Chief Inspector Issues Policetech Caution

Written by Eleanor Willock

Improvements must be made to policetech according to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary.

Publishing a new report on Friday ‘State of Policing – The Annual Assessment of Policing in England and Wales in 2019 Sir Thomas Winsor, the Chief Inspector, suggests improvements should be made in the procurement, usage, sharing and development of technology in policing.

Top of the ‘rap sheet’ is funding. Sir Thomas Winsor suggests there is a problem with the funding mechanisms for police services in England and Wales. The short-term nature of funding “impedes longer term investment” he says before adding: “As a result, in some respects, particularly technology, policing is gradually falling further behind some other aspects of society.”

On the latter point of falling behind, we mentioned this recently in a blog looking at the police service’s very first Digital Strategy. Whilst a positive introduction, it was launched in only February of 2020 vs local government which was already making digital plans as early as 2003.

Also, on the criminal record is lack of integration between forces’ and systems [again, also mentioned in the National Policing Digital Strategy]. Sir Winsor says in his report: “A good example of this is the Police National Database, to which a few forces’ information systems still aren’t properly connected. This is despite the police service treating the matter as a critical incident during 2019.”  Sir Winsor adds: “The police’s information and communications technology (ICT) arrangements are unnecessarily expensive and don’t work together well enough.”

His final argument is that: “Too many systems are still procured separately, don’t work together properly, and have varying benefits not only for the forces themselves but also for the communities they are serving. There needs to be more openness about how forces are spending their investments in information and communications technology (ICT) and the benefits they are achieving.”

Much like the National Policing Digital Strategy announced in February there is mention of suppliers, albeit only briefly. The report suggests “Police should work with the Home Office and software suppliers to provide a solution so that all forces can proactively monitor use of their ICT systems.”

As always, my biggest disappointment is the lack of attention to SME suppliers, who are behind some of the most transformative policing in recent years, which so many other parts of the public sector are embracing.

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