The Home Office has approved over half of bids from police forces for money from the £20 million Innovation Fund to encourage collaboration and transformation.
Last year, Policing minister Damian Green announced an innovation fund worth up to £50 million to incentivise innovation to improve effectiveness and efficiency of policing. Although the fund starts officially later this year, he introduced a £20 million precursor fund for 2013/14, for which 115 bids were made. Sixty-five of these have now been approved.
“I was delighted to be able to announce last week that every police force in England and Wales will receive a share of that £20 million,” said Policing minister Damian Green in a speech to the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC).
“And £3.8 million of that funding will be used by six forces to collaborate on proposals to share buildings and infrastructure with the fire and rescue service, saving millions of pounds of public money in the process.”
Green said there was a number of themes that emerged from the bidding process for the fund. For example, six forces will receive funding to invest in body-worn camera technology, and nine forces have received funding to roll out mobile data equipment so that officers can take statements and update crime records without having to return to the station. Moreover, a consortium of 24 police forces will use the funding to move public-facing services, such as Freedom of Information (FoI) requests, incident reporting and vehicle release payments, online.
Green also highlighted the work done by specific police forces to use technology innovatively, mentioning Kent police’s use of Predictive Policing. This combines historic data with predictive algorithms to identify areas most likely to be affected by crime to help the force allocate resources.
“Unfortunately we could not approve [all the bids]. In a number of cases there were positive ideas with potential to bring about transformation. But further work was needed to understand and articulate the impact of those changes,” he said, welcoming the re-submission of ideas for future funding rounds, once this extra work is done.
Meanwhile, on a national basis, Green encouraged the use of the National Procurement Hub, which is not yet fully rolled out, but which aims to enable forces to make cost-effective purchases by providing the latest full-year information on procurement spend by all forces.
“Its management information will allow you to judge value for money. I would urge you very strongly to use these tools to the fullest extent,” he said.
While Green acknowledged the progress being made by police forces in using technology innovatively, he said that it was “disappointing” that the majority of police forces do not enable people to do relatively “basic” tasks, such as reporting crime, online.
“There are exceptions like Sussex which allows the public to report crime online and Avon and Somerset which allows the public to track the progress of reported crimes online.
“In general, I think we would all admit that more could and should be done,” he said.
Green recommended that police forces build on their use of existing technologies. For example, all forces provide information via their website and Twitter. Ninety-five percent provide information via Facebook, and two-thirds via Youtube.
“But I do not want to limit our ambitions to doing old things with new tools,” he said.
“We want to harness this potential to bring about transformational change. That is what digital policing is about.”