Police Minister Slates IT Delays
Coppers are lagging on tech, says Minister Nick Herbert
Police IT in the UK has been blighted by a “culture of delay”, according to minister for policing and criminal justice Nick Herbert.
Herbert bemoaned the siloed nature of systems run by the 42 police forces in the UK, which he said are using 2000 separate IT frameworks.This has led to a “lack of accountability”.
Rapid police response?
“We ought to be developing a system that operates more swiftly,” Herbert (pictured) said, speaking at the Modernising Justice 2012 event in Westminster today. “We need to tackle the whole culture of the system which has tolerated delay.
“I do think that the overall state of IT and tech in our criminal justice system leaves a very great deal to be desired.”
The minister pointed to the significant number of “Big Bang” projects where sweeping changes have been made, but where little benefit has been seen, such as the police BlackBerry scheme. There has “hardly been a shining record” for projects, said Herbert.
“I think it is sobering that in an era of rapidly rising public expenditure, we ended up with systems that were relatively poor,” he added. “That should force us to ask questions about why that happened.”
The police have come in for plenty of criticism for management of IT of late. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) recently produced a report which slammed a project to roll BlackBerrys and other mobile devices out to officers. The committee found that the initiative had only managed to achieve savings of £600,000, where it was projected savings would hit £125 million.
Some officers were completely left without devices even though 41,000 BlackBerrys had been sent out to police employees.
The Metropolitan Police Service also came in for some ridicule after it emerged the organisation was still using software from the 1980s for command and control systems, which will still not be replaced when the Olympics arrives this summer. TechWeekEurope understands the government is now looking for a supplier to replace that system.
Meanwhile, a Big Brother Watch report claimed police DNA database use was being mismanaged. It found just three police forces (North Wales, Staffordshire and West Mercia Police) could distinguish DNA profiles of those convicted from those who had never even been charged.
Herbert hailed the national police database as a success story, but when asked by TechWeekEurope how management could been improved, the minister failed to offer specifics.
It is important there are proper checks and safeguards,” he said. “But we should remember why this database was set up. It was created after the Soham murders… If the information had been shared effectively by the police at the time, those two girls would still be alive. I think the public justification is clear.”
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