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Paul Thurston

London, United Kingdom

Head of Design at Thinkpublic

Member since March 07, 2008

  • Designer Coppers & Raw Ideas

    Community, Communication Design


    A few of my friends are police officers — they joined the service because they wanted to make a difference, make people safer, lock up criminals and do something important. But, whenever I speak to them about their jobs it’s always the negative aspects they focus on.

    During a recent conversation I decided to push the concerns of one friend further, fresh from reading Tim Brown’s Change by Design I asked myself “How can we make the local community safer and police officer’s interactions with residents better?” and re-connect him to why he joined the Police in the first place.

    Further discussion with other colleagues and friends who are members of the justice service uncovered some very similar themes. I spoke with magistrates, social workers and senior police officers who all identified four key areas — or design challenges:

    How can we…?

    1: Deliver a high-quality service with fewer resources 2: Manage tensions between police surveillance, data collection and public consent to this approach 3: Communicate the different roles and responsibilities within the police service 4: Engage with the local community using technology

    Obviously this isn’t a full design project and these are merely casual conversations, but the things that have really struck me over the past few months are how many ‘raw’ ideas people had for how these challenges could be addressed.

    A design process that employs observation, brainstorming and prototyping has the potential to address any design challenge, but we shouldn’t ignore the ‘raw ideas’ that people working within organisations have in them. These are magnificent starting points that have already undergone hours of design thinking, even if the person doing so is unaware what’s happening — It’s our job to unlock these and use design to make them reality.

    I have written up a few of the best ideas below. Some are quite specific and relate to particular aspects of the job that have a big impact on officers and/or the public whereas others refer to systemic issues. I’ve tried to group together similar ideas wherever possible and hope they provide interest, stimulation and inspiration.

    1: How can we deliver a high-quality service with fewer resources

    What’s going on? Building on the success of ‘What’s the helicopter doing above my house’, a feature of many Police websites, the site could to host information about other visible incidents. These could include high speed vechile responses or large numbers of officers in one place. They could also be published through other portals using RSS or a twitter account, widening access to the information.

    Police service ideas pool An ideas pool could be developed that supports Police officers (and other staff) to submit ideas, discuss work related issues and feedback on suggestions. This would be a secure (internal) knowledge capture space that could adopt some of the principles of successful social media tools.

    2: How can we manage tensions between police surveillance, data collection and public consent to this approach

    Camera map An online service that would map all pubic CCTV cameras within the local area. Each camera could contain information on why it was installed, where is it watched and how it has been used to fight crime and improve safety in that area.

    Communicating the use of data Online communications activity could be useful in reducing fears about this issue. This could be a blog run by the communications team, downloadable reports or case studies about how data collection has been used to reduce crime. These tools and activity could also be used to facilitate an online debate with local residents about this issue, providing insights into local feelings.

    3: How can we communicate the different roles and responsibilities within the police service

    Mobile application An i-Phone/Android application could be developed that would contain information on police roles and advice on which service you would require if needed. For example, if you wanted to report an act of vandalism it would give you the contact details of your nearest Community Support Officer. The app could also link to a GPS system that would be able to provide local numbers for different services depending on your location.

    Teaching resources An online resource for teachers, police officers and community champions could be developed. It would allow easy access materials that could be used to communicate the different roles and responsibilities within the police service to the local community.

    4: How can we engage with the local community using technology

    Secure my street Many local councils use a service called ‘fix my street’, a website where residents report road repairs, litter and signage; the website then emails reports to the relevant council. A similar system could be developed for the Police Service that would deal with non-urgent issues, perhaps around road safety, graffiti or abandoned vehicles.

    Cop Shop An online Cop Shop could be developed that provided residents with a space to engage with the police in a less formal way than they might on official Police websites. The ‘Shop’ could include an instant messenger service or live chat feature for example and be a hub for other online activity.

    Online Tools Social networking tools could be used by neighbourhood officers to connect, engage and create a dialogue with residents in their area. The following tools could be used by any neighborhood officer on the street with a decent phone.

    For example, Twitter could be used by officers to connect with local businesses, residents and community groups with the aim of sharing information and spreading good practice.

    Facebook groups could be established for each neighborhood police officer that would contain contact information via email, phone or through Facebook itself. The large number of applications offered by Facebook could be used to engage and communicate with local residents.

    Police could also develop a platform within the Bebo structure that would encourage interactions between the police and teenagers. Opinions, feedback and ideas could be encouraged around a particular local issue.

    So, there we go — what do you think? Any ideas you’d like to develop? The officers I spoke to are looking forward to your feedback…

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My Interests

  • Industrial Design
  • Environmental Design
  • Communication Design
  • Fashion Design
  • Audio/Visual Design