Imperial College London

Spending six weeks with the Metropolitan Police Service and their data

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Three policemen

Imperial PhD student Jan Povala recently seconded to the Met, where he applied statistical methods to their work.

Jan is part of the EPSRC Programme Grant ICONIC - Inference, Computation and Numerics for Insights into Cities, headed by Professor Mark Girolami, from Imperial’s Department of Mathematics.

Here, he writes about his experience spending six weeks with the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS.

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One of the goals of ICONIC is to translate the output of fundamental scientific research into actionable items for policing. To achieve this, police forces across the UK have been closely involved in the programme. The involvement was mainly through ICONIC's advisory board.

This experience has taught me the scale and complexity at which the Metropolitan Police Service operates. By sitting next to the officers who go out on the beat, I could appreciate what day-to-day policing entails.

However, most of us would agree that a hands-on approach is the best way for researchers to better understand the underlying operations and the challenges that police forces deal with. As a Department of Mathematics PhD student on the programme, I joined the newly-formed Strategic Insights Unit within the Metropolitan Police Service for the period of six weeks.

Strategic Insights Unit works with other units to see how MPS can use data and evidence to provide better insight to strengthen decision making. Reporting to the management board, the unit is tasked with a new project every two months. At the end of each project, a report is presented to the management board.

Increased availability of data about human activity in recent years means that a lot of decisions can be better informed. The challenge, however, is to make sense of all the data that is available and translate the findings into action and how they will contribute to the efficiency and effectiveness of the MPS.

This experience has taught me the scale and complexity at which the Metropolitan Police Service operates. By sitting next to the officers who go out on the beat, I could appreciate what day-to-day policing entails.

Not only are very fine details of each of their actions captured, but the officers manually update different management systems after each incident they deal with. This process creates large amounts of data that need to be made sense of. Despite the heterogeneity of the data, modern statistical data science tools can be used to extract valuable insights from it.

It is very encouraging to see that Police forces across the UK are already embracing these trends, such as through digital policing (presented by Police Commissioner Cressida Dick in the 2018 Vincent Briscoe Lecture at Imperial) and the West Midlands Police Transformation Programme.

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Jan Povala

Jan Povala
Department of Mathematics

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Email: jan.povala11@imperial.ac.uk

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Hayley Dunning

Hayley Dunning
Communications and Public Affairs

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Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 2412
Email: h.dunning@imperial.ac.uk

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