Data Analytics and Algorithms in Policing

RUSI partnered with the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation to conduct research into the use of data analytics by police in England and Wales.




Main Image Credit Pexels / Markus Spiske


RUSI was commissioned by the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) to conduct an independent study into the use of data analytics by police forces in England and Wales, with a focus on algorithmic bias.

The project involved engaging closely with senior police officers, government officials, academics, legal experts, regulatory and oversight bodies and civil society organisations. The research involved consultations with 69 individuals in the form of semi-structured interviews, focus groups and roundtable discussions. The findings highlighted widespread concern across the UK law-enforcement community around the lack of official national guidance for the use of algorithms in policing, with participants stressing the need to address this gap as a matter of urgency.

Main Image Credit Pexels / Markus Spiske

Aims and objectives

The primary purpose of the project was to inform CDEI’s review of bias in algorithmic decision-making, which focused on four sectors, including policing. As part of the review, CDEI aimed to create a draft framework for the ethical development and deployment of data analytics tools for policing.

Many studies have highlighted potential difficulties around the implementation of advanced analytics in policing, particularly in relation to the impact on individual rights and freedoms. Previous RUSI research has drawn attention to the limited evidence base on the efficacy and efficiency of different systems, their cost-effectiveness, their impact on individual rights and the extent to which they serve valid policing aims. Notwithstanding these concerns, there remains a significant lack of national guidance or standards regarding the use of data analytics tools in policing, with stakeholders from across the law-enforcement community stressing the need to resolve this situation urgently.

This project aimed to address these gaps by collating and synthesising existing evidence on the police’s use of data analytics and associated legal and ethical concerns, while exploring processes and policies that could be implemented to address these issues.

Project outputs

Access the key publications produced as part of this project.

Data Analytics and Algorithmic Bias in Policing

Data Analytics and Algorithms in Policing in England and Wales: Towards A New Policy Framework

RUSI Annual Security Lecture 2020: Police Technology and Data Ethics

Project impact

This project informed CDEI’s review of algorithmic bias in policing – one of four sectors under examination as part of CDEI’s wider review into bias in algorithmic decision-making. CDEI’s review outlined recommendations on how to manage bias in algorithmic decision-making, drawing on findings from across these four sectors. As part of the review, CDEI is working towards a draft framework for the ethical development and use of data analytics tools in policing, which it will apply and test with police partners in real-life projects.


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