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© Lewis Westbury 2024

Hacking the Police, part 2

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Hacking the Police

Hackathons are everywhere these days, and if you know what they are already then do please skip on and learn why the police are so hungry for innovation! A hackathon is an “invention marathon”, where teams of independent coders and designers innovate for prizes in different categories. Nobody knows what the outcomes will be, and presentations are judged at the end of a long hard weekend of work and play.

But what’s the police connection?

Coding is one of my passions, and in early December, I’ll be running Hack the Police 2 alongside several other excellent people in London. Officers from Police:Now have volunteered to provide first-hand policing knowledge and experience, and the Goldsmiths Forensic Psychology Unit will be joining us too to add their expertise. Our categories this year are:

  1. Obtaining better first-hand evidence, and reducing false suggestions.
  2. Improving comfort of citizens and building rapport in the interview room.
  3. Tools for better officer wellbeing and mental health.

I couldn’t be more excited!

Our beautiful poster, created by HappyToast

When we first ran the original Hack the Police in 2013 for the Metropolitan Police, I wasn’t sure what interest there would be from police officers. The story goes that police officers are dinosaurs and would prefer to do everything on paper (and very slowly).

Nothing could be further from the truth! We posted a question internally to the MPS asking officers for their ideas about tools that could improve the way they worked, and we were inundated with hundreds of responses.

Inspiration comes from every corner

A theme we heard again and again from police officers was that they were working against criminals unencumbered by rules, and it felt like they were falling further and further behind.

The ideas were then used at the hack to help spark teams and inspire the coders who had come to join us.

In the end, we came out of the hack with a dozen excellent projects, each addressing a unique problem in policing in a way that hadn’t been tried before.

Hack the Police projects from 2013

The then Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Mr Hogan-Howe awarded the prizes and I have to admit I welled up a little bit during our closing ceremony. It was thrilling for everybody who worked on it, as we had no idea how the event would even be received, or what the outcomes would be.

Now, further down the line, the original team has moved on. Some have reached the giddy heights of rank, others have moved on to innovate in the world of technology.

I’m still roughly where I was — a volunteer police officer, trying to make London a little safer in whatever way I can. I think that’s why I’m so excited about Hack the Police 2. Coding and policing are my passions, and this is a real chance to engage and enthuse a whole group of people who might not think they could have an impact on the safety and wellbeing of others.

Hack the Police runs from 9th-10th December 2017, in London. It’s a free and open event. Tickets are available through our website. If you’re a coder, designer or psychologist and you’d like to be a part of it, you are welcome to apply.

Hack the Police 2