West Midlands Police is grappling with phased budget cuts of £126m following a 20% cut in government funding.
The force has taken out much of the cost already by rationalising its buildings and cutting staff, said CIO Chris Price in an interview to accompany the 2012 Computer Weekly/TechTarget IT priorities survey.
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The force has also introduced priority-based budgeting to ensure it is delivering the right services internally and to the public.
But IT will play an important role in helping West Midlands Police to work more efficiently, according to Price. “We are saying, 'let's look at key opportunities where IT can add return on investment and deliver a value proposition to the organisation',” he said.
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For now, West Midlands Police is sweating its assets in IT. But in the longer term, Price is looking to work closely with a private sector IT partner.
“If we get in with a business partner, they will bring a real step change to technology. In the meantime, we have to get to a point where we are in a good place to make that change,” he said.
Mobile computing is one area where IT could make a big difference. Equipping officers with mobile devices could eliminate a lot of duplicate paperwork, freeing up their time for more productive work, said Price.
In the future, an officer could press a button and produce an automatic witness statement ready for the crime victim to sign, he said.
With support for Microsoft Windows XP due to run out in 2014, upgrading to Windows 7 is another priority for this year.
The force plans to move to Citrix at the same time, making it easier and cheaper to manage desktops and mobile devices.
Business analytics and social media
Price is keen for West Midlands Police to look at how it can make the best use of the information it already collects within the organisation.
The police force has made substantial investments in data warehousing to help analyse its internal data. Price is interested in developing the force’s analytic capability to include external data, such as social media and the Twitter blogging service.
“How we bring that in, sanity check it, quality check it, and then combine that with our internal information to be an intelligence-led force is absolutely key,” he said.
Cloud is low priority
Cloud may be an option in the future, but for now it's not a priority, said Price. Right now, the force has a large number of legacy systems that would be difficult to move into the cloud.
“When you move from a heavy investment in legacy systems, you don’t change it all overnight, and nor should you,” he said.