Digital technology increasingly impacts policing


Policing on the horizon. Technology, crime and the future of policing.

New publication from the Police and Science Programme.

Police have embraced the use of digital technology in policing. This is according to an overview study published today by Bureau Landman, commissioned by the Police and Science Programme. The role of digital technology in policing is changing from a supporting (secondary) role to a more defining (primary) role. This means, among other things, that technology is enhancing and, in parts, taking over the meaning-making of executive police officers. The use of digital technology in general, and artificial intelligence (AI) in particular, exponentially expands the police's ability to perceive and process information. This offers opportunities to improve the effectiveness of policing, but at the same time comes with risks to the democratic rule of law.

The publication

Digital technology is changing the nature of the security issue facing the police and the way police work is carried out. Drawing on literature and other open sources, this book identifies and clearly explains these changes. It is the first time such an overview study has been published in the Netherlands.

Changes security issue

The security issue in the Netherlands has changed substantially in the past decade under the influence of digitalisation. Crime and insecurity have (also) become digitised. Emerging technologies are driving this development forward. The study suggests that AI is ensuring that digital crime can be more sophisticated and easier to commit. This is likely to ensure further growth in digital crime. From a broader insecurity perspective, deepfakes are a phenomenon we should be (very) concerned about. With the rise of deepfakes, the spread of disinformation is entering a new phase. This could threaten the functioning of the democratic rule of law.

Changes in policing

The police have embraced the use of digital technology in policing. Algorithms are increasingly being used in a variety of work processes. Here, there is a shift towards the use of self-learning algorithms (AI). Police in the Netherlands are in a digital transformation to organise and optimise the preconditions for effective use of AI. Although the stage is still early, the technologisation of police work is taking shape. This is leading to a substantial expansion of the police's ability to perceive and process information. The police are collecting more and more data and are increasingly able to process it effectively and efficiently as part of the execution of police duties. The use of digital technology is leading to a change in the relationship between technology and policing: the hitherto secondary function of technology - in which the making of meaning by police officers is supported - is evolving into a more primary function, in which the making of meaning is enhanced and sometimes taken over by technology.

Policing on the horizon

The primary function of technology in policing leads to parts of policing changing in character. Police work on the horizon is more often in the nature of desk work, is more proactive in nature, is more locally 'de-bedded', is implemented more by technology and (therefore) contains less discretionary space for executive police officers. The technologisation of policing has the potential to improve the effectiveness of policing. This potential is accompanied by a variety of risks, which may impair police legitimacy. The further technologisation of policing requires careful, political considerations. After all, the question at stake is what kind of police we want to have in the Netherlands.


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