Metropolitan Police IT strategy under investigation

By Sooraj Shah
27 Feb 2013 View Comments
A Met police car

The Metropolitan Police's IT strategy is to be reviewed by the London Assembly, who will consider whether technology can help the force to increase productivity as it faces a tumultuous time in dealing with budget cuts.

The Met plans to roll out nearly 30,000 new mobile devices to officers across London, and the London Assembly's Budget and Performance Committee will look into how the force plans to use the new equipment to reduce time spent on paperwork and allow officers to spend more time on patrol.

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The Committee is also trying to learn how the Met Police can find technology savings of £42m in 2014-15 and £60m in 2015-16.

Currently, the Met spends around £325m a year on technology, a third of which is designated to Capgemini in a deal that is scheduled to end in 2015. The Committee will examine the Met's plans to make significant savings by renegotiating or cancelling its current ICT support contracts.

In October last year, the Met unveiled plans to save £500m from a £3.6bn annual budget following government cuts. Although it planned to sell its headquarters in Victoria, central London, it included no plans to cut police staff, which remain at around the 32,000 mark.

John Biggs, chair of the Committee, said the Met believes that it is facing budget cuts of 20 per cent over the next three years, so it is inevitable that technology spending is going to be affected. However, he remains hopeful that a well-thought out investment in technology could improve productivity within the force.

"Whether it's backroom ICT support or the use of innovative new devices like smartphones or fingerprint scanners, the Met will need to ensure that it's getting the best value for money. We all know that big IT projects often have a habit of getting out of control and falling victim to unforeseen glitches, compatibility problems and ballooning costs," he said.

"Our review is all about ensuring that the Met avoids the pitfalls and gets the most out of the technology budget, because at the end of the day, better deals and smarter systems could mean a more efficient police force and more officers out on the streets," he added.

The Committee will hold two public meetings, the first of which will take place next week and allow the Commitee to ask academics and industry experts about best practice, including issues like major ICT contracts and the rollout of smartphones and tablets.

A second meeting is scheduled in June, and will enable the Committee to question representatives from the Met Police and the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime.

The Met's technology strategy is expected to be published in the spring.

In December, the Met's then director of information, Ailsa Beaton, told Computing that "executive" level police officers have been issued with BlackBerry smartphones, while a trial involving Apple iPads was also ongoing.

In addition, she said that the force had tested mobile data terminals in vehicles to enable officers to access both the Police National Computer (PNC) and the Police National Database.

"The last [major initiative] involved issuing officers with HTC Windows-based PDAs so that they can look up information: ‘I've stopped this person, what do we know about them? Are they wanted on the PNC?'" Beaton explained.

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