Windows XP forces Victoria Police to take work home

Victoria Police have complained of aging IT infrastructure resulting in officers being stuck at their desks for close to half of their shift dealing with legacy systems, or being forced to take work home.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Victoria Police has called for a drastic overhaul to its information technology and knowledge management systems in a bid to unburden officers who have to spend half their shift dealing with legacy technology from the last century.

In the Blue Paper (PDF) handed down by Chief Commissioner Ken Lay today, he outlined that the age of the technology used by police officers, and the difficulty in linking together different systems across the organisation made it difficult for officers to do their jobs.

He said that the poor state of IT in Victoria Police is a result of "funding and management decisions — including omissions — over many years."

Police were forced to spend up to half of their shifts dealing with the legacy Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP) record management database, and the Interpose database for intelligence.

"LEAP operates on obsolete mainframe and 'green screen' technology," the report stated.

The LEAP system has been the subject of criticism following many "high profile lapses of information security", according to Lay. The Victorian Government recently injected AU$2.5 million into the system to ensure that warrants sent from the prosecutor will be immediately entered into the system.

Victoria Police attempted to replace the system in 2005 at a cost of AU$59 million, but this was ultimately found to be a gross underestimation of the cost and complexity of replacing the system.

The Victoria Police received AU$23.3 million in funding in last year's state budget to fund the maintenance of LEAP and Interpose over the next five years.

But many of the IT issues facing officers go beyond the critical database management systems. The report outlines that despite Microsoft no longer supporting it for free, the Victoria Police computers will not migrate off Windows XP until the end of 2014. In the meantime, officers were forced to take work home just to be able to access some documents.

"Many police encounter difficulty in opening documents created using newer programs and resort to taking the documents home to read, print, or convert to a usable format," Lay said.

There was a severe data storage issue, the report noted, and there are over 600 stand-alone software programs officers must use. Officers are unable to access and apply data analytics, voice recognition, and video analysis to raw information, according to the report.

Online systems were few and far between, being limited today to registrations, recruitment forms, and complaints or compliments about the police.

Technology needed to be used to enable intelligence and mobile service delivery, the report said, with the chief commissioner able to choose the IT infrastructure required for the Victoria Police.

"Victoria Police information management systems and processes must be transformed to become agile sources of competitive advantage in countering criminal and other behaviour that threatens public safety," the report stated.

Mobile data terminals in cars should be replaced with mobile devices for each officer that have a single point of access and biometrics login to all of the Victoria Police's integrated systems.

Police would also have access to social media to communicate to the public through these devices, Lay said.

The organisation should be able to engage with public and private companies to determine what IT best suits the department, and information silos between the Victoria Police and other agencies needed to be broken down, Lay said.

The goal, according to the report, is that by 2025 approximately 80 percent of operational police officers' time will be spent out in the community, rather than the current 54 percent today.

The report suggests that back and middle office functions such as IT should be outsourced to improve service quality but keep costs lower.

Lay said that for IT funding, Victoria Police may need to leverage Commonwealth Government funding should a large national investment in police IT be made.

He said that funding for the 2025 vision could not come from the state government alone as it stood today.

"It is not possible to find the necessary funding for new investments in ICT within existing financial arrangements. In a heavily constrained budget environment, a thorough external review of Victoria Police's finances — including the funding model, consistent with the state government's response to the Rush Inquiry — is vital to establish a financially viable pathway."

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