly collaborative effort in which the private sector supports the shared interests of the wider community to reduce crime, informed by the same spirit as the City24/7 initiative in New York City.

This is not the only example. Police forces the world over have begun using commercially developed social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr to communicate their messages to new communities in innovative ways, supporting force communications, investigations, and emergency management.

In all these cases, cloud computing has enabled the police to benefit from systems they don’t need to own or finance. The time to deployment has been a matter of months, not years, while costs have been limited to developing interfaces to legacy systems. Used in this way, cloud-based applications can contribute significantly to a safe and secure environment for Smart Cities.

In Part 2, I will continue to explore how cloud computing can benefit law enforcement, businesses, and citizens. Stay tuned for Part 2, and click here to reserve your copy of our cloud resources for local government, as well as a copy of the complete compilation of this blog series when complete.

To read this blog in Spanish, click here.  For Portuguese, click here.