More tech tools for the police

WE listened this weekend to a government agency’s latest move to make it easier to apply for a gun licence. The head of the agency detailed the online process and addressed the issue of long delays that applicants faced, and confirmed that it would be a matter of days for a decision. Technology is at the heart of the new facility provided by the Firearm Licensing Authority, which was previously riddled with delays and uncertainty surrounding gun- and licences granting. It is another recent step by government agencies, transformed by technology, to provide a more convenient service to the public.

While we applaud this news, it came on the same day that we were shocked by the brazen killing of a worshipper attending a church service. Not only were the attendees assaulted, but those who followed the live stream suffered the same fate. As the police conduct their investigations, we urge increased use of technology resources to tackle the spread of guns and ultimately their use in shocking crimes.

Policing has long since gone beyond the brute force image to greater sophistication in the exercise of duties. Any gains made will attract more qualified candidates capable of being trained to use more of the technology introduced, particularly in monitoring criminal activities.

Worldwide police departments now use surveillance cameras, gunshot detection systems, automated licence plate readers, facial recognition software, body cameras, drones, and numerous databases to prevent, respond to and investigate crimes. The technology coming from Tesla and other car companies could soon lead to driverless patrol cars with heads-up screens, delivering information as the car patrols. Augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) will eventually be additional tools, and smart police uniforms could monitor and report on officers’ condition and provide critical information to command centres.

The question is not whether this technology exists but rather, should police use it when it becomes available to them? And, if so, how should it be used?

Trust is the mantra to be embraced on both sides of the equation to transform our country into a digitally confident society. Our technology leaders have reminded us that digital trust relies on good data integrity, security and control, and a code of ethics exercised in the use of technology and data. In the case of the police, the digital trust would allow quicker adoption of promising technology and mitigate some of its risks.

We need all the tools we can muster to end the senseless killings which continue to shock us every day.