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Evaluating (semi)-autonomous systems in policing and national security: a new framework based on the concept of ‘intelligence’ 

This ongoing project presents a new matrix framework for evaluation and grading autonomous systems used by police forces in England and Wales, based on lessons from existing processes designed to define and assess ‘intelligence’. It is crucial that models safeguard rather than undermine fundamental freedoms. Research visits were carried out to get input from seasoned police officers on our draft matrix. There has been a keen interest from police forces, as well as key stakeholders from the Police Digital Service (PDS), Centre for Data and Analytics (CDAP), and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC). This project was awarded funding by Northumbria University’s ‘Seed Funding’. 

For more information, please contact Prof. Marion Oswald, Luke Chambers (PhD Candidate), or Angela Paul (PhD Candidate). 


Dr Marion Oswald’s work on law, ethics and algorithmic policing is at the cutting-edge of national and international debates about the use (or abuse) of big data among law enforcement and partner agencies. Police forces collect and use vast amounts of digital data and are increasingly deploying forms of machine learning algorithms to derive insights, inform decision-making, prioritise resources and assess risk.  This work outlines the potential benefits of these technologies to policing in the current resource constrained environment, and the legal and ethical issues that must be considered, including the risk of bias.  It also explores the role of specialist ethics committees in providing a form of independent oversight of the use of these models. Some of this work has been published in a joint report with the Royal United Services Institute on data analytics in policing and algorithmic bias which was commissioned by the UK government’s Centre for Data Ethics & Innovation

For more information contact Dr Marion Oswald.


Issues of governance and accountability are a theme of recent work exploring the potential of Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and ‘predictive policing’ to transform demand management and forecasting, criminal investigation and workforce planning. Professor Michael Rowe has provided Continuing Professional Development in conjunction with the N8 Policing Research Partnership, published book chapters, and given keynote addresses to international conferences on these important emerging themes. His work suggests that ethical, human rights and civil liberties issues need to be taken seriously if key principles of accountability are to be continued in new digital policing mechanisms. Also significant, but widely overlooked, are concerns about the quality and veracity of police data gathering and processing, and the operational implications of new approaches.

For more information contact Professor Michael Rowe.


Dr Liam Ralph has recently completed a study on policing and social media in Scotland. This research was conducted with Police Scotland and explored how social media is used in Scottish policing and how citizens respond to police use of social media. Forthcoming publications cover the topics of police legitimacy, and democratic policing.

For more information contact Dr Liam Ralph.

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