NSW Police Force is using AI to analyse CCTV footage

The Australian police force expects to migrate its Insights AI/ML platform to Microsoft's Azure cloud

The New South Wales (NSW) Police Force is using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to speed up investigations by automating manual tasks.

The force's AI-infused platform, called Insights, gives police access to a wide array of critical information and automates many tasks such as transcribing recordings of audio interviews or poring through petabytes of CCTV footage.

A 20-minute recording of a statement can take a police officer two to three hours to manually transcribe, but through the Insights platform, this is now completed in seconds or minutes, according to Gordon Dunsford, CITO and executive director of digital technology and innovation at the police force.

In one investigation, NSW Police collected 14,000 pieces of CCTV footage that would have previously taken detectives months to analyse. With the AI/ML technology, the platform ingested all the CCTV for the analysis in around five hours. 

Insights is currently hosted internally but is expected to migrate to the cloud soon. NSW Police is using a containerisation strategy to parcel up data that needs to be interpreted rapidly and sends it to Azure for processing. Dunsford said Microsoft Azure's security credentials are highly valued by NSW Police, helping it to de-risk its modernisation program.

Microsoft and NSW Police claim the system has been designed with ethics front and centre, and in consultation with privacy experts with a particular focus on avoiding bias. In June 2020, Microsoft confirmed it would not sell or deploy facial recognition to police services, and stated that the Insights platform aligned with that commitment and brings significant value to the NSW Police in their pursuit of justice.

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NSW has the largest police force in Australia, with over 22,000 members. Since 2017/18 it has been pursuing a new Digital IT Strategy, with one of the landmark programmes being the Integrated Policing Operating System (IPOS), a modern cloud-based platform replacing the force's 27-year-old central database. The NSW Police is working with Microsoft Consulting Services on the build of the IPOS application with Protected level security in the Microsoft Azure cloud.

Following a fortnight of Black Lives Matter protests, IBM decided to "sunset" its general-purpose facial recognition and analysis software over ethical concerns last June. The cloud giant declared it would no longer distribute these systems for fear it could be used for purposes that go against the company's principles of trust and transparency. 

Microsoft followed in the footsteps of IBM and Amazon and declared it would not sell facial recognition technology to police departments in the US until a national law was in place that could govern the technology.

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