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RUSI Annual Security Lecture

24 February 2020, 11:00
RUSI Whitehall
Special Event
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick delivered the inaugural RUSI Annual Security Lecture.


Read the RUSI report on Data Analytics and Algorithms in Policing launched at this event.

The Speech

"Last night, I spoke to ‘Tony’ who is one of my sergeants who works on the Venice team. The Venice team have reduced moped enabled crime in London from over 19,000 in 2017 to just over 4,000 in the last calendar year. I asked him how and he said: “We’ve created a hostile environment for the people who use mopeds to rob. We’ve layered out tactics and we’ve made the best use of the technology we’ve got.”

So they’ve got high-powered motorbikes, they use DNA tagging spray. They have electronic pro-spikes. They have ANPR on the laptop in the car so they can see when vehicles they are interested in are ‘pinging’ in their direction. They are skilled drivers who occasionally use quite assertive pursuit tactics. They sometimes use the helicopter, they are supported by investigators who use CCTV, forensics, communications data to find a co-conspirator, handlers, to get the best data for court.

As I was listening to him, I was reminded just how far we have come. I started patrolling just up the road from here in 1983 and I had an Austin 110, a typewriter, no DNA. Fingerprints – yes and a card index system. Using technology has clearly enabled us to be much effective, much more efficient, to keep our staff safer and to raise transparency, accountability and standards – something which I think is often overlooked – Convictions now are much more reliable than in 1983 because of our use of technology.

I am delighted to be here today to talk to you all – thank you to RUSI for inviting me to talk about modern policing and our use know of data and technology and in the future. I am going to talk about:

1. Crime today: scale, volume, complexity, threat
2. The modern Met that is fit for the future
3. How tech is enabling human policing and why this needs your support

I would like you to come away from today with an appreciation that:

1. The modern Met is a force for good that you can trust, and that is open to your scrutiny.
2. The volume and complexity of crime today means we cannot stand still and allow technology to advance while we are left behind.
3. How well-governed and well-explained proportionate use of tech by the police will reduce the likelihood of you and your family and friends being harmed by crime.

A decade ago, 17% of people owned a smartphone. Now that’s about 80% and for the young, over 95%. Simultaneously, the volume of data produced and stored by individuals has rocketed. The average London household has ten data storage devices at least. It is not unusual for one device to contain 50,000 data items.

In 2005, none of us in this room will forget the dreadful events of 7/7. In those investigations where over 50 people were killed and we had multiple crime scenes, we seized about 400 digital exhibits – amounting to four terabytes of data. In 2018, a single investigation led by the CT Command, at one single crime scene, we recovered 61 terabytes of data and over 36 terabytes from other scenes connected to the investigation. So, a total of 97 terabytes in one far, far smaller investigation. If we were to download the data on a mobile phone, print it on pages and lay those pages out, they would stretch from New Scotland Yard to Canary Wharf and back.

Most crimes have a digital element. Perhaps 50 percent of crime is now committed entirely online- to defraud, harass, sexually exploit, blackmail, undermine, to spy, hack, to attack systems, organisations, reputations, infrastructure, states. More common or garden crimes are frequently enabled digitally. Criminals use modern technologies to plan, communicate, conspire, groom, threaten, radicalise, to move cash and illicit goods and hide transactions.

You will be aware that it is very rare for any investigation now not to require ingestion and assessment of high volumes of digital and other forensic material from a wide variety of sources, including accessing personal data stored in a multiplicity of locations.

Criminals communicate across multiple encrypted platforms often simultaneously - making identification and analysis of relevant content extremely challenging. How far we have come since 1983, how easy the TV shows makes it all seem.

The mountains of digital material we are required to examine and frequently to ask complex questions of, such as: Could this be relevant to a defence or undermine a prosecution? Are perhaps the biggest contributor (In my view) to increased demands on policing in the last few years. Add to this so called new crimes – not really new but for these purposes - such as sexual exploitation on line or modern human slavery. More international crime, more reporting of domestic violence and sexual offences and the changing threats from terrorism manifest so horribly in recent weeks in Streatham and Fishmongers Hall. Add also in the last few years more serious violence particularly amongst young people and often associated with drugs markets.

All in all UK policing has been dealing with greater complexity and volumes of crime. In addition, expectations have risen about our need to manage risk, to safeguard, to deal with non-crime issues such as mental health, to respond to anti-social behaviour, to police protest. Our standards are expected to be higher and the range of harms we are supposed to prevent or investigate has been growing.

Despite rising these demands and reduced (until latterly) resources, you may have seen that trust in police officers continues to rise. We are, according to the IPSOS MORI veracity index, not as quite highly trusted as nurses or doctors (I envy that) but so much more than… You’re all guessing… perhaps bankers or estate agents, just to name a couple – with no disrespect to anyone in the room.

The Met aims to be the most trusted police service in the world.

Of all of our operational challenges, the need to bear down on violent crime in London, in all its forms, to reduce prevalence and to bring more offenders to justice is the Met’s number one priority. We have made some real progress – think of what Tony and the Venice team have achieved. We’ve made big reductions in the stabbings of those under 25yrs. We’ve had fewer acid attacks, far fewer firearms discharged. But we are very far from complacent, there is much, more to do.

So what are we doing?

Human progress is made by replacing the older with the better.
It is a great privilege for me to lead the world’s most renowned police force in a top global city. A city that has embraced technology, a digital hub, a vibrant economic metropolis that delivers 20% of the UK’s tax revenue and where the Met is its biggest single employer.

From tackling crime and countering terrorism to securing state visits and global summits, I am incredibly proud of the men and women who are working tirelessly and compassionately day in, day out, to make London safer.
London’s population is growing and now getting bigger than New York. It’s getting older and younger, more diverse. We have over 1.1 million commuters come into the capital daily. 19 million tourists visit London every year. In the last decade there has been a strong global role for London as a host city, following the 2012 Olympics. London has experienced a rise in public events (3,500 per year), including huge set piece events such as this year’s the Euro 2020 football championship and recently the NATO summit. London is thriving but it has its challenges. Income inequality is higher in London than anywhere else in the UK - no one can be proud of our levels of child poverty.

New Scotland Yard has a worldwide reputation for the standards we set in so many areas of policing, including managing major events and incidents, policing protest and events such as State Visits, the use of technology such as CCTV, Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), forensics, homicide and serious crime investigations, terrorism and security and community policing. We are noted for restrained use of force and intrusion, applying both only when necessary and in a proportionate manner, according to our law, and incidentally in a manner I think Sir Robert Peel, our founder 190 years ago would be proud of.

We are always seeking to learn, adapt and modernise. In the last twenty years, we have become so much more transparent, much more accountable, responsive and diverse. We have transformed the way we work with the intelligence agencies and government, and led the way in many other policing developments. But as I have said, the environment in which we work, both online and on the streets, is changing very rapidly. There is always more to do.

In the context of the rising demand and complexity, the new growth in policing, with an extra 20,000 officers nationally over the next few years, is very welcome. For us, from a low of 29,500, we are growing well and by March 2021, we will have 33k police officers.

We aim to be an organisation that reflects London’s diversity and it is great to see every month 350-400 new officers of every kind of background coming in making a visible change to the Met and on the streets of London. This will help in tackling violent crime and help us increase the public’s confidence in how we’re tackling it.

An extra 6,000 officers - at least - in London would strongly support our efforts to suppress violence, tackle robbery and burglary, to deal with the changing threats from terrorism and serious and organised crime and our duties as a national and international city, including increasing public order challenges.

We have a strategy – the Met Direction – with the following three main priorities:

1. Focusing on what matters most to Londoners, that is tackling violent crime.
2. Mobilising partners - that’s people like you and the public. Encouraging more active citizens.
3. Achieving the better outcomes in the pursuit of justice and in support of victims.

These are supported by four enabling priorities: I’ll pick out just two:

1. We want to be recognised as a responsible, exemplary and ethical organisation; and
2. We set out to seize the opportunities of data and digital tech to become a world leader in policing.

This last ‘Seizing the opportunities of data and digital’ is particularly important to me. When I became Commissioner, I said to my team that we had to improve dramatically the Met’s ability to work in the digital age.

As tackling violence is our number one operational priority, so transforming for the digital age is our number one corporate priority.

So let me now move on to speaking about how tech is enabling human policing and why this needs your support.

On your way here, I bet most of you would have accessed social media. Some of your would have used mapping tools, google translation, voice recognition and perhaps facial recognition to unlock phones or reset bank accounts etc.

Peel said: “The police are the public and the public are the police.” I strongly believe it holds true today. In that case then the police should have access to the same modern tools the public have that will help us to do the job that is expected of us.

Criminals make powerful use of the digital world, obviously the police should use cutting edge tech too as a force for good. The challenge for a 2020 Police Chief in the data age is to make tech and data more of an advantage to us than it is to the criminal.

As MI5’s Andrew Parker said recently “Technology will never replace our need also to have human insight.” I would add in a policing context that technology will never be able to replace the human police person’s empathy, humanity, imagination or ability to collaborate.

If I took you out with Tony, you would see not only somebody who makes you feel like you are sitting in an armchair whilst he drives you around London as high speeds but somebody who as soon as he gets out of the vehicle, is kind and compassionate to a victim or indeed to a young lad who had done something daft or is at risk of criminality. You will see the highest level of team, amazing depths of local knowledge – this cannot be done – in my view – by machines. I believe policing will remain an essentially human service, full of good, highly motivated thoughtful people supported by better information and tools.

I was wondering about this the other day when I met with colleagues from the Alan Turing Institute. I was pleased to hear them tell me that the idea of terminators and robots thinking like humans is very, very, very far off from where we are now.

So I would talk – in line with many other people – about Augmented Intelligence. I wouldn’t put all policing’s hopes and fears on what is described as Artificial Intelligence. Augmented Intelligence where one definition “human-centred partnership model of people and artificial intelligence working together to enhance cognitive performance, including learning, decision making and new experiences.

The term describes better how technology can work to improve human intelligence rather than to replace it. That feels much closer to how we in policing are using technology. I also believe a licence to operate technology in those human terms feels much closer to what the public would expect and accept.

In any case, the Data Protection Act 2018, requires that automated decisions that affect individuals must have a human in the loop to oversee the decisions and the processes behind them. That points to tools that are there to aid police officers rather than replace them. To augment their decision-making rather than to take the final decision for them.

As data volumes grow and tech applications improve we will be increasingly and rightly challenged to ensure we are using information correctly and forces will need to work to ensure the public remain supportive of our approach. Technology gives us incredible opportunities in 2020, and beyond to identify more offenders, locate fugitives and missing people, prove associations and motivations.

One way we can build this support and trust is by showing how we have introduced and used an armoury of tools in the past that help police. Let’s start with fingerprinting, DNA and wider forensics – for all three there were concerns at time of introduction but look at the impact they have now. These technical innovations in their time all found a common law basis for initial police usage.

I am old enough to remember some concerns at introduction but look at the impact it is has now on preventing and investigating crime. The only question I am ever asked about CCTV is ‘Why can’t I have more near my home, our school…’

BWV has been a great success. It was rolled out on time, to budget and as a tough and easy to use bit of kit. It serves multiple purposes – gathering evidence, such as a domestic violence incident or disorder. The evidence has integrity, is secure, can be uploaded, accessed and transferred to the CPS and the court very easily. It has increased officer and public confidence, reduced complaints and improved standards of evidence. It is also a great tool for learning in teams, from the good and the bad! So it contributes to evidence, trust, legitimacy and organisational improvement.

In recent years, we have adopted all kinds of less controversial innovations. The public can access us digitally to ask questions or report crimes. The Met gives public information and our neighbourhood officers communicate with local groups through a variety of social media platforms. Our 30,000 tablets and laptops makes life easier, safer and faster for our officers and allows them to work flexibly and spend more time on the streets. Our mobile fingerprint device likewise allows them to deal swiftly with suspects for minor infringements without needing to arrest them, as well as identify people wanted for more serious matters. Better analytics give them improved intelligence. Faster DNA and drugs analysis allows improved identification and much faster processing of violent offenders. Tracking of serious offenders who are tagged, of suspect vehicles, of mobile devices are fundamental tools for covert investigations.

And we are already using data and tools that apply rules-based algorithms to augment and speed up decision-making. Just as the legal sector is starting to use AI to prepare contracts and help manage documents during litigation. Or as the health sector is looking at how machine learning - combined with a human decision-maker - can improve the chances of detecting cancer.

For example, there are now over 300 languages spoken in London so we are exploring machine translation tools to translate and triage seized media in a foreign language. We are looking into speech analytics software to help identify high harm, high risk or threat calls to the police. We are beginning to use virtual and augmented reality to improve officer decision-making, empathy and understanding as well as community engagement.
During recruitment, information is tailored for candidates using programmatic AI, they can engage with chatbots. This calendar year, our recruitment partner SSCL and the Met are likely to introduce AI across many of the recruitment processes.

I would argue that the most areas in which we are already using modern technology are largely uncontroversial to the public.

Live Facial Recognition (LFR):
Let me bust some current and apparently pervasive myths about the Met’s use of LFR:
- The tech we are using does not, repeat, not, store your biometric data.
- Human officers will always make the final decisions on whether or not to intervene – Not the machine.
- Surveys tell us it is for serious crime.
- The tech we are deploying is proven not to have an ethnic bias.
- We’ve been completely open and transparent about it - check out our website. Its use is very clearly signposted.

This is about using a tool that can augment intelligence rather than replace it. The Met’s trials of LFR resulted in the arrest of eight wanted individuals whom we would otherwise have been very unlikely to identify. Without LFR, those eight individuals who were wanted for having caused harm would probably not have been arrested.
So I and others have been making the case for the proportionate use of tech in policing but right now the loudest voices in the debate seem to be the critics. Sometimes highly inaccurate or highly ill informed. I would say it is for critics to justify to the victims of those crimes why police should not be allowed to use tech lawfully and proportionally to catch criminals.

It is not for me and the police to decide where the boundary lies between security and privacy, it is right for the police to contribute to the debate. But speaking as a member of public, I will be frank. In an age of Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, concern about my image and that of my fellow law-abiding citizens passing through LFR and not being stored, feels much, much smaller than my and the public’s vital expectation to be kept safe from a knife through the chest.

And if, as seems likely, algorithms can assist in identifying patterns of behaviour by those under authorised surveillance that would otherwise have been missed, patterns that indicate they are radicalising others or are likely to mount a terrorist attack; if an algorithm can help identify in our criminal intelligence systems material a potential serial rapist or killer that we could not have found by human endeavour alone; if a machine can improve our ability to disclose fairly then I think almost all citizens would want us to use it.
The only people who benefit from us not using lawfully and proportionately are the criminals, the rapists, the terrorists and all those who want to harm you, your family and friends.

So with LFR we are taking a small step to using emerging tech to support our efforts against violent crime. We are deploying LFR in a proportionate limited way that storing no biometric data. We believe this has the support of the public and a very strong legal basis.

We know there are some cheap technologies that do have bias, but as I have said, ours doesn’t. Currently, the only bias in it, is that is shows it is slightly harder to identify a wanted women than a wanted man.
It’s important for people to know that we only have people on the LFR watch list who are wanted for serious crime. The surveys show – I know there is more work to come – but that’s very likely to be supported by the public. I will quote someone else in this room, who said to me “Sometimes you don’t know what the public will support until you try.” And that must actually be true.

As the Centre for Data Ethics & Innovation said in a report last year, the “Use of algorithms has the potential to improve the quality of decision-making by increasing the speed and accuracy with which decisions are made.”

It seems we have two possible choices:

1. We cannot adapt to modern tech and not use the tech that increases the likelihood of solving and preventing crime, and the public can continue to be rightly indignant that we have not solved and prevented this or that crime; or

2. We can use tech proportionately to speed up how we – human officers - solve and prevent crime, and increase our chances of stopping the harm that we would be criticised for not stopping.
I am not of course arguing against criticism per se. As John Stuart Mill advised, truth emerges by exposing ideas and arguments to opposition and counterclaims or open debate. Ideas that face no competitors lack a way of proving their worth.

What I would propose therefore is that the best way to ensure that the police use new and emerging tech in a way that has the country’s support is for the Government to bring in an enabling legislative framework that is debated through Parliament, consulted on in public, and which will outline the boundaries for how police should or should not use tech.

I welcome therefore the Government’s commitment to “Empower the police to safely use new technologies like biometrics, AI and the use of DNA within a strict legal framework.” We are a law enforcement organisation, it is our duty to uphold the law, give us the law and we’ll work within it.

In the meantime, I and my colleagues will continue to take a keen interest in considering how best to use new technology in an effective, ethical and proportionate way.

That’s why I have read a number of reports in preparation for today’s speech, including Lord Evans’ recent very helpful report on AI and Public Standards, and RUSI’s earlier report we have today. They highlight the lack of clear guidance and the need for a new legal and ethical framework.

My team and I, along with wider policing colleagues at the national level, will consider carefully the report published today and we will of course come back to RUSI with our thoughts on that.
For today, I will simply say that it will be crucial to ensure that any future governance is able to enable the proportionate and appropriate use of technology to augment human policing. Any future guidelines – and I know this is difficult – and guidelines should be clear, should be simple, and should be fit for the 21st Century and need not to go out of date as soon as they have been published.

I strongly believe that if we in the UK can get this right, we stand in good stead to be world leaders in appropriate, proportionate tech-enabled human policing. The Prime Minister announced in his speech to the UN last year that in 2020, he would host a summit in London to establish global tech guidelines with the UK as a “global leader in ethical and responsible technology.” I hope that that might provide us with an opportunity to look at the use of tech in the round, including what it means for policing.

So to conclude:
We will use modern tech well and lawfully but remain a service of old-fashioned and timeless values such as integrity, compassion and courage.

We will be primarily a human service, information and modern tech enabled where appropriate, in a way that is acceptable to citizens.

Like many organisations we have been using tools that apply locked in algorithms in I believe uncontentious areas. Citizens expect modern policing in a modern country to use modern technology that intrudes as little as possible. With LFR we are taking a small step to use emerging tech to support our efforts against violent crime.

Trust is so important. It is a fundamental building block of good legitimate policing. We must inform the public and we must build citizens’ trust in law enforcement’s use of tech – I am asking for your help with this today - There needs to be a broad debate with people able to enquire in a very transparent way about how tech is and could be used.

It would be very helpful to have some kind of code of conduct for the use of tech in policing, a licence to operate. We probably need a further assurance and inspection regime – Not a whole new one.
We propose that emerging and new technology, however it is used in policing, may well require the law to keep up and to change, of course this needs to be debated.

We all have a responsibility to prevent crime – as Peel said. A responsibility to support and ensure our police are properly equipped and enabled to adopt new practices at pace and we all have a responsibility to ensure the police do not become too powerful or too intrusive. Our future effectiveness depends on us cherishing our core values, prizing our human interactions and our human decision making, while embracing new technologies and making the most of the data we have – not drowning in it.

Today I have spoken about:
1. The demands on policing, the nature of crime and non-crime incidents.
2. The modern Met that is fit for the future
3. How tech is enabling human policing and why this needs your support

The modern Met is a force for good that you can trust, and that is open to your scrutiny. We cannot stand still and allow technology to advance while we are left behind. We need well-governed and well-explained proper use of tech by the police that will reduce the likelihood of you and your family and friends being harmed by crime.

We need modern tools for a modern police force that will help us keep you safe in these modern times. The Prime Minister has said recently “to keep our streets safe and cut crime, we need to give the police the tools they need.”

Well to finish with a quote (sort of) from one of his predecessors, as Winston Churchill said in 1941, “Give us the tools, and we will finish the job. People like Tony will cut violent crime, protect our public and bring more serious violent offenders to justice.”

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