Police failing to grasp new tech

Slow going for cops 2.0 says Home Office
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

Slow going for cops 2.0 says Home Office

Police forces are failing to take advantage of new tech that could cut red tape and improve intelligence sharing, a Home Office report has found.

The 43 forces that cover England and Wales have been too slow in upgrading incompatible computer systems to share information between forces and are not making full use of features on Airwave radios and smartphones that could cut paperwork for beat bobbies, the report Reducing Bureaucracy in Policing found.

The Home Secretary should set a mandatory deadline for the hundreds of computer systems, used by local forces to handle crime reports and intelligence, to be fully integrated by 2015, Jan Berry, independent reducing bureaucracy advocate for the Home Office said in the report.

The report said: "The significance of technology is recognised and the development of a co-ordinated, integrated IT system remains a high priority.

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"The provision of this system, however, has taken too long to deliver."

The CIO of the National Policing Improvement Agency, Richard Earland, recently told silicon.com that sharing information between local forces was "one of the biggest challenges" faced by police.

Forces could also cut paperwork each time an officer stops a member of the public and asks them to account for their behaviour, using the GPRS on officers' digital radios to log the officer's position and ethnicity of the member of the public stopped in police computer systems.

Berry says forces should switch on the GPRS locator on the radios as a matter of course.

While the government has committed to rolling out 30,000 mobile devices to forces in England and Wales by March 2010, Berry says that many forces have not developed interoperable applications on the phones needed to make full use of the 23,000-plus devices that have been deployed so far.

"Government must take care not to build an expectation in police officers that they will all have mobile devices with full operability, as this is some way away," the report says.

The report coincides with the release of a review of data collection in police forces by Home Office permanent secretary Sir David Normington.

In his report he says the amount of information being collected from within police forces for Home Office data gathering will be reduced by 50 per cent by a series of measures.

These include a Home Office Data Hub, a database expected to be in place in 2009/10 that will automatically share crime and detection data between the Home Office and police, as well as cutting 36 of the streams of information currently collected.

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