Police Federation

Robocop is not the future, Axon boss tells Conference

11 June 2021

‘Robocop is not the future of policing’ a director of Taser tech company Axon assured the Police Federation’s Annual Conference this morning (10 June).

Alex Lowe was speaking at a roundtable event, which opened the second day of the virtual conference, and responded to a question about whether technology could overtake the intuition of police officers.

He said: “Without a shadow of a doubt the most critical part of the role is personal observation, experience, knowledge and the insight that police officers have. Technology should never take over that.

“What it should do is support officers by doing the repetitive and administrative tasks. It should free up the officer to do what he or she has been hired to do – the future doesn’t have Robocop in it as far as I’m concerned.”

PFEW National Chair John Apter, who hosted the discussion, pointed out that when speed cameras were introduced, there were concerns that some of the benefits of police officer interaction could be lost.

He said: “You stop someone for speeding, but if other things jump out at you criminally-related you are going to deal with it. We don’t want technology to overtake the intuition of a police officer.”

Mr Apter opened the discussion on officer safety by recalling his previous role as Hampshire Chair where he had threatened legal action against then Chief Constable Andy Marsh over the number of assaults against colleagues.

Mr Marsh “stepped up”, said Mr Apter. The result was the now famous seven-point plan on treating assaulted officers as victims of crime, which has rolled out nationally as Operation Hampshire.

Mr Apter said Taser and Body Worn Video (BWV) are two key themes of officer safety and he is pleased that Chief Constable Marsh is now the BWV lead for policing.

He added: “BWV won’t prevent every assault, but it helps us to bring the violence we face to the attention of courts and that helps justice. It also captures officers’ injuries.”

Likewise, he reiterated his stance that Taser is not a “nice to have” but an essential tool in de-escalating incidents.

Mr Apter is also pushing for cameras to be fitted to all police vehicles as standard and will work with the College of Policing to achieve this goal.

Mr Lowe added: “It is crazy to think most members of the public can drive around with cameras in their personal vehicles, but we’ve got police officers expected to perform dangerous duties without them.”

Technology can allow devices such as cameras to activate when an officer needs them operationally, for example, when they put blue lights on or go above a particular speed, said Mr Lowe. “I want the officer to be able to concentrate on driving that vehicle. Thinking about activating technology shouldn’t be necessary.”

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