True detective work: A case of unrealized data potential

By Cheryl Wilson

Police work has launched a lot of TV shows and films featuring detectives collecting, cataloguing and analyzing evidence to solve crimes. We watch them catch criminals and turn them — and the evidence — over to attorneys who prosecute the cases.

But TV and film dramas can’t fully capture the scope of work done by agencies like Edmonton Police Services (EPS), in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, including:

  • The sheer volume of evidence available, in both digital and nondigital forms
  • The skills required of the officers who analyze it
  • The time required to go through all of it to find clues

As Greg Preston, Deputy Chief of the Intelligence and Investigations Bureau at EPS, explains in this case study, “Our policing efforts bring in an incredible amount of data, from almost every source imaginable … but it takes a small army to piece through it all and identify the key pieces of evidence that help police officers solve cases.” 

Like many organizations across industries, EPS needed to find a way to use all of that data and information to make it easier for employees to deliver the best outcomes. Ultimately, EPS wanted to help police officers and other employees improve the safety and quality of life for the citizens of Edmonton.

A case of unrealized data potential

In the Automation Insider interview The race to create intelligence is on, Mike Gilfix, IBM Automation Executive, stressed the importance of digitizing as much data as possible to enable the integration of intelligence – which is built on a foundation of data – into daily operations. As Gilfix explains, “The more digital your operations, the easier it is to automate them.” And the need to digitize applies especially to the extraction of information or how people can get information from unstructured business data.

For EPS, a lot of their evidence already is digital — records, video, forensic evidence and more. But it wasn’t in one place. Like many law enforcement agencies, EPS stored different data types in purpose-built software programs. Each of its teams had distinct ways of managing information, making it difficult for the organization to build a common view of the data.

With millions of pieces of digital evidence, and with data volumes only continuing to grow, EPS needed a solution that would allow it to put its data to good use.

How they planned to solve it

The answer for EPS is building Canada’s first enterprise digital policing platform, offering teams new ways to access, manage and analyze a wealth of data from across its operations. With a digital policing platform, EPS will be able to free teams from searching for documents and digital exhibits, so they can focus more on analysis and investigative work to generate leads and solve cases.

“Our people are very good at what they do, and we wanted to give them the tools to be even more effective,” says Brock Kahanyshyn, Chief Information Officer at EPS. “By bringing all our digital records together in one place and making it easier for people to surface leads hidden in the data, we could point investigators in the right direction faster, saving time and resources, and potentially helping them solve cases sooner.”

At the heart of the new platform will be a centralized data repository that employees can use to search and access digital evidence. EPS will employ additional automation capabilities, such as:

  • Data capture to automatically extract key data from paper records, transform it into digital content and deliver the information to the repository
  • Case management to group related content in a single electronic workspace and streamline case-related activities so teams can access and work with information in a more efficient and controlled way
  • Records management to help ensure that all content is managed consistently from creation to deletion

A foundation for adding intelligence

EPS plans to bring the new platform into operation in a controlled, employee-centric way, aiming to have basic functionality in place this year. The organization plans to evolve the platform over several years (for example, by adding machine learning capabilities to analyze large volumes of structured and unstructured content and reveal patterns).

“Data is one of the most powerful weapons that we have in the fight against crime, and our digital policing platform will help us make the most of this asset,” concludes Preston. “Our police officers put their lives on the line to protect and serve the people of Edmonton, and we owe it to them to deliver the intelligence and tools they need to keep our community, and themselves, safe.”

For more details on EPS’s solution approach, read the full case study.

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