The Policing Vision 2025 report by the APCC and NPCC recognises that “technology now plays a significant and central part in almost everything we do”. Whilst the mission of policing to make communities safer, prevent crime, keep the peace and bring offenders to justice has not changed, the nature of crime and interaction with the public over the recent years certainly has.
For example, 47% of crime in the year to September 2016 was identified as cyber-dependent or cyber-enabled – requiring a coherent national response. Research also clearly shows, that the UK public now expects to interact with integrated public services online, increasingly through mobile technologies, policing being no exception.
For police forces to respond to this changing demand picture in a timely manner will require significant people, culture, process and specifically technology change at increased pace.
Today much of police ICT is delivered with siloed legacy information systems largely at local force level. Few national systems are in place and most importantly there is no coherent strategy, or underpinning enterprise architecture, to move the existing systems in a systematic way towards a better integrated, coherent solution that facilitates consistent information sharing. This issue was clearly called out in Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s 2016 review of police efficiency and effectiveness. The review also recognised, that “ICT systems, even those that are fully interoperable, are only as good as the data they contain.”
The improvement and exploitation of data, for example to generate value adding insight about criminal behaviour for intelligence led policing or operational improvement opportunities, really needs to be at the heart of police change programmes. We previously outlined the reasoning for this data centric view for transformational change.
A data-centric view of the transformation opportunity moves the focus of immediate change away from complex and costly application modernisation to a more agile and responsive data-driven change approach. The more difficult and costly application level changes can then be resolved in due course and without as much urgency, substantially reducing cost and risk.
Sufficient funding for this change programme will no doubt remain another fundamental obstacle to improvement until the political will exists to support these initiatives. But even if funding was available, this digital transformation will not be achieved without
- Clear and strong centralised leadership and architectural decisions to guide the decision making of individual forces. The NPTC and the Police ICT company are already cooperating closely and their efforts to deliver elements of the necessary enterprise architecture guidance should be commended. Detailed decisions on interfaces, data definitions and exchange standards should follow suit.
- Strong collaboration between these bodies and the various police forces to drive a compliant local implementation plan at pace. Individual police forces will need to assess their technical roadmap, align their ICT strategy, enterprise architecture and execute a compliant implementation plan.
UK policing has shown in the past that it could positively respond to change, now is the time to respond to the challenges of the data enabled digital age.
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