Tech in a pandemic: how video can help keep forces safe

In just a few short weeks, COVID-19 has transformed the ways in which many of us work. Some 90% of office workers are now based at their homes since the Coronavirus restrictions came into place in March. Yet, for the vast majority of key workers, a home office just isn’t possible, so technology is stepping up to help us ensure we keep our core services running, but also enable us to protect both workforce and public.

Words: Dan Worman, CEO, Refero.

Since the outbreak began, many public sector departments have accelerated transformational change at record speed. In healthcare, for example, we’ve seen a rapid adoption of video consultations and online appointments.

But there’s no reason why this technology cannot be applied to our other vital services. I believe that video can be used to help keep the police and citizens safe, both during the Coronavirus pandemic, and after it.

Because of the unprecedented nature of the crisis, first responders – already stretched thin – are having to prioritise what types of calls for service will result in an officer being dispatched.

There are a number of different scenarios in which video consultation can be used to help keep forces and citizens at a safe distance, without compromising services.

Victims of minor crime, and also people who have witnessed a crime taking place, could be interviewed through a video conferencing platform during the pandemic, meaning that officers will be able to communicate directly with victims and witnesses without requiring close physical contact. The citizen could speak with an officer about the incident through a secure video conference call through their laptop or mobile device without having to leave their home.

This video could go on to allow forces to collate the information needed to continue progressing investigations, collect and build evidence, and could even help to secure successful prosecutions at court, while still adhering to social distancing guidelines.

These processes could easily be continued post-COVID-19, and would see forces save time and reduce costs by travelling less frequently for face to face visits – meaning that officers have more availability to visit victims of serious crimes.

Video streaming allows members of the public and officers to share what they’re seeing at the scene of an incident with emergency services via the video on their mobile phone. In March, Cambridgeshire Police became the first police force in the country to introduce technology that allows 999 callers to share a live video stream of an incident with call handlers, on their smartphone. It’s an innovation we hope to see become more widespread over the coming months.

If it is unsafe to physically be in the room, but you need to glean more information from a situation than a telephone can provide, then there is a place for video.

Prior to the outbreak, and in recent weeks, Refero has been connecting front line NHS workers directly with patients, and providing an alternative, safe environment to people who need support very quickly, without face to face meetings. There is absolutely no reason why policing cannot use the same existing technology to continue to deliver key services, while protecting its officers.

We’ve made our platform free to all public sector departments for at least 90 days, as we all work together to tackle this pandemic. We feel very strongly that access to the right technology should be immediate and free of charge to public services that are facing increased pressures.

We’ve got a set of digital tools that we can deliver at scale, for free, and there’s never been a better time to test and trial these tools. It’s very important that the public have access to public sector professionals in the safest way possible, and video consultation is absolutely the best way to provide that.