Crime is higher in London because of ineffective and expensive technology being used by the Metropolitan Police, according to a scathing report released by the London Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee.
Chairman of the committee, John Biggs, claims that despite the Met’s whopping £250 million budget for ICT, officers are still having to wait up to 30 minutes to log on to a computer and are being forced to re-enter the same information across multiple systems.
He said: “It seems incredible that officers have this modern technology at home yet when they arrive at work they have to take a step back in time.”
The report recommends that forces should be taking advantage of recent developments in technology, including smartphones, social media and predictive policing, to catch up with forces outside the capital that are using these to reduce crime.
According to the committee, the Met currently spends approximately 85 percent of its annual ICT budget on just running and maintaining its outdated technology and that investment in new technology will be needed to find savings and meet other policing objectives, such as reducing crime, supporting victims and improving public confidence in the police.
However, it does note that “it is not clear how any new investment will be funded”.
The report is extensive and covers many examples of how the Met’s central Directorate of Information, which supplies IT to the organisation, lacks capacity and capability. For example, across the 19 basic technology operating systems now required by a constable to carry out frontline roles away from police stations, only one – mobile telephony – was consistently available and that was not always effective.
Also, the force currently has over 750 systems that have been “wired together over the last 40 years” – where one core operating system dates back to a 1970s baggage handling system. The committee said that police officers are “inhibited by the force’s ICT as they carry out their day-to-day duties”.
The situation as it stands is also set to get worse, as currently 70 percent of the services’ ICT systems are ‘redundant’, but this is set to increase to 90 percent by 2015.
It appears that governance and leadership has also been a pain point for the force. The committee said that “senior leadership has been lacking in the past” and that historically the Metropolitan Police Authority had not successfully implemented long-term technology strategies.
It was recently revealed that Ailsa Beaton would be leaving her role as director of information at the police force, after 12 years in the job. No information has been provided as to who will be replacing Beaton.
The Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime (MOPAC), which is responsible for oversight of the Met’s ICT strategy and currently has the force’s ICT rated as ‘red’ on its risk register, is also yet to recruit a director role to oversee the organisation. The committee said it is “concerned that oversight is currently lacking”.
Police officers find, according to the report, that criminals also currently have an operational advantage because of their access to smartphone technology and social media, and because of this are choosing to use their own personal devices, as these are more effective than the kit provided to them.
The Met is attempting to address all these problems and has conducted a ‘root-and-branch’ review of what technology it needs to meet its policing objectives, and is in the process of developing a new ICT strategy. It has highlighted two key needs from the strategy: enabling officers to work more remotely; and better exploiting the data that the Met has.
“The force seeks to have inter-linked systems to avoid duplication of work and to provide officers with real-time information in the field,” said the report.
According to the Committee the Met “cannot afford to get this strategy wrong”. However, there are already delays, where those responsible for the strategy have already failed to deliver to deadline in both April and July of this year. The strategy is now expected to be finalised in October or November.
However, much of the force’s annual ICT budget is tied up in an outsourcing contract with Capgemini, which costs around £115 a year, and isn’t due to end until 2015. After this the committee expects that the force will look to find cheaper alternatives by working with SMEs and adopting cloud technologies.
By 2015-16 the force hopes to reduce its central IT budget from £200 million to £140 million, a 30 percent fall. Experts have said that the scale of these savings are achievable, but the committee is concerned what impact this will have on Londoners.