The Scottish Police Authority (SPA) has approved a 10-year digital transformation plan for the national police force, laying the ground for an addition £244 million in capital spending and £54 million in revenue expenditure.
The SPA board gave its approval late last week, accepting a business case and detailed plans to replace Police Scotland’s existing digital systems. These will provide the basis of funding discussions with the Scottish Government.
Susan Deacon, chair of the SPA said: “These plans will drive much needed strategic transformation and change which will ensure that policing in Scotland is fit for purpose and fit for the future.
“This is a robust piece of work, supported by a significant increase in capacity and capability within Police Scotland and by external expert advice and scrutiny. Lessons have also been learned from the experience of other large scale ICT programmes in Scotland and elsewhere.
“The SPA Board is fully supportive of the direction of travel and will now focus on working with Police Scotland and others to ensure that these much needed improvements are delivered effectively.”
The changes will take place in phases, beginning with the increased use of mobile devices by police officers. This involve an Enhanced Mobile project to make better use of data services and digital evidence, and integration of mobile technology with operational systems.
It will be supported by a radio device refresh, network modification and a secure collaboration service to enable partner agencies to access police services when appropriate.
Platform and workflow
Other elements of the plan include implementing a standard working platform across all sites and devices, introducing a workflow capability, bringing in a new integrated communications control system, and upgrading the force’s national wide area network for the emergence of 5G.
There will also be a programme to improve the quality of data through a new core operational solution – pulling together data and evidence from different systems – an operational integration platform and extra server capacity. These will be accompanied by increased investment in cyber resilience.
The timing and phasing of specific investments, which will each be subject to further SPA scrutiny and approval, will be influenced by the levels of funding available, procurement timescales, and other factors.
It all reflects a perception of insufficient investment in technology for Police Scotland over recent years, and that the force has not been able to make good use of some money that has been available. Plans for transformation under the i6 programme hit continual problems and were brought to an early end in 2016, following which Audit Scotland published a criticism of the programme.
In addition, officers still use paper notebooks to record information then travel back to their stations to type it into digital records.
Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: “The present situation is unsustainable. The pressure on our officers and staff to work around the failings in our technology and meet the new threats will move beyond their ability to cope.
“It also has a detrimental impact on the public and our colleagues in other parts of the criminal justice system.
“At a time when the pressure on public services is immense, we are operating an economically inefficient police service.”
Image by Dave Conner (amended), CC BY 2.0 through flickr