Force chiefs on board for new police IT era

Senior officers sign up to IT strategy for inter-force collaboration

A quantum leap in collaboration between the 43 police forces in England and Wales is set to take effect, with all forces now signed up to the new national police IT strategy, Ailsa Beaton, Metropolitan Police CIO and one of the strategy's chief architects, has told Computer Weekly.

The Information Systems Strategy for the Police Service (ISS4PS) was launched last month to address concerns - raised after the investigation into the Soham murders - that police IT was too fractured to fight cross-border crime effectively. The ISS4PS will be managed by the new National Policing Improvement Agency.

"Because we have got people's buy-in to this common way forward, and because it is very much the raison d'etre of the National Policing Improvement Agency, there is no other game in town," said Beaton. "We are signed up to do it."

The increased terrorist threat has made the need to collaborate even more urgent, she said, making senior police officers increasingly aware of the need to create common processes between police forces that can be supported by national computer systems.

"There is absolutely a need to work together against terrorism," said Beaton. "If you look at the recent incidents, they have not just happened in one place but have happened all over, so we must work together. And that includes doing some things in the same way, so that when police officers go from place A to place B they have a clearer understanding of what they should be doing when they get there."

However, IT professionals in the police service will need to balance the needs of a national IT strategy with local requirements. They will have to negotiate with the National Policing Improvement Agency to get approval for systems that do not comply with national standards.

Beaton said the agenda set by government CIO John Suffolk to improve professionalism in public sector IT would be crucial in helping IT managers balance competing national and local priorities - and communicating their reasoning to the National Policing Improvement Agency.

What is ISS4PS?

The Information Systems Strategy for the Police Service (ISS4PS) is a joint initiative between The Home Office, the Police IT Organisation, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Police Associations. It will be managed by the National Policing Improvement Agency, a new Home Office body that will have mandatory powers from April next year, when it takes over from the Police IT Organisation.

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