A picture of a British mounted police
Chapter 2

The need for collaboration

However, while it remains essential for each force to act autonomously, such disparity creates challenges of its own. There are obvious reasons why cross-force collaboration is necessary In the fight against crime, for example, when undertaking surveillance operations or policing the road network. Administratively, too, there are gaps within the system that remain open. Writing about professionalism in policing, Lucy D’Orsi, Chief Constable of the British Transport Police, highlighted one such example: “If I was to commit a crime, get arrested and give my details, there is no obvious system check that would flag that I’m a police officer if I didn’t choose to tell them (4)

Recent high-profile cases have again brought these issues into painfully sharp focus.

In a wide-ranging review of the Metropolitan Police, Baroness Casey of Blackstock’s report (5) criticised the inefficacy of vetting procedures, calling on all forces to act:

Vetting standards should be changed with immediate effect to guard against those who intend to abuse the powers of a police officer.

It appears, therefore, there is something of a dichotomy. Police forces need to act both independently and together. In some instances, it is necessary to operate at an inter-force or even national level. In others, maintaining a local approach is optimal. Attempting to square this circle technologically has, however, proved difficult. Top-down initiatives have proven costly and inefficient. A four-year Home Office programme to merge the Police National Computer with the Police National Database into a single system known as NLEDS (National Law Enforcement Data Service) suffered significant delays and cost overruns. Following a reduction in the scope, a National Audit Office report (6) concluded there were numerous failings, further cautioning that it might not be possible for the project to be delivered.

Image of 2 British police officers in high visibility yellow jacket

Gareth Davies, Comptroller and Auditor General, NAO says:

After a succession of delays, resets, and changes in scope, the cost of the NLEDS programme has increased significantly, and it is still not clear whether the Home Office will be able to deliver the programme before the existing infrastructure becomes obsolete. Fragile technology is limiting the ability of the police and other organisations to carry out their job effectively and ultimately putting the security and safety of the public at risk.

In an ill-fated partnership between the Thames Valley, Sussex and Surrey forces, more than £36 million was spent on an IT project to improve the performance of back-office systems. Having already committed £14.4 million, Thames Valley Police pulled out of the venture with the (then) The police and Crime Commissioner stated he was “totally dissatisfied” with its progress (8)