Government announces fundamental police IT overhaul

The government is creating a new police-owned national IT company to commission and deliver services.


The government is creating a new police-owned national IT company to commission and deliver services.

This latest shake-up of Police IT was announced by the Home Secretary, speaking at the Association of Chief Police Officers’ summer conference in Harrogate.

Highlighting the £1.2 billion spent by the police on IT each year, Theresa May said, “I wouldn’t be concerned about the size of that sum if I were convinced that it represented good value for money. But it does not.

“The way we do things now is confused, fragmented and expensive. We know, for example, that one supplier now has over 1,500 contracts across all the forces. This would simply never happen in the commercial world. Across the police service there are around 5,000 staff, working on over 2,000 ICT systems, across 100 data centres. This is clearly not sensible.”

The solution, May said, was to form a new, police-led company that will “free chief constables from having to spend so much time on ICT matters while giving them better systems and better value for their ICT money.”

The new organisation, said May, would mean the delivery of better systems within an overall reduction in IT spending. She did not set out specific targets for IT spending cuts, however.

May also said the new organisation should be staffed by ICT professionals. “The police are experts at fighting crime and in using ICT to fight crime, but they are not ICT professionals.”

May said the new organisation should recruit “hard-headed professionals who can take on some of the world’s biggest companies on their own terms”. Economies of scale would drive down costs while vendors would benefit from having to deal with a single purchasing organisation, instead of 43 separate police forces, she added.

The Home Secretary said she wanted a clear break with the police technology organisations that existed in the past “I don’t want this to be PITO mark 2 or NPIA mark 2, with all the same old mistakes and the same old problems repeated.”

Yet she has appointed Gordon Wasserman, a man who was absolutely associated with police technology policy for 20 years to spearhead the new organisation.
Wasserman will chair a shadow board of the new company on which Ailsa Beaton, CIO of the Metropolitan Police will sit. Wasserman was Assistant Undersecretary of State for Police Science and Technology at the Home Office from 1983 to 1995, before taking up an academic post in the US. He is currently a government advisor on policing and was made a Tory peer this year.

Insisting that “it is absolutely clear that the current system is broken,” May said the new Police ICT company have Home Office, and possibly the private sector shareholders alongside police forces.

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