Home Office agency scraps “world-first” online police system

The National Policing Improvement Agency has scrapped a “world-first” secure, online crime reporting system which helped to reduce crime by linking the public and police forces across the UK.

The multi-million pound project is now the subject of a legal dispute between the National Policing Improvement Agency and IT supplier Qinetiq.


The Police Portal linked dozens of police forces across the UK and allowed the public to provide intelligence information, report hate crime or non-emergency incidents through a secure link.

The police used it shortly after the London bombings to send messages to key teams, and to request information, including digital photos and text video pictures from the public.

But the National Policing Improvement Agency confirmed this week that the original site is no longer operational, and it has cancelled a contract for the replacement of the system with Qinetiq.

A spokeswoman for the agency told Computer Weekly: “This service [the Police Portal] is no longer available. The system that was in development was not fit for live use – due a range of serious defects and delays – and consequently failed User Acceptance Testing. It is not possible to issue more details as it is now subject to legal proceedings.

“Registered data received from the public is subject to the Data Protection Act and will be destroyed or, with consent, transferred over to their local force messaging system.”

The scrapping of the existing system will add another scheme to the Home Office’s list of cancelled and troubled IT-related projects. The list includes failures of systems that supported immigration services, the issuing of e-passports, the Probation Service, criminal justice and the Criminal Records Bureau.

The Police Portal, which went live in April 2001, ran under a contract with BT which expired at the end of March this year. The cancellation of the Qinetiq project has left the National Policing Improvement Agency with no national website for reporting crimes online.

The National Policing Improvement Agency declines to say how much has been spent on the police portal in total. But a Freedom of Information Act request has revealed that the government spent £5.1m running of the Police Portal in one year alone  – 2006/7.

A spokesman for Qinetiq said that he was unable to comment other than to say that his organisation is in a legal dispute over the replacement system.

Those involved with the system believe it is ready to go live and are unclear why the contract has been cancelled. 

The dispute is expected to go to mediation and if still unresolved may go to court. One of the issues will be whether the system was defective and unacceptably late, or whether the contract was cancelled in part because it was proving difficult to fund and was not fully supported by all police forces.

The National Policing Improvement Agency said there was a connection between the system being unavailable and the matters that are the subject of the legal dispute. 

The Police Portal was commissioned by the Police Information Technology Organisation [PITO], which was subsumed into the National Policing Improvement Agency. Pito had described the system as a “world-first”.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office denied that the growing list of IT-related failures at the department and its agencies had any relevance to the ID Cards scheme.

Links:

PITO awards police portal replacement contract to QinetiQ

Fife police apologise for loss of UK Police Portal service

Guardian article on the Police Portal – 2005

Police portal to be replaced

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