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Duplication in police IT 'terrible', says minister



MPs and experts including Home Office's minister for policing debate the use of technology to improve policing as inquiry continues.

MPs and police chiefs have agreed that police IT developments remain slow and "urgent clarity" around how the national policing architecture can best work is needed, during latest oral evidence for the Policing for the Future inquiry.

The inquiry takes evidence from Police Chief Constables (PCCs) from diverse  forces to explore the challenges of modern policing and is led by the Home Affairs Select Committee.

In response to a comment by committee member Douglas Ross about the use of technology by police forces to better align data, witness Nick Hurd MP, the Home Office’s Minister of State for Policing said: “There is a central challenge around an historic approach to procurement with insufficient understanding of what they were buying and insufficient collaboration and best practice in how it is bought.

“We are still dealing with a system that has terrible amounts of duplication in it, is still sending evidence to the court on CDs and still has systems that don’t talk to each other properly.”

Another witness in the debate, Mike Cunningham QPM, chief executive officer of the College of Policing, responded: “In the past 10 years, developments have been nowhere near as coherent or as swift as they have needed to be. There is no doubt that the challenges of communication in criminality have not been matched by the opportunities available to policing.

"The ability for policing to coalesce around a national issue and to put a coherent, single plan in place, to which people can all sign up, is too difficult. That is why there does need to be some urgent clarity around how the national policing architecture can best work.”

He said to enable progress, policing agencies must work closer together and more collaboratively with chief constables and police and crime commissioners. “The service should have moved more quickly, in a much more planned way, and has not done so.”

Growing recognition

However, Nick Hurd MP said that growing recognition and "a much more intelligent response to the problem" has emerged. 

“Collectively, we are trying to drag police technology from a place that feels terribly out of date into the modern age, but there is a will to do that. There needs to be a plan around it and evidence that the police system buys into the plan and will implement it. There will be a resource requirement attached to that, which we intend to take to the Comprehensive Spending Review," he told the committee.

Last week, the minister convened a second round table at the Home Office to discuss how to take the issues forward, with 20 police chiefs and PCCs among others. 

He described it as “a seriously proper conversation about police technology and the future and what is needed to get to the kind of vision that we are working towards about what a digitally enabled police force should be doing by 2025. This should have been done a long time ago.”

Image: iStock by Bridget-McGill

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