OSCAR: Communications Policing is the New Community Policing

"Collaborative research between Cardiff University academics and the police has found that current UK policing approaches to social media analytics are fragmented and struggling to keep up with technological advances and their disruptive social impacts.

The Open Source Communications Analytics Research Centre (OSCAR) led by Cardiff University was funded via the Police Knowledge Fund by the College of Policing and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, to look at how the police service is using social media and ‘big data technologies’.

The work examined how social media and other forms of publicly available ‘big data’ are changing: how police investigate crimes and respond to critical incidents; the ways they develop intelligence; and methods for engaging with communities. Importantly, and unlike previous research in this area, it adopted a holistic and comprehensive approach, investigating these impacts across the full range of policing disciplines including; Counter-terrorism; serious organized crime; public order; and Neighbourhood Policing. A second key innovation of the approach is that it was jointly conducted by academic researchers in direct collaboration with police officers, to develop unique insights into this aspect of policing.


  • Too much attention nationally has focused upon purchasing increasingly sophisticated ‘big data’ technologies and not enough upon developing the skills of analysts and users within police organisations.
  • Nationally, the approach is fragmented with different agencies and police forces adopting very different approaches. There does not seem to be a consensus about how much of this work is ‘generalist’ and how much should be ‘specialist’.
  • Communications policing is the new community policing, and should be treated as such, to reflect how more and more of social life has a digital component.
  • Only a relatively small proportion of police officers and staff have the digital skills and tools needed to exploit the opportunities for digital intelligence and evidence to inform their investigations and enquiries.
  • Police organisations should seek to recruit data scientists within their workforce, to enable new ways of working for the information age.
  • Nationally, there is an ‘R&D gap’ in terms of police developing the tools and techniques needed to keep up with the rapid advances in social media technologies."


Continue to OSCAR’s full article on the findings and download their report here.


Source: The Universities' Police Science Institute (UPSI)


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