As Thames Valley Police prepare to host the first global Artificial Intelligence (AI) summit next week, they have taken a look back at how policing in the area has changed over the years.

The AI Summit is taking place at Bletchley Park, acknowledging its position at the forefront of growth in computing through its code-breaking during World War II. 

Today, nearly everyone is online and advanced tech can help identify criminals across the globe.

Prior to the advent of computers and radios, communication relied heavily on face-to-face interaction, and telephone and police boxes to stay in contact with stations.

Policing was often conducted by officers who walked specific routes, known as beats, through their assigned neighbourhoods.  

Police boxes and pillars were fitted with white beacons on top of them, which developing technology enabled them to be switched on from the police station to alert the patrolling police officer that they were required and would phone the station from the box.

Before radios, the force information room contained the main switchboard for Headquarters and the whole of the police HQ was on a manual telephone system.  

The information room also had a teleprinter which was used to send messages around the force area. If a message needed to be sent from Headquarters, it first had to be typed and a tape produced. 

If it was a message for general circulation, each of the divisional stations had to be connected by landline.

This was the same line that was used for telephone connection, and so when the line was used to send a teleprinter message, it could not be used to connect telephone calls.  

In the 1950s and 1960s, radios were steadily introduced, but initially, only certain vehicles had UHF radios fitted. There were no personal radios issued.  

The general use of radios in vehicles started around 1952.

However, the use of radios outside of vehicles was limited to how long the cord on the microphone was.

In the late 20th century into the 21st century, the provision of radios improved massively, and officers are now all deployed with personal radios, which allows control room operators to accurately pinpoint exactly where officers are and send them to incidents.

In recent years, other advancements such as Automatic Numberplate Recognition (ANPR) which is used in public places and by marked and unmarked police cars, see police up to date with criminal activity.

Before the advent of ANPR, in the 1960s, this was done manually by police officers via ‘Vehicles Seen at Night’ forms.

Patrolling police officers were expected to record details of vehicles seen either in suspicious circumstances or in isolated locations and these forms were handed in at the end of a shift. 

 If a crime had occurred in the area overnight, the owners of all vehicles recorded on these forms could be traced and interviewed.

Today national databases are easily accessed in the control rooms by frontline officers.

Officers and staff are all supplied with mobile phones which can link to the police computer systems, meaning that all the information an officer needs is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without the need to speak to someone in our Control Rooms. 

All officers are also now supplied with Body Worn Video (BWV) cameras, which can capture interactions between police and the public.

Reflecting, Thames Valley Police said: "As technological advances continue, who knows what the future will hold for policing.

"Certainly, the officers that pounded the beat in the pre-computer and radio days of the 1950s would surely never have been able to imagine how policing has evolved."