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Met aims to become first 'truly digital' police force



Grand IT strategies are out of fashion nowadays. But one public body determined to buck the trend is the Metropolitan Police Service, which has just published an ambitious plan to overhaul its IT infrastructure over three to four years.

Elements include everything from setting up a Met Police apps store for officers to the adoption of "big data" analytics, transforming the 999 service to issuing officers with iPad minis. The strategy also includes the replacement of major outsourcing contracts, as well as a new governance structure.

Last but not least, it aims to save £60m on technology by next year.

Announcing the Total Technology strategy to journalists, the Met's acting CIO Richard Thwaite said that the next three to four years the Metropolitan Police Service will undertake an unprecedented transformation in its use of technology. According to the strategy: "Citizens will be able to interact with us in a variety of new ways using fast and flexible online services 24 hours per day. Officers will be equipped with cutting edge technology, supporting them wherever they may be to provide a faster and more effective response to crime."

Thwaite said the strategy is both a response to recent criticism of the UK largest police force by the London Mayor's office, and the blueprint for the much-needed modernisation of the force.

London's police force is not starting from a good place. The Met's last ICT audit identified a portfolio of 750 systems ranging from simple macro-enabled spreadsheets, through to complex investigation management applications. Many supporting systems date from the 1980s and 1990s. "Current technology in the MPS is not well suited to this on-line, mobile-centric vision," the strategy notes.

Under the current spending review, the Met Police cut its costs by 20%, a sum of some £500 million. The share of this for the technology function is a saving of £60 million by 2015/16.

A key element will be to select common software components as building blocks. Today, for instance, each application has its own search engine. Instead, the strategy says, "there should be a standard search engine used across the suite of applications. This principle will be applied across our entire ICT estate. Through this, we aim to be at the forefront of innovation, making best use of our technical resources rather than building on outdated technology."

Among the targets set out for the strategy are:
- An "MPS Apps store" for officers to access publicly available applications.
- Electronic statements and mobile crime reporting, enabling crime numbers to be given to victims at the scene of a crime.
- Capturing evidential photographs digitally and investigating the potential adoption of "body worn video solutions".
- Supporting computer aided tasking, despatch, mapping and GPS routing on mobile devices.
- Introducing mobility into custody suites for improved and more productive offender management and care.
- Providing access to a range of information sources and forms on mobile devices,
including guidance to support victim care.
- "Next-generation" end user devices for fast access and effective use of systems.
- Consolidate finance, HR, procurement services and property management systems into a single enterprise resource planning system.

Noting that many contracts with external suppliers are coming up for renewal, the plan says the procurement of external services will reflect lessons learned from "previous procurements, experiences of other public and private bodies and procurement trends within government".

The whole strategy will be overseen by a new governance body, the Technology Investment Board, which will be subject to further governance and approvals, ultimately the Mayor of London's Office for Policing and Crime. "Time will be allowed for this in strategy delivery plans," the strategy says.

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