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& Technology
in Policing

PUBLISHED: 3 Mar 2023

Hacking for Police

Case study

Following a collaboration between the Home Office's Accelerated Capability Environment (ACE) and the Common Mission Project, the team launched a 10-week pilot course called ‘Hacking for Police’ with the participation of final year Criminology students within the Department of Criminology and Sociology at the University of Hull. The pilot was awarded funding by the Police Science, Technology, Analysis, and Research (STAR) fund.  

‘Hacking for Police’ is a fast-paced, assessed university module where multiple teams of four to five university students learn and apply experimental methods at pace and work towards validating and potentially solving a current policing problem in 10 weeks. 

The three objectives of this pilot were:  

  1. To expose law enforcement to a radically different approach to solving problems.  

  1. To explore innovative solutions and perspectives on priority law enforcement issues. 

  1. To harness the talent, diversity of thought and potential of university students that police do not otherwise have access to.  


Common Mission Project and ACE sourced a total of three law enforcement problems from Kent and Leicestershire Police; these problems were then reviewed by the team to ensure that they were appropriate and feasible for the students to work on. 

The three problems identified were: 

  1. How to improve levels of public trust in Kent Police and, specifically, enable members of the public to identify officers who are out of uniform (plain clothes). 

  1. Leicestershire Youth Liaison Officers need an effective way of engaging youths in school on the risks involved with knife crime to reduce the number of youths participating in gang activity. 

  1. Leicestershire Police Call Handling staff need to establish a way of clearly identifying initial suspected domestic abuse calls, where there are risks that may be less obvious than overt violence or threats, in order to ensure calls are prioritised effectively and investigated in a timely manner. 

Each problem came with a ‘Problem Sponsor’ and ‘Industry Mentor’ who were assigned to each team in order to expose the students to how these types of problems are solved in the private sector. Both the sponsor and mentor committed to spend up to one hour a week with their student team throughout the course and provided them with contacts to enable their discovery. 

The students established a number of innovative solutions for the problems - in part by getting out of the classroom and conducting interviews and establishing valuable contacts with various partners associated with the issues raised by policing. 

Outcome and next steps 

The pilot completed in May 2022.  The team is now seeking further funding and plans to scale-up the ‘Hacking for Police’ academic programme and integrate this as an annual course in two to three UK universities in the academic year 2024.  

More details of the ‘Hacking for Police’ pilot are available in the full report.