The Independent Police Complaints Commission has finished work on an XML link between its head office IT system and all 43 police forces in the UK.
The link, which it completed in October, has already enabled the IPCC to download every complaint made against a police force during the financial year 2004 to 2005.
The agency developed the XML schema to automatically download all complaints data from three different IT systems.
It had to make the schema work with Force Intelligence System, which is used by 41 of the UK's 43 police forces. However, it also had to accommodate systems used by Greater Manchester Police and the Metropolitan Police.
The IPCC's IT team worked with Information Builders on Manchester's system and directly with the Met for the customised version of Force Intelligence System that its officers use.
The XML schema cost the IPCC £80,000 to develop. The data feed will enable the agency to meet its requirement under the Police Reform Act 2002 to analyse every complaint against UK police forces.
Police forces have to forward their most serious complaints to the IPCC under the statutory guidelines in the 2002 act. In the past the IPCC had analysed a high-level set of data it received from the different forces. The XML feed enables it to analyse every complaint that police forces record on their IT systems.
The IPCC will provide its conclusions from the first data feed in January. The agency will download further data feeds every six months.
Steve Gediking, head of IT at the IPCC, said the first task when installing the system was to assign basic business rules. "We have worked to define the rules. Does a complaint start on the day of the incident? On every aspect, we have to make sure we are comparing apples with apples.
"As a result of analysing the data captured by the new systems, we have already noticed a trend in terms of the use of the Mental Health Act."
Gediking added, "Our feed is an XML interface that we stuck into an Oracle database. It is a bespoke database with a case-tracking system that Anite has built for us."
The agency runs its IT systems over a converged voice and data network that provides voice over IP capability. Supplied by Cable & Wireless, the network also lets the IPCC's 400 employees access the agency's key applications remotely.
Police forces forwarded 1,451 complaints to the IPCC during the 2004-2005 financial year, and the public made an additional 4,309 direct complaints to the IPCC.