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Upgrade Law Enforcement Response with AI Solutions from Microsoft

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It’s a formula for danger: a call comes in on a domestic violence incident, one of the most volatile and high-risk situations a police officer can encounter.

As fate would have it, this is the first day out of training for the responding officer. Adrenaline pumping, his thoughts race even faster than his patrol car through traffic: What is my best route? What do I know about the situation? How should I approach and respond? Making matters even more challenging, this is also the first day out of training for the dispatcher responsible for guiding him, who is herself new to the department and its systems.

Will this situation end in a peaceful resolution?

Fortunately, this scenario is only hypothetical—one of many that we at the Microsoft for Public Safety and Justice team think about as we work with police organizations and emergency response agencies around the world. These organizations are focused on evaluating how technology, including AI, can help empower their teams, improve operations, and safeguard their communities. As a longtime police officer myself, I share their hopes and their frustrations with regard to technology, which has too often promised more than it has delivered in the service of public safety.

What is now clear, with the advent of AI in government, is that we are at an inflection point where technology can empower police and first responders in new ways, better protecting communities as well as the officers who serve them. At IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police) 2023—a global law enforcement event—we look forward to demoing “AI in public safety” solutions that we, in collaboration with our partners, have built to help law enforcement officers meet their desired outcomes.

Now, let’s consider how a domestic violence call response might be supported by innovative new technologies, across every phase of the incident.

From dispatch to first response

If our hypothetical call had happened 10 or 15 years ago, our rookie officer would have operated under a set of relatively disadvantageous conditions. For one, he would have communicated with his department through either a simple Mobile Data Terminal (MDT)—essentially a basic computer in the cruiser—or a bulky radio on his duty belt. He might have also used a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) tool, a notepad, even a record management system. None of these tools worked especially well together. His other source of dynamic information was his dispatcher, who relied on their department’s various IT systems and data sources to provide guidance and insights.

The disconnected nature of these elements placed an enormous cognitive load on the officer. Given the intensity of the circumstances, the costs of stitching together the technology at hand may have simply been too onerous for him to employ it all seamlessly. And our dispatcher would likewise not be better off, working with sets of limited, disparate data. It’s not a stretch to say that our officer is walking nearly blind into a dangerous situation.

Contrast that to the possibilities that are enabled by the capabilities of AI and a modern data estate. Our officer approaches the scene with a set of urgent concerns on his mind: Is there a history of violence in the family? Where is the most strategic place to park my cruiser away from the residence? The fact is the department has the answers—technically—to these and other important questions. They are embedded across vast data sets across agencies from years of experience. Unfortunately, generating these types of actionable insights at scale is not possible with most existing IT environments and tools. However, because AI excels at deriving and delivering insights based on learned experience and data sets, it’s easy to imagine the dispatcher providing real-time guidance and actionable insights to the officer in motion and delivering ongoing responses to unanticipated circumstances.

Real-time situational awareness

Now imagine that our hypothetical call turns into an entirely different and significantly more severe type of event. Additional officers and multiple agencies, including Fire and emergency medical service (EMS), are called to the scene. The field expands from a single residence to an entire neighborhood. The chain of command shifts accordingly. In prior years, this sort of escalation might have become chaotic, with changing leadership and resources spread simultaneously across jurisdictions.

In modern scenarios, however, the likelihood of safest possible outcomes goes up with new cloud-based technologies and new capabilities. Setting up real-time communications and collaboration across groups becomes easier. And new devices, particularly drones, enable new kinds of visibility, augmented by real-time asset location mapping, video monitoring, and overall situational awareness. The bottom-line goal is to enable operational oversight and enhance cross-agency communications for a safe, coordinated first responder strategy.

One critical aspect here is to ensure resilient and comprehensive command and control—in other words, deploying the devices and systems that provide proper internet and cloud access. Connectivity is easy in a training simulation; it’s a bit more of a challenge when an officer chases a suspect into an underground parking garage. Microsoft works with an ecosystem of technology partners who provide highly reliable command and control solutions that incorporate satellite, cellular, intelligent mesh networks, and more. Together, they ensure near constant connectivity in almost any location or circumstance, including austere environments and natural disaster zones. Moreover, they provide “edge” computing capabilities that do much of the AI work on-scene, close to the action and devices, which reduces latency and makes real-time computing possible when it might otherwise not be feasible.

Beyond incident resolution

After the incident is resolved, the work is only just beginning for our hypothetical first-day officer. He can expect to spend two to three hours writing reports for every hour he spent dealing with the incident. It is a critical part of the job, especially for legal requirements and criminal proceedings. But it is difficult and time consuming, and it keeps the officer at his desk rather than in the field.

Then there’s body-cam video, which provides an invaluable record of an officer’s actions, but which also must be transcribed or otherwise processed. One police chief told us that his most capable supervisors spend up to 50 percent of their time transcribing body-cam footage. Others report serious challenges in accurately reviewing and retrieving it.

These are the types of challenges that generative AI was built to handle. Automatic speech recognition combined with content creation and summarization can provide a foundation of new capabilities that can aid in report writing, video transcription, information gathering, and large language model learning—in ways that ensure reliable digital evidence and retrieval. Moreover, AI can perform sentiment analysis on body-cam video in ways that can identify officer behaviors that may signal stress or other issues.

These capabilities not only improve officer effectiveness and safety, they also position governments to better assess the impact of law enforcement on their communities, and to hold police accountable when they need to be.

See how Microsoft can help

From national law enforcement agencies to municipal police departments, Microsoft is empowering law enforcement around the world with a suite of secure services that help teams make better data-informed decisions and deliver trusted outcomes that increase safety, accountability, and transparency within communities. For police officers and emergency responders, the goal is to free up time and energy to focus on constituents and communities, with technology providing invaluable assistance.

The Microsoft Public Safety and Justice team is composed of veterans from law enforcement, military, and related backgrounds, and for us, the opportunity to help customers employ technology to protect communities and officers alike is a way to give back to law enforcement.

Join us at IACP 2023 (booth #4917), where we will be sharing more about “AI in public safety” and how our solutions help law enforcement officers around the world. We also invite you to contact us through your Microsoft representative or technology solution provider. We hope to journey with you to through Microsoft Public Safety and Justice technology.

Microsoft for Public Safety and Justice

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Empowering agencies. Improving operations. Protecting communities.

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