Chapter 1

Keeping Pace with Change

Sir Michael Barber, Chair, The Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales says:

"Policing in this country is at a crossroads and it cannot stand still whilst the world changes so quickly around it. Now is the moment to move forward quickly on the path of reform. The warning signs if we do nothing are flashing red and we ignore them at our peril." (2)

On the evening of January 1st, 1845, a man named John Tawell boarded the 19:42 service from Slough to London. He was fleeing the scene of a murder, and as his train eased away from the platform, he must have thought he had got away with it. In another location, he might have. Slough, however, was equipped with telegraph, then state-of-the-art in communications technology. A pursuing witness gave a clear description to the police and officers were able to send a message along the wire to Paddington. Tawell was followed through the capital’s streets and apprehended. Later prosecuted, he became the first man ever to be arrested through the use of technology. (3)

Technology is no less relevant to police work today. Revolutionising both frontline and backoffice procedures through the adoption of such innovations as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Machine Learning (ML) and cloud computing. However, many forces have only scratched the surface. For many
reasons, both real and perceived, the potential of digitalisation is not yet fully realised. Though there is a genuine desire for improvement, some forces have experienced problems with interoperability. Integration with legacy technology has been a source of difficulty, with some systems unable to work across platforms.
Formerly known as the Met Integrated Policing Solution (MiPs), the CONNECT programme designed to enable connectivity between the Metropolitan Police Service’s disparate systems has been subject to several delays and cost increases. (4)

The Role of Technology in Modern Policing: Challenges and Opportunities, with Harvy Rai MBE, Police Sergeant, West Midlands Police

In this podcast we discuss:

✔ The challenges of cross-border policing
✔ The role of technology and data in creating consistent policing
✔ Why developing the right partnerships is key to improving policing

Listen now

The country’s largest force has 17 different systems which are unable to connect with each other, such as communications and control, crime reporting, missing persons etc. This leads to duplication in data-inputting, placing a drain on officers’ valuable time. Problems such as this are replicated at forces throughout the country. Speaking at a TechUK event, Phil Baxter, ERP Programme Director at Avon and Somerset Police highlighted some of the difficulties, saying, “There are duplicate processes. There’s repetitive data entry…” “…Even a question as simple as ‘How many people do we have working where and who’s paying for them?’ throws up a handful of answers when there should be just one. In fact, a recent task force had to be established to determine how many people we had working for us, and where.” (5)

The lack of a national standard data model has led to issues with cross-force collaboration and where multi-force solutions have been put in place, the goals being pursued have not always been mutually agreed. Decisions are often made without a full understanding of the desired outcome. Substantial investments have been made into projects that have failed to deliver, further bolstering resistance to change.

"We are wasting time and money and inefficiencies on our current platform, and most importantly the processes that the platform enables or doesn’t enable."

Phil Baxter – ERP Programme Director Avon and Somerset Police

"Policing does not operate in a vacuum and cannot stand still in the increasingly digital world we work and live in. The challenges and opportunities that digital disruption presents to policing are rapidly becoming defining issues for the service. We must move now and move quickly.”

National Policing Digital Strategy (7)

According to Chief Superintendent Simon Ovens, DL FCMI, Head of Traffic and Transport Policing at the Met, speed of rollout can present difficulties. By the time solutions are implemented, they are often out of date and in need of upgrades. There are also training implications. Unlike the armed forces, whose members spend much of their time training, police officers must be taken off duty to learn how to work with new systems. Ease of use is a vital consideration. Policing is going through a rapid period of change. The demands placed on the force of today are a world apart from those of just a generation ago. Our “always connected” culture has given rise to a different type of crime. Forty per cent of crime is now fraud (8), much of which is “Policing does not operate in a vacuum and cannot stand still in the increasingly digital world we work and live in. The challenges and opportunities that digital disruption presents to policing are rapidly becoming defining issues for the service. We must move now and move quickly.*” National Policing Digital Strategy online. Figures from the National Cyber Security Centre show a significant rise in cybercrime (9), which is often investigated at the force level. Wider social problems are also a distraction, with the police often having to step in to fill gaps for other agencies. Dealing with the consequences of mental health issues, for example, takes up a lot of time, and officers often spend hours of their shifts waiting in hospitals. Another shocking statistic is the three million investigation hours a year that is spent following up on missing person inquiries (10) – the equivalent of policing the North Yorkshire Constabulary area for a year. With such clear evidence of the need for effective time management, the necessity for force-wide resource planning is made apparent.

The response to these shifting responsibilities necessitates a reduction in community policing. Consequently, detection rates are low. In the year to March 2022, just 5.6% of offences resulted in a charge and/or summons. (11) In something of a vicious circle, this lack of visibility may be contributing to falling public confidence (12), a vital
cornerstone of the “policing by consent” ethos so essential to the British force. Police leaders understand the problems well. Increasing caseloads must be tackled with fewer resources. Though Home Office statistics in early 2023 showed an annual uplift of 2.3% in officer numbers (13), the increase required significant attendant work to ensure new applicants were properly vetted and onboarded. Resource management is an onerous task for all forces. The challenges extend beyond the front line, the public face of policing. For any law enforcement agency, back office or support processes are an equally essential component in providing an effective service. Specialist investigations, intelligence and analysis, communications and scientific/technical staff face many of the same pressures, as do those working in business and management functions: finance and services, HR and ICT. They, too, must react to accelerating societal change, a constantly evolving legislative environment and the accumulation of greater quantities of data than the legacy IT estate was ever designed to handle.