University of Stirling experts are behind call for improvements to policing technologies
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A group of University of Stirling experts in criminology, sociology, law and management is behind a call for improvements to policing technologies in Scotland.
The findings of a six-month research project are expected to help shape future policing and police-citizen relations in Scotland, and to impact policing worldwide.
The University of Stirling team looked at how technologies including electronic databases, biometric identification and surveillance, and predictive policing, are used and regulated in Scottish policing. These were considered against a backdrop of human rights impacts, ethical best practice and public confidence in policing.
The research forms part of the final report of the Independent Advisory Group on Emerging Technologies in Policing (ETIAG), published last week by the Scottish Government.
The report makes 18 recommendations for improvements. These include an ethical and human rights impact assessment being a mandatory part of any business case Police Scotland makes for new technology, and for statutory codes of practice to ensure clarity and safeguards around the future use of live facial recognition and certain artificial intelligence (AI) applications. The report also suggests new laws for autonomous security robots if they are to be used by law enforcement in the future.
The report is part of a review which was commissioned by then Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf in 2020.
Associate Professor in Criminology at the University of Stirling
This is an important piece of work which comes at a time of rapid change for Police Scotland. New technologies are emerging and progressing fast, while public confidence in policing across the wider UK is at a low.
Dr Niall Hamilton-Smith, Principal Investigator on the project and Associate Professor in Criminology at the University of Stirling, said: “This is an important piece of work which comes at a time of rapid change for Police Scotland. New technologies are emerging and progressing fast, while public confidence in policing across the wider UK is at a low. Against this backdrop it is very welcome to see Police Scotland and other partners proactively thinking through how the benefits of new technologies can be safely balanced through more rigorous scrutiny and accountability.
He added: “We were very pleased to be asked to contribute to the work of the Independent Advisory Group and we hope our findings and recommendations can help contribute to shaping and improving the adoption of technologies in policing both in Scotland and beyond.”
The University of Stirling team included: Dr Hamilton-Smith; Dr Irena L. C. Connon, Research Fellow, Faculty of Social Sciences; Dr Mo Egan, Lecturer in Criminal Law & Human Rights, Faculty of Social Sciences; Niamh MacKay, former Research Assistant, Faculty of Social Sciences; Dr Diana Miranda, Lecturer in Criminology, Faculty of Social Sciences; and William Webster, Professor of Public Policy and Management at the Stirling Management School.
The ETIAG was chaired by Professor Elizabeth Aston, Director of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR), which is based at Edinburgh Napier University.
The ETIAG independent review was established in 2020 in response to the Scottish Parliament’s Sub-Committee on Policing’s report on Police Scotland’s use of digital triage devices, known more commonly as ‘cyber kiosks’. The then Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf suggested the formation of an independent group to monitor wider technological developments in policing.
For the University of Stirling report findings visit Appendix 6: Research Team - Review of emerging technologies in policing: findings and recommendations - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
For the full report visit Independent review – Independent advisory group on new and emerging technologies in policing: final report - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)