Multi-million pound first generation operational police information
systems are coming to end of their natural lives. These legacy systems are
based on 1970-90s mainframe technology and software. They are characterised by
the way they duplicated functionality of
the paper-based systems which they replaced. This is the reason why there are
entirely separate systems for crime, major investigations, criminal records,
vehicles, police response to incidents, custody, missing persons, property,
case papers and intelligence to name the more obvious. They cause operational police
officers to spend so much time in police stations doing paperwork because each system is updated separately.
There is good news and good news. The replacement of the
legacy systems provide a unique opportunity for police forces to save money and
make policing more efficient and effective at the same time.
How do police save money? Simple, they have an opportunity
to get out of the multi-million pound annual cost of running and maintaining
the legacy systems. New systems are much cheaper to run than old ones. We all
know that. I can remember back in the mid 1980s when houses that now sell for
over £300,000 went for £30,000 and video recorders cost £700 each. Police
forces are maintaining the equivalent of £7,000 video recorder information
systems when something far better can be purchased for £50.
Secondly, how can police become more efficient and effective?
This is equally simple and obvious. Operational policing is not actually separated
into different functions. Policing is one big consistent function. The reason why
an incident is deemed to be a policing matter is because there is a crime or
disorder aspect to that incident. Incidents are therefore the front end of
crime recording and investigation. Crime investigation is a fundamental source
of intelligence. Crime investigation and proactive policing requires
intelligence and both require prevention strategies to be efficient and
effective. Crime, custody, intelligence and case papers are equally all part of
the same overall process. This leads to the second generation concept of big
data and a single database in the “cloud”.
The cloud architecture allows police
information systems to be developed and maintained as a service, again reducing
costs, and importantly enabling changes to be made with improvements in technology.
In the past computer performance and memory capacity encouraged silo databases; lack of confidence,
expertise and imagination resulted computerised paper-base systems. These systems where not based on policing in
the round. Policing in the round has
basic building blocks. Firstly those described
by Problem Oriented Policing (POP) of the essential elements crime/disorder ,
Offender, Victim and Location. Secondly those
described by the National Intelligence Model (NIM) of the interlocking processes of
Intelligence, Prevention and Enforcement as methods of tackling that crime/disorder.
These building blocks need to be the basis of the big single
dataset. All data should be collected and used for all three NIM processes; Intelligence,
Prevention and Enforcement. The databases should follow the POP model of Offender,
Victim and Location in an expanded form to include time, commodity (e.g. stolen
property and controlled drug), and evidence (including identification and forensic)
with the connecting strand of police investigation and case management and
Crime/disorder and policing are geographic. One of the
elements sacrificed in the first generation of police information systems was the precise and accurate
recording the occurrence of crime/disorder and policing activities. Location
and time information are essential to
the three elements of the NIM; Intelligence, Prevention and Enforcement. New
mobile tablets enable locations and time relating to police activity be
precisely and accurately recorded with the aid of Global Positioning Systems
(GPS). These mobile tablets allow real time recording of investigations
providing push/pull information and the efficiency of single entry information.
This means that police officers can be provided with details the victim of
crime that has been recorded at a police call centre and given other background
information (situational awareness) –the push: and request more specific
information - the pull. The process of reporting is a simple series of screens
appropriate to the crime and gathering of photographs and sound as appropriate
by the tablet. Once that is entered into the big database in real time it is
available for supervision and further work by colleagues.
This leads to another important aspect of modern policing:
police performance and police accountability to the general public. The real
time situation awareness obviously aids appropriate responses to vulnerable and
repeat victims but this goes beyond that to spatial-temporal analysis of the
public’s demand for policing and the way in which police respond to that
demand. The comprehensive recording of that public demand and the police
activity in response to it that is feasible in second generation big data
systems allows sophisticated analysis to take place that can be made available
to the public.
Lastly the real challenge in the next two to five years is
the transition phase between the first and second generation systems. On the technical
side, legacy systems need to be phased out seamlessly to the user. This requires
bespoke software systems that allow data to be migrated to new hardware whilst
maintaining 24/7 functionality. This software ideally needs to be open-source to
minimise licensing costs and allow co-operation between service providers.
These are exciting times.