Robots, AI and Digitization: Innovation in Policing Technologies Keeps Pace with Changing Threat Picture

Policing in the information age was the theme of the 87th INTERPOL General Assembly, which was held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates between November 18 and 21.

Bringing together nearly 1,000 official representatives from 173 countries, including 85 police chiefs and nearly 40 ministers, the four-day conference addressed how technology will change future threats and how it can be used by law enforcement to meet these challenges.

With more than 55 per cent of the world’s population having Internet access, criminals are increasingly going after data as a means to make money, as shown by recent ransomware attacks. Increased use of Artificial Intelligence and robotics, as well as innovation in the field of forensics were also up for discussion at the assembly.

INTERPOL President Kim Jong Yang said the decisions taken by the General Assembly support officers on the frontlines of policing as they increasingly face new challenges.

“Criminal data and the rules surrounding its processing have become critical contours for shaping the work of international police cooperation,” said Mr Kim.

Furthering INTERPOL’s global outreach through coordination with regional bodies, resolutions for cooperation with Afripol and the G5 Sahel Joint Task Force were put forward to the General Assembly.

INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock said partnerships with regional bodies played an important role in developing a strong global security architecture.

“With increased pressure on law enforcement resources, we must avoid duplication of effort if we are to work effectively in making the world a safer place,” said Secretary General Stock.

“We must also harness the advances in technology for the benefit of police around the world, and INTERPOL is uniquely and ideally placed to do this, especially in making vital biometric data available globally,” added the INTERPOL Chief.

Secretary General Stock said that information recovered from Improvised Explosive Devices in Iraq and the Gulf shared via INTERPOL has already resulted in the identification of suspects in Europe and Asia.

Assembly delegates were also updated on INTERPOL’s three crime programs: counter-terrorism, cybercrime and organized and emerging crime, as well as linked operational successes. These include the first global multi-agency operation against marine pollution, the seizure of 500 tonnes of illicit pharmaceuticals during Operation Pangea XI, and operations Epervier, Libertad and Sawiyan which resulted in the rescue of nearly 1,000 victims of human trafficking and people smuggling.

Major General Abdullah Khalifa Al Merri, Commander in Chief of the Dubai Police spoke about Dubai’s new era of policing. In its Vision 2021 strategic plan, the Dubai government defines three priorities for its police force: security, communication and innovation.

The Commander in Chief said that because police innovation is fundamental to the way the Dubai Police works, teams are constantly on the lookout for new methods. “We are putting in place smart police stations where people can digitally report a crime or pay a speeding fine in any of six languages. The first station was opened at City Walk Dubai, and others are operational in most shopping malls, some with drive-through functionalities.”

The police force is also speeding up emergency response times and reducing the level of human error in locating the site of an accident by fitting police vehicles with an integrated e-call system. This allows for voice calls and vehicle data to be transmitted directly to police response centres in the event of an accident.

Police robots with touch buttons already patrol some of the malls and streets of Dubai, allowing people to interact with Dubai police remotely. One current project involves a smart glove that understands the sign language movements of deaf users and translates them into Arabic on a computer screen.

In addition, Dubai’s police vehicle fleet comprises smart motorbikes with video and photograph cameras which capture images of speeding vehicles. Electric hover surfs that can fly at a height of five metres can be used to allow officers to respond to emergencies.

The Commander in Chief warned that in the digital world, all data – from information to ideas to behavior – can be stored, analyzed and shared on a mass scale. “Criminals increasingly are seeking that data as a means to make money,” he said, adding “the Dubai Police has made artificial intelligence and robotics integral parts of its Vision 2021.”

In a relatively short space of time, law enforcement technology has advanced from a single computer in a station to in-car and wearable tech for every officer. There is also a plethora of analytical systems and integrated solutions like New York PD’s Domain Awareness System, which ties in data from a host of available sources, including Computer Aided Dispatch, crime reports and criminal histories, maps and cameras to provide instant access to real-time information, pictures and video about calls in progress.

Technology continues to advance and those who mean to cause harm will exploit these innovations. Law enforcement and criminal justice authorities will need to keep up to serve and protect their citizens and infrastructure.

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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