The use of predictive policing has received a fresh boost with the Home Office pledging £5 million in funding to the West Midlands Police to continue its work with a data analytics scheme, designed to assess whether someone will become a criminal or a victim of crime.
The system, dubbed the National Data Analytics Solution (NDAS), has been in trials for a year and draws on police-held data and has reportedly been used by a number of other police forces.
However, on announcing the funding, the Home Office insisted the NDAS is designed to support rather than replace decision-making by police officers.
Superintendent Nick Dale, who leads on NDAS for West Midlands Police, said: “This technology has the potential to help us understand modern slavery networks – the hidden crime within our communities – so much better, as well as the problems that lead to serious violence that blights communities and affects the lives of victims and perpetrators.
“We are still at an early stage in identifying how best machine learning technology can be used, but it is really important that our work is scrutinised independently from an ethical point of view, and that technology will never replace professional judgement or affect the police’s accountability for our actions.”
The Home Office claimed the West Midlands Police is working with other organisations to ensure an effective ethical oversight is in place.
A force internal document says the system will not create a centralised law enforcement database to be queried in a similar way to the Police National Database, and will only use a subset of data from disparate local systems, rather than perform a full integration.
Although it will generate insights and share them with agencies, it will not prescribe any interventions.
Privacy groups including Liberty have protested about the use of the technology by police forces, claiming that it raises the risk of serious infringements of civil liberties.