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Analysis:

Police ICT: The Scottish perspective

Ivor Marshall - ASPS

CoPaCC’s Police ICT User Survey results revealed superintendents in Scotland expressed some of the highest levels of dissatisfaction with aspects of their ICT provision.  Chief Superintendent Ivor Marshall, President of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS), takes a closer look at what the results mean.

The survey shows that superintendents in Scotland are generally quite dissatisfied with the ICT that they are provided with to enable them to do their job. This accords with the anecdotal comments that I get from my colleagues on a regular basis. Superintendents in Scotland also perceive that underinvestment in ICT means that Police Scotland is lagging behind other forces. It is also clear from the survey that there are issues about integration of systems and a lack of mobile data devices that are essential for superintendents to work in an agile and flexible way to meet the varied demands of their roles. Mobility has become a critical issue for superintendents in Scotland due to the significantly increased scale and scope of roles in the national service.

On a positive note, it is good to know that superintendents have confidence in the reliability of the information held on systems, that access to a computer at work is fairly easy and that assistance from support facilities is readily available.

ICT is critical in terms of driving through the efficiencies that Police Scotland needs to make the significant savings required to ensure the service operates within budget.

ASPS has consistently held the view that there needs to be proper investment in a transformation programme for ICT in Police Scotland. The amalgamation of eight police forces and two support agencies in Scotland in 2012 under the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act was a massive undertaking with many challenges in bringing systems and platforms together. Five years on, many challenges still exist as the national service still balances so called ‘business as usual’ service delivery alongside reform activities whilst also trying to develop a longer-term transformation agenda to equip the service for future demands.

ICT is a key enabler for change particularly in terms of service integration and consistency of delivery across the entire country. Furthermore, ICT is critical in terms of driving through the efficiencies that Police Scotland needs to make the significant savings required to ensure the service operates within budget. The imperative for major savings fell out of the original business case for force mergers in Scotland in 2011 with assumptions that operating costs would be considerably reduced. Alas, the investment that was needed to create the change environment was not put in place and some key national ICT projects failed or did not deliver.

It is essential that the service understands future ICT requirements as well as working to integrate and operate systems in the here and now to keep the service functioning. It is the classic change conundrum of ‘running the business’ and ‘changing the business’ at the same time and that needs proper investment and strong leadership.

In fairness to the Police Scotland Force Executive, this is now fully recognised. There has been considerable effort put into developing an all-encompassing 10-year strategy under the title Policing 2026. The importance of ICT in service integration and transformation is woven through the strategy and is not simply an internalised agenda but focuses on improving service delivery to the citizens and communities of Scotland.

Current indications are good. Programmes and projects are being commissioned and resourced with realistic timescales.

Expectations are high. There has been a lot of consultation with the public, with stakeholders, with police support staff and with all officers. Proper investment in ICT needs to happen and delivery of better systems and better equipment is essential. Negotiations with the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Government have been positive and it is hoped that further transformation budget can be found, especially in the wake of the recent decision by the Government in Westminster to allow Police Scotland to reclaim VAT.

Current indications are good. Programmes and projects are being commissioned and resourced with realistic timescales. Considered thought is going into what can be delivered in the next three years to help the service evolve whilst at the same time paving the way for further enhancements and developments in the medium to longer term. Which is why the CoPaCC ICT User survey is timely and useful. We have a good picture of where we currently are and, all being well, future CoPaCC surveys will enable us to independently check and verify that we are making progress, transforming the service and making policing fitter and stronger for the future.

 CoPaCC Police ICT Report Cover 800x566Police ICT: User perspectives
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