NSW Police readies for major mainframe digital transformation

But it's not the only project the force's IT team will be working on.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Come December, NSW Police will formally kick off the modernisation project of its mainframe, after operating with the same core system for the last 24 years.

The project will see NSW Police, together with Unisys and Mark43, replace the force's central database, which is used for everyday operations, including logging criminal incidents to intelligence gathering, and pressing charges, which will have a new integrated policing operation system (IPOS).

"After more than 20 years of trying to do something with the mainframe, I'm hoping we'll finally crack it with IPOS, a born-in-the-cloud policing platform that will do the things that police need and deserve, in terms of a mobile-first digital platform," NSW Police chief information and technology officer Gordon Dunsford told ZDNet.

Expected to take five years to complete, the IPOS project will be carried out in three phases.

The first phase -- anticipated to take 18 months to finish -- will see the delivery of new computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system, which would house everything from triple zero calls to crime reporting, as well as forensic management that will enable police to process DNA samples in real-time, instead of having to send them off to a lab.

Other modules that will be revamped as part of IPOS include investigation management, evidence and forensic data management, charge and custody management, and case management.

"It's a marathon with lots of little sprints," Dunsford said.

He added that one of the other key components in delivering the IPOS project would see NSW Police integrate with other law enforcement agencies and their systems, which will be possible through the organisation's partnership with Mulesoft.

"For us going into IPOS sets us up for our future … we're integrating in real-time with a lot of federal systems, a lot of other jurisdictions, right through to Interpol … from a technology perspective, so the integration platform for us is absolutely what we need, and it will take us into the future and beyond," Dunsford said.

While delivering IPOS would be, as Dunsford has put it, the piece de resistance, there are other projects running alongside it.

This includes continuing the rollout of the NSW Police firearms registry to all firearm dealers across NSW, which began in August. Built using Salesforce, the platform has been designed to provide police and firearm dealers access to real-time information about firearms that are being bought, sold, and traded across borders.

"This will keep the community safer and help avoid incidents where people are getting firearms when they shouldn't," Dunsford said. 

Read: Cops are getting full URLs under Australia's data retention scheme  

Additionally, the police force is also undergoing a cybersecurity transformation, which is being funded as part of the AU$240 million the NSW government set aside to bolster its cybersecurity capabilities.

"When I started, we didn't really have a strong cyber capability," Dunsford said. "We had firewalls and did all that very basic 1980s thing of putting firewalls all round the place. But putting a firewall ring around the organisation is not good enough in this world … [especially as] police is a target when it comes to cybersecurity people … because they want the joy of being able to break into a law enforcement organisation."

NSW Police also recently went to market for its "integrated" connected officer program, which Dunsford described it as being "more or less an IoT project" that will involve replacing the frontline's existing glocks, body-worn videos, tasers, and the technology in their cars.

As part of this project so far, two concept cars have been created and will shortly be field tested, Dunsford said. Each have been designed to create a "consumer feel" and features an in-car screen integrated with applications to enable computer dispatch, radio, messaging, automatic number plate recognition, light mode controls, and voice control.

The concept car also features nano-sat capabilities underpinned by work carried out in partnership with Starlink. 

"We're starting to work with them on providing high-speed broadband to every police vehicle, and from there we can use it as a mini data centre … that sits on a vehicles' CAN bus (controller area network), which is essentially the in-car technology we write or put applications onto," Dunsford explained.

Dunsford said with all these projects going on, the organisation is starting to look a lot different -- and for the better -- than when he started with the force nearly three years ago.

He noted that the aim of the digital overhaul has been to shift the force from being focused on responding to crimes to preventing and disrupting crime. "The idea is to support police, and enable them to do their jobs not only smarter and faster but get outcomes for victims and prevent crimes," Dunsford said.

He pointed out, for instance, since introducing an artificial intelligence-based video analytics platform NSW Police have been able to speed up their investigations, such as in the case against Mert Nay, who allegedly murdered one woman and stabbed another last August in Sydney.

"A homicide strike force was set up and they collected 14,000 pieces of CCTV. They would normally have had to go into a little dark room and then catalogue every little piece of that CCTV by the second to say, 'Here he was on George Street after he committed the alleged murder before he ran up and down the street, and eventually, some civilians and firies got a milk crate over his head, and arrested him'.

"That normally would've taken detective months to go through … [but] using our insights platform, they were able to load the 14,000 pieces of CCTV and dashcam footage and do it in five hours."

See also: How Victoria Police handled the Bourke Street incident on social media (TechRepublic)

At the same time, police officers no longer need to handle paper-based workflows and processes, following the digitisation of 200 disparate policing assets onto a single ServiceNow cloud-hosted platform called BluePortal.

"We've done that so [police] can order PolAir, dog squad, forensics, you name it, you bring them all to an event that a commander wants to run," Dunsford continued. "For example, if you want to kick the door of a drug house, do a risk assessment, and spit out the operational orders, you can do that all on the Blue Portal platform."

A similar experience has also been created for citizens on the NSW Police Community Portal. They can now use it to report a crime.

"All but extremely heinous types of crimes are put digitally now through our completely re-engineered designed and modernised community portal. You can now go on there and say, 'I've been assaulted'. You can do that online on your mobile phone platform anywhere any time," Dunsford said.

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