Tech for Good - Enabling Police Data Sharing and Exploitation with API

‘Delivering change at pace in a digitally disrupted age’: That was the theme of the Police ICT Summit 2020 in Manchester last month.  It was a great event that illustrated the imperative in Police for transformation (credit to Ian Bell, Wayne Parkes and their teams for delivering such a quality event year on year). 

What struck me were the repeated requirements for Police data sharing and exploitation to make life better for officers, to engage the public, and work effectively with partners such as other blue light services and local authorities.  This came under the banner of interoperability, and it seems we aren’t doing it well or aren’t doing it enough. 

In the world of applications, Police Forces have purchased apps to meet in-force requirements with basic capability to interoperate with other systems, impacting how they scale (within the Force and regionally), and how quickly and easily they can adapt to new requirements. 

This has led to forces holding rich operational data, but too often locked within application silos, hard to access, share and exploit. 

Technical Debt 

If a Police Force ICT infrastructure was being constructed afresh it would not look like what we see today.  The newly launched National Policing Digital Strategy 2020 - 2030, highlights data standards and use of APIs as enablers to deliver connected technology.   

Individual use based requirement purchasing has created technical debt within forces, who are faced with maintaining multiple tactical interfaces across systems.  This causes manual workarounds and processing to complete core tasks and could be the reason that 83% of IT leaders say they're undertaking digital transformation to "improve IT's operating efficiency" (MuleSoft Connectivity Benchmark Report 2019).  Looking specifically at Records Management Systems, regional partnerships have formed and positively aligned these systems, but intelligence located within RMS is not always federated across county borders, but it could be.    

How useful would a federated search be if you could choose the forces it searched or if it did this automatically? How might this contribute to efficiency targets? How might this positively impact resolution rates?  

How can we achieve Interoperability? 

Using an open API based approach, systems can be linked together creating an interoperable capability that would be a huge step forward when tackling crime that regularly crosses county borders.  Simultaneously we can cut down on manual workarounds, improve responsiveness, and through re-use accelerate pace of change. 

API’s are not new, Internet banking has been available since 1997* allowing users to check balances, pay bills 24/7, and more; APIs are central to service provision, and have enabled richer services meeting changing customer demands.  In comparison, citizens have only recently been able to interact with their Police Force online. Digital services are a big step forward for non-urgent crime offering secure and convenient access, and like banking, capabilities must improve over time based on citizen feedback; we can and should connect them into Force applications to remove manual workarounds and improve responsiveness. 

By purposeful design APIs can be easy to find and access, opening secure access to currently silo’d systems and apps, and also provide re-usable lego like assets useful for multiple rather than single use cases.  Useful side effects include faster project delivery and speed of meeting new and evolving requirements. 


The availability of data to protect citizens and vulnerable people is held within every Police Force today.  Interoperability of systems is critical for officers, the public and partners to exploit the value of Police data, and the enablers are available to us today to start delivering change at pace.  Learn from our customers, or get in touch to learn how this could work at your Force.  


Mike West 

Home Affairs Account Director 



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