British police officers crack down on inefficiency with the help of connected devices.

Digital detective

Technology helps police focus on investigating, not paperwork.

The clock is already ticking.

It’s 2 o’clock in the morning on a normally quiet neighborhood street when screams and shouts and the sound of breaking glass suddenly erupt from number 7. There’s been disturbance from that house before, but nothing like this; frightened neighbors call 999. Moments later, the police arrive to find the living room in shambles, anxious faces, a furious suspect, and a great deal of confusion. As police work to calm the situation and the people involved, one of the officers pulls out her Notebook to begin collecting evidence.

The time the police call the “Golden Hour” is the period just after a crime has occurred. This is when the evidence is most plentiful, witnesses’ memories are freshest, and the chances of gathering material solid enough to stand up in court are best. The sooner police officers are able to collect and record the evidence, the lower the risk that valuable materials will be lost.

Traditionally, evidence gathering has involved an officer taking pictures with a camera or cell phone and writing witness statements and scene descriptions in a paper notebook. The officer then returns to the station to record the evidence. But this process takes a great deal of time and often results in information being siloed in separate systems.

“Having the right details at the right time,” says Superintendent Andy Gipp, “enables police to do their jobs better. We just haven’t had the best tools for the job.”

Wouldn’t it help the on-scene police to know, for instance, if the suspect at number 7 is believed to own a firearm? Frustrated at relying on time-intensive and inefficient twentieth-century methods for dealing with crime, Cambridgeshire Constabulary decided it was time for a new way of working.

The officers wanted a mobile solution, something that would allow them to record all that evidence from the field. They approached partner Black Marble for – as the saying goes – “assistance with their investigations.”

It became clear that if information could be shared among law-enforcement systems and officers, and if officers could simultaneously search several databases for all pertinent information about a suspect, the job of policing would be a whole lot easier and more efficient. But that would require a system far more robust than simply arming officers with tablets.

The “one-stop shop” for timely information.

The result? tuServ. The powerful tuServ system Black Marble developed not only gives officers the mobile capabilities they were hoping for, but it also brings the many divergent law-enforcement systems together.

To protect and tuServ

“They had all these different systems tied together with slow, unpredictable, custom connections, if they were connected at all,” says Robert Hogg of Black Marble. “tuServ integrates custody, crime, firearms, stop-search, vehicles…imagine an officer doing a routine traffic stop suddenly discovers the driver fits the description in a robbery that just occurred. We wanted to integrate the systems in an efficient way so officers can access that kind of information quickly, from the field.”

Powered by Microsoft Azure on the backend, tuServ aggregates all available information on a person, incident, vehicle, or area and serves it up, almost as fast as an officer can upload it, to everyone involved in an investigation. Additionally, the system provides a secure platform for evidence gathering and sharing, with timestamp and geo location built in. Microsoft’s private and public cloud gives the system high scalability.

“With tuServ, we have the tool that allows us to be better cops and deliver a better service to the public.”

- Andy Gipp, Superintendent, Cambridgeshire Constabulary

The “Notebook” officers bring to incident scenes is actually an electronic tablet or cell phone running Windows 8 – it takes pictures and video, can accept signatures, and captures audio, drawings, and, increasingly, suspects. Every piece of evidence is uploaded to the tuServ system as soon as the officer has internet access, and it’s all immediately available for other law-enforcement to search and act on.

If, for example, the domestic violence suspect living at number 7 has an existing warrant, tuServ alerts the officer to take him into custody.

The system can also inform the officer if the suspect has a record of violence or may possess a firearm. As the officer at the scene enters evidence into her Notebook, she also uses the geo-locating function to note where there are other police officers in the area, in case the situation worsens.

“tuServ is the one-stop shop we can go to access all these databases,” says Superintendent Gipp. “It’s going to allow officers to make better and safer decisions.”

Verdict: success.

Back at number 7 on the quiet neighborhood street, the officer on-scene collects and uploads evidence: pictures of the overturned furniture and bruising on the wife’s face and body, signed statements from neighbors about other disturbances from that house, video of the outraged suspect shouting threats at police. With tuServ, officers back at the station are able to see and review the materials remotely and provide timely guidance and advice for the officer. And the quality of the evidence and the clear integrity and transparency of the gathering process can help make for a stronger case in court.

In Cambridgeshire, where around 2,500 officers serve a community of 900,000 residents, the department has already seen a significant savings in time and increases in officer productivity. Greatly reduced travel time and more efficient use of operational hours have also made the department more cost-effective.

With the help of Black Marble’s tuServ app, Cambridgeshire Constabulary is saving precious time and increasing productivity.

Better yet, they’re able to solve more crimes, faster. “With tuServ, officers can share information in ways we haven’t before, and that means better evidence, better outcomes, and, we believe, a safer public,” says Andy Gipp.

And that’s the best outcome of all.

Partner Spotlight

Black Marble

Black Marble develops solutions across the Microsoft platform, from custom developed software solutions, to SharePoint implementations and development, through BizTalk solutions, data science, and Internet of Things.

View partner profile

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