NEWS24 February 2020

Data and AI rules needed for policing

Data analytics News UK

UK – The police need national guidance on using data analytics, AI and algorithms to ensure they are being used legally and ethically, according to a report from think tank, Royal United Services Institute (Rusi).

Met police officers_crop

Rusi was commissioned by the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) to conduct an independent study into data analytics use by police forces in England and Wales, looking in particular at algorithmic bias.

The aim of the project is to inform CDEI’s review of bias in algorithmic decision-making, which is focusing on four sectors, including policing.

It found widespread concern across the UK law enforcement community over the lack of official national guidance for using algorithms in policing.

The report said that although technology could help improve police "effectiveness and efficiency", there was a "lack of a robust empirical evidence base, poor data quality and insufficient skills and expertise".

The project involved senior police officers, government officials, academics, legal experts, regulatory and oversight bodies and civil society organisations – 69 participants took part in the research in the form of semi-structured interviews, focus groups and round table discussions.

It advised that any future policy framework should be principles-based and complement existing police guidance in a ‘tech-agnostic’ way.

It should establish standardised processes to ensure that data analytics projects follow "recommended routes for the empirical evaluation of algorithms within their operational context and evaluate the project against legal requirements and ethical standards".

Roger Taylor, chairman of the CDEI, said: "There are significant opportunities to create better, safer and fairer services for society through AI, and we see this potential in policing. But new national guidelines, as suggested by Rusi, are crucial to ensure police forces have the confidence to innovate legally and ethically."