Police IT needs strong central co-ordination

Police IT needs strong central co-ordination

Key role for technology, says Sir Ronnie Flanagan’s review of UK policing

The National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) needs to play a vital co-ordinating role to successfully deliver the joined-up IT recommended by Sir Ronnie Flanagan’s review, say senior officers.

The former HM Inspector of Constabulary’s evaluation of UK policing was commissioned by then home secretary John Reid last April to look at ways to reduce bureaucracy and manage resources more effectively.

Police forces need significant modernisation, said Flanagan in the final report published last week.

“We need dynamic and flexible policing which can prioritise and respond to changing needs,” he said.

Technology investment, particularly in mobile devices, could help cut bureaucracy. There is also a role for more innovative schemes such as body-worn cameras. ­ see story, below.

But IT plans will only be successful if they are joined up across all 43 independent forces.

Currently up to 70 per cent of data is entered more than once, according to Flanagan. And effective procurement could cut the cost of mobile devices by more than half.

“The service must act corporately or we will waste millions of pounds on 43 different, but similar, IT solutions for operational processes which are all based on the same criminal law,” says the report.

But national co-ordination is no easy task, former West Midlands chief constable Lord Dear told Computing.

“Forces have wanted more joined-up IT for a long time, but it requires heavy investment and a central infrastructure,” he said.

Previous attempts have floundered because of low take-up by individual forces.

Senior officers say it will be down to the NPIA ­ which was launched last April ­ to provide central direction.

“It is crucial that the NPIA takes a lead in implementing Flanagan’s recommendations. All forces are starting from different places, which is the problem with a universal strategy,” said Police Superintendents’ Association vice president Derek Barnett.

Staffordshire Police Inspector David Edge said: “The NPIA should take a lead role in producing assistance and procurement strategy.”