When it comes to police work, speed is of the essence. Police refer to “the Golden Hour”— the time immediately after a crime has occurred when large amounts of evidence are readily available. As time passes, evidence deteriorates, so capturing it quickly is critical. A better-equipped police force benefits us all, so when Cambridgeshire Constabulary approached Black Marble for help developing a mobile solution that would make it quicker to gather and share evidence, we were glad to help. But, as I’m sure my fellow partners have found with their customers, it became clear in conversation that what they thought they wanted wouldn’t produce the results they were looking for.
Initially, the force was asking for a mobile solution. Officers were frustrated about all the time lost in recording – by hand – details of incidents in paper notebooks, then driving back to the station to enter the information into one or more of several, discrete systems. Sharing of critical information happened slowly and sometimes not at all. Quite rightly, the force wanted to equip thousands of officers with mobile devices that could speed up the process and allow greater integration and collaboration.
While we agreed their proposed solution would have great benefits, we also realized it needed to go a great deal farther. If, as they told us, the goal was to have devices in the hands of thousands of officers, then they needed something more. They had custom systems (including crime, intelligence, motor vehicle licensing, custody, fingerprints, etc.), but they were all separate. They had heritage systems and infrastructure that simply couldn’t handle thousands of concurrent users. After further consultation, we ended up architecting an entirely integrated backend system called tuServ.
Built on an Azure Pack backend, tuServ connects to all the systems, provides the aggregation, pulls together huge amounts of information, and feeds back relevant results. Let’s say an officer pulls someone over for speeding. The officer sends a request for information on Person X from their phone, tuServ does power processing on the backend systems and sends back a simple, small packet of results that can be accessed even from a relatively weak network connection out in the field. The form the officer needs to fill in regarding the traffic stop is suddenly pre-filled with a lot of information, saving time; the new information about the traffic stop is uploaded to the system where it is immediately discoverable by the officer’s colleagues, and the officer is delivered any warnings about that person that are already in the system.
I think it’s safe to say that officers are enamored of tuServ. Information they need to do their jobs efficiently is delivered to them fast, securely, and via a user interface that’s easy to understand and navigate. And most importantly, tuServ is helping officers increase public safety. A recent serious assault case is a good example. Using the tuServ Notebook feature, the on-scene officers recorded more details and photos of the area, weapons, and the victim than would previously have been usual, and the clear and visible integrity behind the evidence gathering ensured higher-quality evidence making it to court. In fact within 10 days of tuServ being rolled out to officers, it was being used in the court process.
Our system relies on Microsoft technology: we would not have built tuServ on anything but the Windows platform. The security of the devices is paramount – without BitLocker, the project would have been a non-starter, but with Windows, the security is baked in across the app domain. Several forces are planning to replace other mobile devices with Windows phones to take advantage of tuServ. And as I said, Azure Pack does the heavy lifting of connecting, crunching, and delivering the data on the backend, and we leverage Visual Studio and .NET to have one set of code, one platform, across the system.
This is what modern policing should look like: fast, responsive, and secure. Officers report time savings of an hour to an hour and a half per day – time once spent shuttling between the field and the office or looking for information – time that’s now concentrated on public safety. We could have delivered the solution they asked for, but I imagine in time neither they nor we would have been satisfied. By having the whole conversation, and having a proper think about what we were trying to accomplish and the tools we had to accomplish those goals, we were able to deliver a system that is even now helping law enforcement do their jobs better.
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