Knowledge Management Cases in Asia/Knowledge Management in a Law Enforcement Unit/Case Study

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Background[edit]

This study explores the development and implementation of knowledge management in the law enforcement industry, using an Asia Law Enforcement Unit (“The Unit” is used in the followings) as a case study. In November 2006, it has an establishment of 27,367 disciplined officers supported by 4,898 civilian officers.

The Unit operates under the mandate of the corresponding Law Enforcement Ordinance, which is under the Laws of the city. The Unit discharge the traditional constabulary duties of protecting life and property, preventing and detecting crime, and keeping the peace, with a strong emphasis on enlisting the assistance of public in achieving the vision that '…remains one of the safest and most stable societies in the world'.

The department that responsible for the Knowledge Management project is Management Services (MS) Department. Under the Management Services Department, they got the Information Systems Wing (ISW) and the Service Quality Wing (SQW), and each of them is commanded by a Top official. The ISW is responsible for the development, operation and maintenance of The Unit's information technology systems whereas the SQW is entrusted with the responsibility of spearheading initiatives aimed at promoting customer-based culture of quality service in the Unit.

In the Knowledge Management project, the SQW is the architect of the whole project while the ISW provides technical supports. The reason is that the SQW aims to promote quality in all respects of the Unit, to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness, and economy, adherence to law enforcement standards & regulations, demonstration of integrity and compliance with the Unit’s values, and service orientation & culture.

The Journey Through Knowledge Management[edit]

In fact, under the development of information technology, the Unit has accumulated a wealth of knowledge which is available to all members through electronic means. Over 500 databases and 200,000 WebPages were created to store the mentioned knowledge, such as manuals, orders, aide memories, action cards, policies, directives, strategies and other miscellaneous item. However, most of these documents are stored in a haphazard and disorganized manner, making it difficult to retrieve and update them.

In January 2001, one of the key projects under the Unit was 'to apply new advances in technology to enhance management efficiency, improved communication and development knowledge management'. Acting under this directive, the Efficiency Studies Bureau (ESB) of SQW, which in fact is the Knowledge Management Working Group, then formulated a business plan for implementing knowledge management by breaking down the project into five phases. As the architect of the KM, Mr. A stated: “the 5-phrase implementation plan with codification and personalization is the main strategies using in the Unit.” The Knowledge Management Working Group was formed by three officers, chaired by a middle manager, with a senior officer, and a specialist Knowledge Management Officer (KMO). In today’s knowledge economy, a new set of professional job titles – the knowledge manager, the chief knowledge officer (CKO), the knowledge coordinator, the knowledge-network facilitator and the knowledge management officer – affirms the widespread legitimacy that knowledge management has earned in the corporate world. As Mr. A mentioned “by the combination of our officers and knowledge management professional, it facilitates the whole development of KM in the Unit significantly.” The Knowledge Management Working Group advised and reported to the top official (Mr. A) on any matters related to KM development and maintenance and worked in partnership with ISW, which comprises a senior officer who is in charge of electronic matters and two information technology experts.

Knowledge Management Solutions[edit]

Knowledge management (KM) solutions refer to the variety of ways in that KM can be facilitated by, KM processes, KM systems, KM mechanisms and technologies and KM infrastructure. Within the KM processes, the Unit captured knowledge from organizational level, regional level to individual level. In the below table, we can see that the Unit created and captured the knowledge by implementing the first two phases. After capturing both the tacit and explicit knowledge into the databases, the knowledge would be made available online and users can share the knowledge through the on-line facilities. Mr. A mentioned that the objective of the knowledge portal is to let knowledge can be captured, retrieved and updated in the Unit. It is “a systematic way that to create, capture, share and use needed knowledge by the Unit.” Hence, the KM strategy is the 5-phase implementation plan with codification and personalization.

  • Phase 1 is to place organizational knowledge, such as the Unit's manuals, orders and policies in the KM system.
  • Phase 2 is to place readily available unit knowledge, such as regional orders, aide-memories, guidelines and action cards, in the KM system.
  • Phase 3 is to make available less accessible unit knowledge such as legal advices, stated cases, frequently asked questions, causes of acquittal and commonly ,and mistakes on-line.
  • Phase 4 is to encourage the Unit members to contribute wherever they see gaps, once substantial databases are created. And to share insights from overseas visits and private study which would be of benefit to the Unit.
  • Phase 5 is to encourage units and teams to incorporate learning practices into their work, such as conducting and share lessons learnt as well as making use of the on-line facilitates for team project collaboration

Since June 2002, the first two phases of knowledge management have been implemented. At present, officers can have access to 500 databases created under the knowledge management portal in the Unit. The subsequent three phases are still in the design stage, though a number of initiatives have been undertaken.

In order to meet the requirements of each phase, KM initiatives have been implemented to enhance overall efficiency and effectiveness of the whole project. All of these have cumulated into the roll out of a new knowledge sharing system. The ESB of SQW and the Electronic-matters Division of ISW developed a new KM portal in May 2006. The KM portal acts with an aim to ease the uploading and updating process, and to provide a simple and effective way of retrieving information. To achieve this, there are four main pillars within the system, namely, Content Management, Navigation, Search Engine and MyBriefcase. In addition, other KM related initiatives, that’s the KM tools have been implemented, they are Practices and Experience Acquisition Kiosk (PEAK), Legal Advice Bulletin (LAB), and these are the people-based knowledge management initiatives in addition with the Peer Advisor Scheme (PAS), Collaboration Forum and KM Champion Scheme, which are the people-based knowledge management initiatives.

Content Management [edit]

The Content Management System (CMS) has been set up to ensure that the contents stored at databases and WebPages are properly categorized and updated. The KM working group has been working to identify keywords from various manuals. Besides, the team members need to identify variations to keywords by applying law dictionary and other tools. To make the system even comprehensive, related topics to keywords are also identified. The identification and selection of related topics is a joint effort between officers from departments. In addition, data migration also took place to move the contents stored at existing databases to the new databases via the database content management template.

Information is categorized and subcategorized before being stored within the new database structure. There are 10 categories and 66 cub-categories. A database content management templates were created to ensure that all officers can categorize, upload, store and update their information quickly and systematically. All databases are classified into Open Access Databases and Restricted Databases. For open access ones, users/readers do not need a email network account to get to the databases. They can, instead, go to the KM portal or any web interface to get to the information. But for restricted databases, only authorized users/readers can get access to them. They must have an email network account and must log into the account before they get the content. Both the content management of open and restricted databases requires efforts from Editor and Content Manager, and the content management process is achieved by a database content management template.Upon entering the information into the template, the new content will be directed to the new structured databases automatically. The template also acts a one-stop-shop for publishing information to the Unit Notice board. That is to say, the template is an integration of content management and news publication.

With regard to WebPages, the Electronic-matter Division has developed a Web Content Management System (WCMS), in the form of WebPages templates, with a view to enhance corporate image and to categorizing, storing, and updating information. Currently, all formation Web Pages will be consolidated into two tiers. Tier one WebPages include all Major Formations WebPages. And tire Two consists WebPages for Formations at senior official level.

Navigation [edit]

It is essential that the design of the navigation mechanism is to facilitate users to retrieve information via browsing with help of a user-friendly interface. The graphic presentation of the new KM portal is in the form of a hexagon network that displays navigation links (See appendix 1). A mind mapping approach was adopted to design two navigation flows, namely based on formations/units and topic. The most commonly used features on the new KM portal have direct links from the index pages of the Unit intranet. A Site Map is also included on the Unit intranet as an alternative tool to graphical browsing. With the new search engine, time can be saved and more informed decision could be made.

Search Engine [edit]

In addition to navigation, search engine can be used in the case that officers do not know which database information is stored at. All documents stored in the Unit intranet are properly categorized, with the help of the identified keywords, variations and related topics and data migration, together with a refines search engine, relevant and up-to-date information can be retrieved from search engine more effectively, efficiently and comprehensively, which are grouped into different topics and formations. The search results will be displayed together with search suggestions and related topics. With the new search engine, time can be saved and more informed decision could be made.

MyBriefcase [edit]

The development of MyBriefcase is still at the conceptual stage. The MyBriefcase is meant to provide a personalized workspace for officers to gather work-related knowledge. It has the ability to integrate with the search engine, enabling an officer to save the results of a search and share them with other officers. It can also capture and retain the most important work-related knowledge and documents for easy retrieval. Individual officers will be able, via MyBriefcase, to subscribe to certain types of information to keep them updated. The concept that underpins MyBriefcase is to prevent the loss of knowledge and experience when an officer transfers from a post or leaves the Unit, as knowledge are stored in MyBriefcase.

Practices and Experience Acquisition Kiosk (PEAK) [edit]

Besides the new KM portal, PEAK is the second information-based knowledge management initiatives. The PEAK has been developed in order that good practices, area for improvements and lessons learnt are captured. Through PEAK, not only the good practices can be benchmarked to avoid reinventing the wheel, but also the lessons learnt can be shared to prevent mistakes from happening. Sources for the PEAK are recommendations of inspective reports, tips for Smart Cops, good practices uploaded by Formation Commanders and wash up notes. All practices and experiences are uploaded to the PEAK database for force-wide implementation after identification and assessment. This KM initiative provides efficient and effective means to upload the above captured knowledge to the PEAK database for searching and retrieval. Currently much of the subject material that has potential to make up the contents for PEAK is widely dispersed in various databases within the Unit.

Legal advice Bulletin (LAB) [edit]

Apart from the new KM portal and the PEAK, LAB is the third information-based knowledge management initiative. LAB, being one of the initiatives in the third phase of KM implementation plan, stored important legal advice that has been consolidated. At present, such legal advice, submitted from regions at a quarterly basis, is grouped into seven subjects, enabling officers to easily retrieve relevant legal advice for reference.

Peer Adviser Scheme (PAS) [edit]

In the Unit, knowledge management not only provides connection between people and documents, but also link people to people for sharing and transferring knowledge and experience. The PAS provides a formal but simple platform for users in need of advice on specific job related matters to be coupled with the right expert. It aims to promote 'person-to-person' contact between experienced officers with expert knowledge and the less experienced officers, by way of phone calls, email or even face-to-face discussion at the discretion of the advisers and advice-seekers. In making contact with a peer advisor, an officer can gather tacit knowledge such as understanding, judgment and know-how from the advisers. Such sharing of knowledge increases the value of personal experiences, repeated mistakes can be avoided and learning across the Force can be quicker and more effective.

As of December 2006, five domain areas have been covered in the Scheme, including, Public Order of law enforcement, Deception, Crowd Management, Miscellaneous Enquiries etc. These five subject domains have been sub-divided into twelve subject areas. A total of 42 Peer Advisers have been appointed on a 12 month term since May 2006. Their contact details are obtainable through the new KM portal. The Scheme is more comprehensive than a directory and includes screening for quality advisers, an evaluation process in the form of a self-completed questionnaire and statistical tools on its usage.

Collaboration Forum [edit]

The second people-based KM initiative is Collaboration Forum. The Collaboration Forums aim to enable officers with similar responsibilities to liaise with each other so that ideas, questions, experience and knowledge can be shared. There are currently three forums, namely Learning and Development etc. In order to increase the likelihood of success of these networks, moderators and deputy moderators have been appointed.

Knowledge Management Champion Scheme [edit]

In order to accelerate the knowledge management development in the Unit and to ensure the sustainability of the various initiatives, the Knowledge Management Champion Scheme was introduced in early 2006 where four dedicated and capable knowledge management practitioners were appointed by the Directors of Management Service. Each of them are responsible for one of the KM initiatives namely, PAS, Collaboration Forum, PEAK (Lessons Learnt) and PEAK (Benchmarking of Practices).

  • iv. Communication Plan

In order to enhance officer’ awareness of KM, a comprehensive communication plan has been formulated and is being implemented. The objectives can be summarized into one word, *SHARE*, which means to: 

  • Share Knowledge through KM Portal, addressing elements of Technology and Knowledge Dissemination; 
  • Harvest and Generate Knowledge from processes, covering the aspects of Process and Knowledge Creation;
  • Access Organized the Unit Knowledge, focusing on Content part; 
  • Reuse and Leverage Knowledge, emphasizing Knowledge Utilization; and
  • Embrace a knowledge sharing culture, pointing out the aspect of People.

A structured communication plan has been developed to disseminate the benefits and the development of KM in the Unit. The communication plan basically involves "Identity", "Internal Communication", "Publicity materials" and "Events". Under each of the category, different activities targeting at different level of officers have been or will be launched. For "Identity", KM Slogan and Logo design competitions were organized. For "Internal Communication", a special corner in the internal communication paper named KM Infostation is used. Besides, we also set up help desk to answer questions about KM. The key element in the aspects of "Internal Communication" is the eLearning Package.

The eLearning package provides officers with an interactive and interesting way to understand more about the concepts of knowledge management, the features of the new KM portal and, most importantly, to learn how KM can help in daily work. In this package, the KM concepts and tools are introduced by six scenarios, three operational cases and three management cases. Video clips with both internal officers and external KM practitioners introducing KM are also provided at the package. Apart from these, frequently ask questions of KM, useful reference material and KM related quizzes can also be obtained in the package. It is recognized by the Hong Kong Productivity Council that the Unit eLearning package is the first of its kind in the city.

In addition, training days are also used to disseminate KM related news to officers. About "publicity materials", there are KM leaflet, KM VCD and KM Poster. “Events” take up a key role in the communication plan. KM roadshow, award presentation ceremony and management development programme are held to talk about KM. Personal KM seminar series are being held on a monthly basis and the response from officers are positive.

Through the communication exercise, it is expected to increase officers awareness of the Unit's KM development and the application of KM tools to achieve service excellence.

  • v. Benefit and Obstacle of implementing KM

At the launch of the knowledge management project, the major problem was that there was no efficient and systematic way of capturing much of the knowledge generated by and within the Unit. Officers were regularly transferred to new posts where they were inexperienced and prone to making mistakes whilst learning the ropes of their news posts. Secondly as knowledge had not been systematically captured and made available, many officers found that they had to 'reinvent the wheel' upon taking over a new post. The end results were that officers were continually learning from their own mistakes rather than from the past mistakes and success of others. A great deal of time and resources were being wasted on locating material or information which could otherwise have been readily available. Work was sometimes duplicated as individuals and units did not realize other units had been given, or already completed the same task and much valuable information and experiences were lost due to officers' transfer, resignation or retirement.

However, with the successful implementation to the Unit, it brings significant benefits to the Unit. The perceived benefits for the launch of the knowledge management project were that it could lead to operational efficiency through personnel being afforded timely access to current and accurate information. The Content Management System enables officers to manage their own content by formally introducing the roles of editors, content managers, web administrators and approval officers. With their contribution, the content management can be enforced through authority and workflow. It avoids content duplication at various databases and WebPages. Decisions can be made based on relevant and up-to-date data.

In addition, time will be focused on reading information rather than searching for it. It is effective for officers to learn from the mistakes and successes of others as insights and experiences of officers are captured and then incorporated into the Unit's knowledge. With the KM portal, the Unit successes in capitalizing on the capabilities of the Unit Intranet, information technology platforms and other manual systems to share knowledge within the Unit. With the result from the categorization exercise, information can be systematically categorized/subcategories resulting in a consistent classification of contents

Furthermore, information will be available round the clock and it improved information sharing and internal communication. This encourages officers to incorporate use of this knowledge in their normal work routines. In the process of using templates in uploading/updating contents, information attributes can be tagged with the content, which in turn, improve information discovery at the new search engine.

With all these benefits, the tailored-made knowledge management can achieve the objective of the Unit, which is to ‘improve the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the Unit '.