Governments need to realise that sometimes throwing more bodies at a policing problem isn't as effective as spending money on technology, according to Western Australia Police executive director Greg Italiano.
The WA Police concept car
(Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)
Speaking at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials Australasia conference on the Gold Coast today, Italiano said that 75 per cent of government spending for police agencies is spent on salaries. He said that this is a valuable investment, but that there also needs to be a complementary investment in technology, which isn't as easy for governments to see the value in.
"That, I think, is a considerable challenge, because politically, numbers of police officers are seen as the thing that measures the strength and capability of the police organisation, and I would never stand in front of anybody and say that is not incredibly important," he said.
Italiano said that the best way to show value of technology investments is to show how much time those officers can save by not having to do non-policing tasks, like manual paperwork.
"We're so used to loading them up with more and more and more, instead of making their life easier, making their life better," he said.
"I still struggle to explain to police officers why they can't issue an infringement electronically at the roadside. That doesn't seem like a difficult thing. The amount of hand-written work we still do is enormous."
Achieving effective use of resources across Australia is also important, Italiano said, moving away from traditional single-agency, single-jurisdiction deployments of new technology.
"I think we have to seriously consider the leverage and buying power of existing public safety in Australia, and where we're actually making best use of that," he said.
"We do need to start a discourse about the investment environment that talks to a balanced investment in policing, but also hopefully we need a better discourse on how we can get away from this single-agency, single-jurisdiction investment in many cases.
"We're just missing a heap of opportunities, because we're struggling to do that."
He said that one of the major issues that police organisations will now face is the storage of data, both received from the public and from police officers at crime scenes.
"I'm concerned about the ill-preparedness of policing to deal with what I think is both the volume and complexity of digital information that's going to come into our organisations," he said. "Not just getting the data out, but storing, retrieving and searching it."
Josh Taylor travelled to the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials Australasia conference as a guest of Motorola.