If police forces are to take full advantage of new digital technologies, then a change of mind-set is needed from both ends of the aisle. Police forces and suppliers need to move away from the traditional supplier customer relationship and become collaborative business partners.
Today, digital policing is a red hot topic and as such it is attracting a wide array of suppliers bombarding forces with marketing messages about solutions that meet every challenge. Every force knows it needs to embrace technology to be more effective and efficient, but what to do and how to do it are the big questions.
Police forces are not like commercial organizations that can make swift and sweeping changes; they cannot afford (both financially and operationally) to get it wrong. That’s why the Metropolitan Police, for example, has procurement processes designed to ensure its suppliers are financially, commercially and technically capable of meeting its requirements for delivering value. However, these processes assume the police force knows exactly what is required in the first place. For large forces like the Met this may not be an issue, but for smaller forces with less resources, experience and knowledge, it can be a problem.
The good news is that in the past twelve months there have been great strides made toward levelling the playing field. Two of the most exciting developments have been the creation of the Police ICT Company and the Digital Policing Board (DPB).
The Police ICT Company was established in early 2015 to be a bridge between the policing, technological and commercial worlds, helping forces to buy information communication technology (ICT) better, manage it better and exploit new capabilities more quickly. The announcement of this new entity came on the heels of government pressure to seize on the opportunity to use technology to do more with less. The ICT was created to help facilitate that. A press release from the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners boasts that the ICT Company could ultimately save police forces an estimated £465m a year.
The latest venture is the DPB, Chaired by Chief Constable of Essex Police and National Police Chiefs Council lead for digital investigation and intelligence, Stephen Kavanagh. In a recent interview with SC Magazine he explained the role of the DPB: “The intention from British Policing is that we sort out from the moment someone wants to contact the police, through to when we present evidence at court, a more consistent, coherent vision and ambition about how we are going to improve, how we reduce the postcode lottery that currently takes place, and how we help industry to help us to keep the community safe.”
In a further article published by Computer Weekly, before the first DPB meeting in May, Mr Kavanagh was quoted as saying that he expects to see an improvement in police forces’ engagement with tech firms in the next three to six months. He went on to state that many stakeholders share a common interest in helping police forces realize greater efficiency and effectiveness through the use of technology.
My organization shares this vision as well. At NICE, we conceive, develop, deploy and strive to improve our solutions by listening to police forces, not only in England and Wales, but around the world. A hugely valuable by-product of this partnership with customers is the rich insight we gain about the current challenges they are facing. It goes without saying that this works in reverse as well. By embracing suppliers as partners and working collaboratively, police forces, whether large or small, can benefit immensely and help to level the playing field by sharing their struggles, insights, and best practices. The point is – by changing our mind-set, we can, and should all work to make the postcode lottery (which Mr Kavanagh refers to) a thing of the past.