It is important to build a culture of innovation in the police force. Criminals are quick to pick up the latest technology and use it in illegal activities. We need to stay ahead of them, says Yve Driesen, Chief Superintendent of Federal Judicial Police in Limburg, Belgium
What all roles do you perform in your current work profile?
I am Chief Superintendent of the Federal Judicial Police in Limburg, Belgium. We have both federal and local police force in Belgium, and the former primarily looks at organized crime. Currently I am also running a national program on innovation. I am doing this on behalf of our Commissioner-General, Marc De Mesmaeker, the highest police officer in Belgium. Innovation is an absolute priority for him.
As technology advances and becomes easily accessible, criminals are quick to adopt new and innovative ways to plan and execute unlawful activities. So, we have to look for ways to tackle such threats. On the other hand, we also have to think about those who use cutting-edge technology and figure out how we can use that technology in our line of work. For example, drones can be a threat as they can be used in terror attacks. At the same time, drones can be used in police missions for monitoring and mapping a crime scene.
What are your top priorities as far as innovation is concerned?
The program on innovation focuses on four projects: develop innovation governance, looking at ways to create an R&D ecosystem in collaboration with private partners and academia. We also look for dedicated budgets and procurement solutions. Fourth we have to build a culture of innovation in the police force.
You are also working on digital automotive. Can you make a concrete case for how this can help the police work?
Digital automotive has several aspects. First digital forensics on automotive. When we seize a car involved in a criminal act or an accident, we have to investigate it and extract digital data out of it. This is not easy because the data is sometimes encrypted. So we need skilled people and tooling.
Not all data related to the car is inside it. The data can also be stored elsewhere — on the servers of the car manufacturer and the insurance company for instance. For this we need to build relationships with external partners and rethink the regulatory framework.
Then there is the risk of cyber threats like hacking cars and new forms of ransomware. Finally we also look at the future automotive challenges. For instance, autonomous cars will hit the streets in five to ten years. At that moment, we have to be ready to interact with those cars, to be able to stop or slow them down. And we must initiate these discussions today, because it will be too late if we start them after five years. These are the key challenges we are looking at in automotive.
How important is geospatial technology for you?
Questions related to geospatial technology are very interesting. If a car is involved in a murder attack or a robbery, we need to be able to locate the car using the digital systems in it. I am talking from the perspective of the judicial police, but it is also interesting for traffic police. For example, in case of a crash, the technology can be used to divert traffic. It can also be used to establish communication between security vehicles to create an emergency corridor.
Can you share use cases of geospatial?
A year ago we had a murder case and our investigators did everything they could, including witness statements, seizing camera footage, wiretapping, DNA analysis, forensics and more, but could not solve the case until we were able to link the car of a suspect with the location of the crime scene at the moment of the murder. We only could do this by carrying out advanced research on the digital systems of this vehicle. It was a breakthrough because almost no charges were framed against this suspect. But what will happen next when we will go with this case to trial and the defence party will try to undermine our investigation? It is challenging for us to declare what we have found from the data and that it has not been tampered with.
For this, we started a special working group with experts from several countries to work on a state of the art investigations on automotive forensics. We worked during the year on this procedure, and in July we will have our final meeting in Germany with expert auditors to have some vehicles tested, audited and reviewed by them. Next we can use this framework to train people all over the world.
What is your opinion on the use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in crime prevention?
I am not an expert on AI, but when we are talking innovation, we cannot avoid AI and even blockchain technology. For AI, we only have a few use cases, as it is still a developing technology. But we have the following proof of concept:
While conducting an interrogation, police officers are focused on the content of the conversation. It is therefore difficult to focus on the suspect’s non-verbal communication. Unless you call in an extra colleague for this, but this is not an option. After all, personnel is scarce. That’s why we’re looking at whether AI-based technology can help with this. On the one hand, the micro-expressions are monitored with a camera. It’s hard to see these with the naked eye, but for AI it’s a piece of cake.
You can then derive certain emotions from it, such as anger, sadness, disgust, … In addition, the emotion in the voice is also interpreted, also by a program based on AI. When both systems independently indicate that a person is sad, for example, the interviewer is made aware of this. He can then confront the suspect with this by asking him a meta-question, for example ‘I notice that this makes you sad, can you explain this to me?‘. I would like to emphasize that this is not about a lie detector, but only about recognizing emotions. We are now using this to train the police force and have to make sure it works. This is the first step and the next step will be to use it in real interrogations.
I also believe that we can go to an organization for using AI to convert speech to text, and get the interview out on paper very quickly. Some people are apprehensive about it because they think that maybe five to ten years later, a hugh part of the police department will be fired. I don’t agree with that because we will still need them and moreover I see an opportunity for police personnel to do their jobs more creatively.
Do you face any challenges in technology adoption?
Yes, of course. We encounter a lot of challenges, particularly those concerning the skillset of our police force. In Belgium, about 60-70% of the police force is of people who are over 40 years old and they are not all so enthusiastic about tech. They are keen on keep on doing what they did the past 20 years. We have to invest in them and help them in learning about technology. Technology is the answer. It is not always a threat or a challenge. For me, it’s a combination of good governance and skillsets. Another area of concern is money. We need money for R&D and to develop counter measures for criminal use of technology. Without these investments, we risk losing the fight against organised crime.