EU-project: COMPOSITE ( COMparative POlice Studies In The Eu )

ICT Trends in European Policing

Police forces from:

  • Belgium

  • Czech Republic

  • France

  • Germany

  • Italy

  • Macedonia

  • Netherlands

  • Romania

  • Spain

  • United Kingdom

Project Consortium:

1 Erasmus-University, Rotterdam, Netherlands (Coordinator)

2 University Utrecht,Netherlands

3 Police Academy of the Netherlands

4 Fachhochschule der Polizei des Landes Brandenburg, Oranienburg, Germany

5 Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte, Informationstechnik FIT, Sankt Augustin, Germany

6 University of Durham, United Kingdom

7 Sheffield University, United Kingdom

8 Capgemini Telecom Media, Defense, France

9 Centre National de la Recherche, Scientifique, Paris, France

10 University Antwerpen, Belgium

11 Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj, Romania

12 FORMIT(Fondazione per la Ricerca sulla Migrazione e sulla Integrazione delle Tecnologie,) Rome, Italy

13 ESADE Business School, Barcelona, Spain

14 Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic

15 University St. Kliment Ohridski, Skopje / Bitola, Macedonia

Security citizens issues:


·Organized crime



The report can be downloaded here


ICT Trends in European Policing

In this report we present the results from interviews and document analyses of current and planned information and communication technology (ICT) projects with police forces from 10 European countries and from interviews with technology vendors in the field of ICT for policing. Based on a cross-country, cross-organisational analysis, we present the following themes that describe major trends in ICT for European policing:

· the integration of intelligence data systems

· the adoption of mobile computing

· the use of video surveillance technologies

· the application of digital biometrics

· the crosscutting issue of user acceptance

· the emerging challenge of social media applications

We discuss how these issues are relevant and thereby point to open issues for future research. Recently, rapid developments in the field of ICT have had a major influence upon police work. Technological innovations turn out to change the organisational

environment in significant ways. For police, ICT plays a twofold role: New technologies can support police work but also provide new opportunities for offenders to commit crimes.

Within the COMPOSITE project, a European-wide research project aimed at investigating change within police forces, a dedicated work package ‘Technology Adaptation’ specifically focuses on change processes relating to ICT.

As a first step, the trend analysis presented in this report scans for current ICT developments and thereby provides pointers for future research.


Mapping Trends

Our first objective in the work package ‘Technology Adaptation’ is to map the current, most relevant ICT developments, opportunities and related practices in the domain of policing and to look for commonalities and differences across Europe.

To learn about current ICT trends, we approached the field by studying current and planned ICT projects at different police forces and by studying new technological

developments coming from the industry of ICT solutions for police contexts.

By comparing all the data collected through interviews, surveys and document analyses, we identify a number of themes that describe current trends and issues for ICT at European police forces.

Theme 1:

Integrating Systems

The first theme was the increased connection of various systems and data sources in order to enhance intelligence and increase efficiency. Standards and new interfaces between systems are being developed so that previously unrelated information can be combined

and used to support information-led policing.

Linking systems helps the police to increase overall efficiency and to minimize the need to enter data more than once. It also helps police forces to overcome organisational boundaries between states and countries, as well as separated responsibilities for types of crimes; boundaries that do not exist for offenders.

Additionally, combining data and intelligence across organisational boundaries may dramatically enhance investigative capabilities and provide support in realtime.

The combination of intelligence requires different police forces or departments to share sensitive data.

Beyond a search for design methods that fit these challenges, future research could provide answers to the challenge of how to balance disparate organizational goals such as catching-up with criminals and how to sustain the trust of the general public.

Theme 2:

Increasing Mobility

The second common trend was a need to increase mobile capabilities. Here, we found a broad overlap in mobile ICT solutions across countries.

Adapting digital radios, computing in cars and mobile and handheld PCs stretches the boundaries of what police officers can do in the field without returning to the police station.

Technology vendors describe these developments in terms of ‘intelligence led policing’: In any location, real time information and intelligence support police officers in their work. Sensor information is fed in real-time into police systems and processes.

For future socio-technical research, the drive for mobility changes the organisation of police work. Given that the police are traditionally a hierarchically structured organisation, the question arises as to how empowerment of officers by mobile devices interacts with the

identity and current structure of the police.

Theme 3:

Surveillance Technology

Surveillance technologies, especially video recording systems are being developed to support police work.

Currently, there are initiatives to introduce video systems for the observation of public spaces, but police also implement systems with automatic image processing algorithms that are used, among others, for number plate recognition.

Evidence of the effect on subjective and objective safety and security is mixed and case dependent. In general, police forces regard the use of this type of technology as helpful.

While technological issues still need to be resolved, especially with complex image processing algorithms, another issue of these surveillance technologies is its social implication. Depending on the respective country, policy makers and police forces need to balance the need for providing safety with the citizens’ rights for privacy.

Theme 4:

Digital Biometrics

Biometric data has come onto the agenda of European police forces due to the implementation of digital identification documents and from the need to increase the

effectiveness and efficiency of identifying suspects, on the one hand, and trusted persons such as authorized colleagues or legitimate border passages, on the other.

In consequence, police forces need to set up new infrastructures to deal with digital biometric data in mobile and stationary setups.

While opinions diverge about the use of this information, there is no doubt that biometric information will become a ubiquitous piece of digital personal information.

Yet, fierce discussions on this issue show how sensitive public reactions are to police storing personal information. This raises the question of how these technologies may be designed and introduced to the satisfaction of both police and the general public.

Theme 5:

User Acceptance

The issue of acceptance of technology by police officers s a recurrent problem. Technical issues put police officers in positions where they are not able to use key features. Lacking social acceptance, devices are not used at all or, lacking training, only in their basic

functionality. Introducing novel technology in an aging police force becomes a central problem. To decrease the speed of innovation for police officers, sometimes the introduction of technology is delayed.

Some technology vendors stress the importance of training, also highlighting that technology is becoming increasingly user friendly. They struggle, with the demands for customisation, on the one hand, and simplicity in use, on the other.

Confronted with the need to retain its operational effectiveness, the police have to stay up-to-date with technological developments. Especially in aging police forces, the question is how to speed-up the adoption of new technologies while remaining a stable, credible force. Moreover, to the extent that new ICTs are used for operations across borders, the issue arises how cultural values influence acceptance and use of ICT.

Theme 6:

Social Media

The most recent issue identified in our data is the use of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, or Skype for police work. Although only some countries were found to make extensive use of them at the time of data collection, other police forces pointed to the rise of social media as the most important upcoming topic and as an opportunity, as well as a threat.

Social media can become a means to support investigations. Increasingly, police forces use of social media to gain support from civilians for police investigations.

Additionally, social media can become a new source of intelligence.

The fast pace and public nature of social media also changes public discourse about policing. Police actions or non-actions come under constant commentary. Social media thus puts additional pressure on the status of police in society and its legitimacy.

Operational practices need to be rethought while a greater transparency influences public perceptions of police work and in consequence the legitimacy of police forces. On a more fundamental level, the presence and role of police in virtual spaces needs to be defined.



Future Research

The screening of trends resulting from research with police forces in 10 European countries and with 20 vendors reveals a number of topics for future research.

In the scope of the COMPOSITE project, the themes will support the upcoming tasks. First, we will study best practices in the design and introduction of technologies for selected themes and second, we will investigate ICT as an intermediary between the general public

and the police.