The British government has sunk £100m into efforts to link up cops’ IT systems, boost resource-sharing and develop digital forensics.
The UK's police forces have been battling to improve outdated systems for years. Multiple annual reports into the state of policing have concluded that cops lag far behind in their use of tech, and that failure to fix this puts public safety at risk.
In a bid to address the problem, the Home Office launched a Police Transformation Fund in 2016, and this week announced the second phase of investment.
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Most of the budget, some £70m for 2018-19, is for four national police-led programmes, which emphasise the lack of interoperability and collaboration within and between forces.
They include projects to create a unified IT system that encourages joined-up work across forces, which is led by the City of London force, and to improve resource sharing between forces in key areas like cyber crime, which is being led by the Metropolitan Police.
There is also cash for a single online hub where people can report low-level incidents, so police officers don’t have to spend time manually recording that information.
The final project is in a more controversial area, being aimed at boosting the use of biometrics and digital forensics. The police’s use of such technologies has come under fire from civil rights groups and the biometrics commissioner Paul Wiles.
In his latest annual report, Wiles voiced concerns that the police’s use of new biometric tech isn’t always organised or systemic, with a “worrying vacuum” in governance and lack of oversight.
The latest funding round also hands out £42.7m to 15 other projects over the two years 2018-19 and 2019-20.
A Met-led project to develop a national technical capability and infrastructure for law enforcement agencies rakes in the most, some £14.8m over the two years.
The National Crime Agency pulls in £6m for three projects, including £4m for a National Data Exploitation Centre, while the West Midlands won £4.5m to develop a national analytics solution.
The Police ICT Company has been awarded £1m for the 100-day foundation phase of its ICT transformation programme, while Derbyshire police were handed £4.8m for work on cyber crime.
The first phase of the overall programme, which ran from 2016-17 to 2017-18, awarded more than twice as much cash as has so far been announced in phase 2 – some £223m – to 98 projects. ®