Suppliers not tempted by police national database

Major suppliers' failure to bid for key IT projects was a significant factor in the failure to develop a national police...

Major suppliers' failure to bid for key IT projects was a significant factor in the failure to develop a national police intelligence system, a senior chief constable has revealed.

John Burbeck, head of criminal justice at the Association of Chief Police Officers, told a Parliamentary meeting that the decentralised nature of the police de- terred large suppliers from taking part in bids for the national intelligence database, which formed a key part of police strategy in 1994.

Suppliers' reluctance could make it more difficult for the police to introduce the national intelligence system recommended by the Bichard report, Burbeck told IT directors and MPs at the Parliamentary meeting last week.

"We have got the data standards and the will. The current contract arrangements mean that big players are not interested in police IT. That is the big issue with the national intelligence system. Four years ago we had to pull out because no big players were taking the risk."

Burbeck, chief constable of Warwickshire police, urged the government to support joining up the criminal justice system in the wake of the Bichard Report.

"The first thing is to have a very clear strategy for investment. That probably takes more than two or three years. Then a consistency for sticking to that, not only with funding but with central decision making."

John Suffolk, director of government agency Criminal Justice IT, told the meeting that Bichard would act as a catalyst to make integration of criminal justice systems a priority.

But he warned against a "knee-jerk" reaction, which could lead to the rushed development of a system which does not meet the requirements of criminal justice.

If joined-up criminal justice was to succeed, he said, the courts, police and prison service needed to spend less time analysing problems and more time taking action. That would require a culture change and quick decision making.

"We need to change the way we think. Some people are going to have to give up some of their sovereignty," he said. "We should not be spending time talking about how we link system A to system B; it should happen automatically."

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