Linux 'putting more bobbies on the beat'

A Scottish police force is expanding its use of the open-source operating system, and says that the systems are allowing it to put more officers on the streets
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor
A Scottish police force is extending its commitment to open-source software by developing a Linux-based system for ensuring it complies with the impending Freedom of Information Act.

The Act comes into force on 1 January 2005 and is intended to facilitate 'open government' by allowing the public to request access to government data.

Central Scotland police, based in Stirling, will pilot a Linux-based system developed by IBM that was one of the projects referred to in the recent pro-Linux Office of Government Commerce report.

The system will computerise various manual processes and allow the monitoring and tracking of all Freedom of Information requests to the force by post and email, using a flow-chart process to outline the status of each query and flag any sensitive information that cannot be released to the public.

Inspector Campbell Dick, of Central Scotland police, told ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com the system will be rolled out across the force's 1,100 users if the three week pilot, which begins on 15 November, is successful.

"There are quite large benefits from it. It is returning officers to the street. A lot of that paperwork will be done automatically by the system," he said.

When it is fully deployed, the system will also integrate with all the force’s existing systems, including crime recording software, email, and databases on officer safety, domestic incidents and other vulnerable members of society.

Central Scotland police is already a big open-source user with Linux servers, Linux-based email clients and Sun's StarOffice software. Dick said desktop Linux is currently also being evaluated but is still at an "early stage".

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