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Smart Policing

Igarapé is developing open source mobile phone-based tools to improve public safety and police-community relations.

The Smart Policing initiative is designed to improve police accountability and improve public safety in low-and middle-income settings of Brazil and South Africa. It consists of an Android application for smartphones that tracks video, audio and GPS coordinates. The project is coordinated by the Igarapé Institute with technical assistance from Jigsaw (formerly Google Ideas). In Brazil, the Institute works in collaboration with the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro (PMERJ). It also includes collaboration with South African counterparts such as the APCOF, the Western Cape Government in Cape Town and the Public Safety Department of the City of Johannesburg.

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Military Police of Rio de Janeiro (PMERJ) – UPP Dona Marta

The Smart Policing project is supported by the UK Department for International Development, together with additional resources from the Igarapé Institute and the Western Cape Government.

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What is the Smart Policing Project?

The Smart Policing project involves an Android app downloaded on mobile smartphones for use by patrolling officers. The app includes an administrative interface accessible only by senior commanders. The app can track multiple officers on a single interactive map and video can be stored for up to 90 days. The technology is currently being tested and adapted with police and oversight bodies in several cities of Brazil and South Africa.

What are the project goals?

The Smart Policing project has three basic goals. First, it intends to enhance oversight over the police and prevent and reduce corruption and the excessive use of force. Second, it is intended to also improve the protection of officers from false accusations and provide an additional layer of protection for patrolling officers. Third, it is designed to improve police interaction with communities. There is evidence that the use of body cameras can positively improve police-community interaction as well contribute to reductions in police excessive use of force.

What are the results with the project?

The Smart Policing project is being implemented between 2013 and 2016 in Brazil and South Africa. Since its inception, the initiative has generated (i) published diagnostics and assessments (November 2013 , February 2014 and june 2014); (ii) a prototype Android app that was presented at a Google Ideas summit in New York; (iii) extensive media coverage, including with BBC and O Globo; and (iv) ongoing pilots in Rio, Cape Town and Johannesburg. The Igarapé Institute was also recently awarded a new digital age grant from the chairman of Google for its new technology innovation.

What are the next steps?

Throughout 2015 and 2016 the Smart Policing project will undertake a series of pilots to test the technology with police counterparts in Rio, Cape Town and Johannesburg. In Rio, this includes the deployment of tests with pacification police unit (UPP) sites in several favelas. In Cape Town and Johannesburg, piloting is being conducted with the metro police and civilian oversight bodies in selected townships.

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