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Met Police needs significant tech investment to overhaul creaking legacy systems

Kathleen Hall

The Metropolitan Police needs significant capital investment in technology if it is to overhaul its legacy IT infrastructure, including desktops that take half an hour to boot up, the London Assembly has heard.

Speaking at a meeting of the Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee, assistant commissioner Mark Rowley said that 70% of the Met’s technology platforms are redundant, with that figure expected to rise to 90% by 2016. The Met Police has more than 400 separate IT systems currently in use, with some dating back to the 1970s.

Rowley is tasked with reviewing the force’s technology operations ahead of its technology strategy, which is due to be published in the summer. System duplication and a lack of interoperability means police are inputting names up to 12 times when recording crime details, he said. 

“The capital requirements to get through this period may well be greater than what our capital historic spend will be on a routine basis of technology,” said Rowley.

The Budget and Performance Committee is currently reviewing how the Met can improve its use of technology while cutting operational IT spending by £42m in 2014-15 and by a further £60m in 2015-16. 

Rowley said the ambition to cut £60m in 2015-16 from the IT operational budget was eminently achievable. “I’m not worried about where we are trying to get to – the scale is challenging and having to do it quickly is going to be tricky.”

The Met has the second highest spend on IT per policing organisation, according to Rowley, with 85% of that going on keeping the lights on. He said the force could not justify spending above average on technology, as a large organisation that should benefit from economies of scale.

“We have an expensive technology function keeping the system going, rather than innovating and supporting the front line," he said. “We have a collection of systems that are individual good ideas wired together over 40 years. Even the language the systems are written in – most people who can write that language are nearing retirement. It is slightly frightening.

“We need a fundamental root and branch reform to be more efficient and better at crime fighting,” Rowley told the committee.

The Metropolitan Police has not had a technology strategy that has passed muster until now, he said: “Part of strategy going forward is the police need to get out of building their own machines. The smart devices are out there."

Rowley said the renewal of outsourcing contracts in the next three years would help to reduce expenditure.

It comes as Rowley plans to roll out smartphones among frontline staff to improve efficiency.

“We all have better kit that we can buy in a phone shop than we get supplied with at work, and that can’t be right,” he said.

Although mobile data terminals in cars and PDAs currently serve their purpose, the technology is becoming too bespoke and outdated, Rowley added.


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