Police have protested at officers having to switch to different laptops and email accounts when they collaborate with another force, creating "huge inefficiencies".
Weaknesses in technology – despite the Home Office spending hundreds of millions of pounds in recent years – were among problems raised at the Police Superintendents’ Association (PSA) annual conference last week. They were adding to the sense of policing on the brink of crisis in many areas, leaving it “utterly reliant” on fewer people working longer and harder, the Government was told.
Chief superintendent Gavin Thomas, the association’s president, highlighted concerns about collaborations where officers have responsibilities across more than one force. The PSA’s research found that officers reported spending hours in a car some days, covering areas of more than 100 miles and expected to “have a physical presence at meetings”, despite modern technology.
The chief superintendent said: “There are some great efficiencies and service improvements to be gained. However, differing policies and enabling department procedures build in huge inefficiencies.
“Having to have dual laptops, dual email accounts and differing command and control systems is difficult.”
Structures for services
He added: “We have been debating our structures for delivering service to the public on and off for years, and yet have been trying to make the same systems and structures work.
“The famous definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Ministers were urged to be “honest” about the scope for collaborations between the 43 forces in England and Wales without improvements, including in technology.
“There will naturally be some collaborative successes out there, but can we honestly turn a blind eye to the overwhelming results from senior leaders who play such a vital role in collaboration?” the chief superintendent said.
The warning came despite a total of £223 million being spent on 98 projects over the past two years through the Police Transformation Fund. It is due to run for a further two years, through to 2020.
The speech was made as the National Audit Office warned that the Home Office is in the dark about whether forces under “financial strain” are in danger of running out of money, after years of cuts.
Its report painted a picture where more criminals are escaping injustice, while the police are forced to cut their targeting of speeding or drunk motorists.
Sajid Javid, the new home secretary, has risked a clash with the prime minister and the chancellor by openly campaigning for higher police funding in the next Spending Review.
Image by Southbanksteve, CC BY 2.0 through Wikimedia