Oversight, scrutiny and review workstream report

Final report of the oversight, scrutiny and review workstream of the Independent advisory group on emerging technologies in policing.

Executive summary

Work stream 4 focused on the Oversight, Scrutiny and Review of projects and initiatives that look to achieve benefits to communities through the implementation of new and emerging technology in Policing.

The Policing of Scotland gains its legitimacy through the principle of policing by consent. That consent is based on the decisions of the Chief Constable and the Police Service of Scotland being legal, explainable, justifiable, and proportionate whilst being subject to the oversight of the Scottish Police Authority who do so with a focus on the public interest.

It is acknowledged that ambiguity and uncertainty will often feature when considering novel policing technology and deployments. When faced with this ambiguity, assessing the available evidence, identified risk and associated mitigation and ensuring transparency will contribute to an informed assessment of the benefits and potential dis-benefits with the potential implementation of any new technology.

In justifying decisions and making them explainable, the policing system must be able to demonstrate that it has taken into account legal, ethical and human rights considerations in arriving at those decisions, balancing the rights of the individual with the need to protect all citizens in their communities. It is this balance that must be judged in taking forward proposals for the adoption of new technologies that assist policing in its primary function of ensuring safety and wellbeing.

The introduction of new and emerging technology in policing should be guided by the 'proportionality principle' in approaching the challenge of uncertainty when considering a public interest assessment of a proposed new technology or deployment. The 'proportionality principle' is based on what is legal, legitimate and democratic, but take cognisance that many operational policing scenarios involve the need to carefully balance the rights of individuals to address threat, risk and harm.

Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority, through the personal commitments of the Chief Constable and Chair, have published a memorandum of understanding that outlines the principles through which decision making and engagement will be conducted to ensure the principles of policing by consent are safeguarded, this includes any decisions on the introduction of new and emerging technology. There has been a great deal of progress since 2019 to establish robust processes and mechanisms to underpin this ethos.

Workstream 4 has identified several key considerations that look to build on, and solidify, the recent progress that has already been made in the oversight, scrutiny and review of new technology initiatives. These considerations are:

Key Consideration 1: The SPA and PS should continue to use and enhance the arrangements set out in the MoU to ensure any future implementation of technology has had the widest possible appropriate and early engagement and consideration.

Key Consideration 2: SPA Committees may consider to inform their consideration of proposals by inviting external subject matter experts or representation from professional reference or ethics advisory panels to provide evidence or advice on the impact that a specific technology may, or is, having on society.

Key Consideration 3: Following the above process the SPA should continue to require assurance that external evidence and advice has been sought and considered and that engagement with partners and the public has been undertaken to inform the approach to embedding specific technologies in Policing.

Key Consideration 4: The SPA and PS should continue to use, embed and continually improve the processes set out in the above sections. The SPA and PS should work to develop a sixth ethics and human rights case in Business Cases underpinned by a suitable framework which would inform decision making through consideration of data ethics and wider consideration of equality, privacy and human rights issues. (See Appendix 3 – Draft proposals for Oversight of Ethical Considerations in Policing)

Key Consideration 5: The SPA and PS should develop a wider framework which sets out a suitable process for all ethical considerations, this should serve to guide the creation of a sixth ethics and human rights case which would be included in Initial and Full Business Cases. (See Appendix 3 – Draft proposals for Oversight of Ethical Considerations in Policing)

Key Consideration 6: The process to gain approval to adopt the Data Ethics Framework across the policing system continues and that a light touch review is undertaken 12 months after the roll out to quantify the benefits realised.


Email: ryan.paterson@gov.scot

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