Home Office has "long way to go” to fix police IT and procurement

Police IT is going to take a long time to fix, according to home secretary Theresa May

Police IT is going to take a long time to fix, according to home secretary Theresa May.

Talking about the state of police procurement when the coalition came into power, May called it a “pitiful joke” that different forces were paying different prices for the same equipment.

Speaking at the Lessons of Police Reform event in London, May also blasted the £1bn spent per year on inadequate IT, which results in 4,000 staff working on 2,000 separate systems across 100 datacentres.

She said that after 2010, the Home Office got on with “the gritty and unglamorous work of sorting out police procurement”, but it still had a long way to go.

Police IT is going to take “a long time to fix”, she said, stating that the Home Office has an important duty to make sure the Police National Computer works effectively and takes a role in co-ordinating procurement.

Digital innovation across all police forces

May also called for the need for the three emergency services to be integrated and work together in the future, while schemes such as the Police Innovation Fund should be used for investments that produce efficiency savings.

“We should use technology – such as body-worn video, smartphone apps and other mobile devices – to save time and improve outcomes. It remains our aim to make all forces fully digital by 2016,” she said.

Forces in Wales have recently been awarded grants from the Police Innovation Fund to develop body-mounted video cameras, information exchange systems and a mobile application to take witness statements. 

Surrey Police Force is making strides with a mobile system from Airwave, which allows officers on the beat to be paperless.

North Wales and Dyfed-Powys forces were recently awarded grants of £44,538 and £95,500, respectively.

But last year, the National Audit Office stated that savings estimated to be made through a police national procurement hub set up in 2011 fell short of expectations.

The supplier catalogue and procurement hub was expected to enable self-serve purchasing, but savings of just £580,000 were recorded by February 2013 – a long way off the projected £4.8m.

Understanding cyber crime

May also highlighted the criminal opportunities presented by new technologies. She said the Home Office must develop an understanding of cyber crime and work with the police to develop policy.

“For example, working with the Metropolitan Police we have discovered that more than one-third of vehicles stolen in London do not involve taking the owners' keys,” she said. “Instead, car thieves might break into a car and program a new electronic key. They might use sophisticated devices to ‘grab’ the security coding when the owner uses their key so they can use it themselves.”

She said understanding these technologies would allow the Home Office to work with industry to improve electronic resilience and understand how these threats may cause other security breaches, such as building security systems.

Streamlining network services

Meanwhile, the Home Office has been discussing details of the Emergency Services Network (ESN) with suppliers.

The ESN is due to go live in 2017, the year after the existing contract expires. Contracts for a new enhanced, flexible and affordable communications system for the ESN will be awarded in 2015.

In July 2014, businesses were invited to tender for the network to replace the existing emergency services systems, currently provided by Airwave, which will expire in 2016. Tenders will have to be submitted this autumn.

The ESN falls under the auspices of the Emergency Services Mobile Communications Programme, a Home Office-led, cross-departmental programme that aims to provide cheaper and smarter network services for ambulance, fire and police services.

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