Coppers need a "network of networks" for the 43 police force systems to tackle the shift to "internet enabled crime", the heads of The National Police Chiefs’ Council and Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary have said.
Delegates at the Police ICT Suppliers Summit were told the internet is enabling a fundamental change in crime at all levels, including terrorism, cyber crime, and sexual abuse.
Tom Winsor, head of HMCI, told delegates at the Police ICT Suppliers Summit: "ICT is the biggest, heaviest golden key to offering efficiency and effectiveness to policing.”
He said one single police ICT system would be dangerous, for example if it fell over. "What we need is a network of networks, allowing information to be transmitted more easily.”
He added: "It is remarkable that we call it a Criminal Justice System at all, because it is not a single thing. It is fragmented and dysfunctional and it needs to change."
According to Winsor, interoperability is crucial and needs a national champion. "For too long the Home Office has been detached from the case for interoperability.”
He said: "Nobody is suggesting the democratic and accountability boundaries should be dissolved... but in terms of the flow of information those boundaries should not exist.”
According to Nick Alston, Essex Police and Crime Commissioner, the effects of internet-enabled crime are “devastating”. He said: “We are nowhere near where we should be in terms of sharing info the way we should be to make life safer.”
Sara Thornton, NPCC chair, said the biggest challenge was entering and sharing information across forces. “There is no way that criminal justice can cope with 43 different solutions for the capture and storage of digital," she said.
The increasing use of body-worn video across forces also creates a challenge to the network, she added.
Thornton told delegates that while burglary is down 70 per cent, the number of attempts to break into computers to obtain sensitive information reached 2.5 million last year. She said the body had outlined efforts to address this rapid shift in crime in its 2020 Vision strategy, agreed last week.
The NPCC’s strategy aims to help set a direction for secure capabilities on digital policing including the capture and sharing of digital intelligence and evidence, she said. "This will enable improved accessibility and the seamless management of data from creation at initial contact through investigation and prosecution."
She said: "We know the public call us on 999. Does the digital offering need to be the same in England and Wales? My view is that it should be.”
However, Winsor told delegates that the track record for change has been poor to date. "Modern ICT across all forces that enables more efficiency and effectively; the progress on that so far has been elusive,” he said.
"Police ICT needs booster rockets under it now,” he said, adding that public patience was running out. "Many police officers still have poorer technology in their jobs than in their private lives,” he said. “The infrastructure available to support staff must be brought up to the standard.” ®