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Police ICT: a view from the frontline

Where do frontline officers think the answers to the service?s technology problems lie? Two officers shared their views at this week?s Police Digital Summit
Published - 03/02/2021 By - Gary Mason

Sgt Caroline Hay is a sergeant with City of London Police having transferred from the Met where she joined the service. She is very operational  - with Taser and Public Order tickets  -  but also has a first class honours degree in policing and is on the Board of the National Strategic Policing Review.

She currently works within the force resolution centre, which is intended to centralise most crime recording supervision and scrutiny. Previously she worked on a response team.

Having worked with the Met and the City of London which occupy such a common geographical space she has experienced the problems caused by siloed ICT systems even among such close policing neighbours.

The Met has its own crime reporting information system (CRIS) whereas City uses Niche.

“We still need to access the CRIS system which we can’t currently do through our resolution centre,” she says. “Bridging those silos is such a key thing in policing and something we can definitely improve on.”

She acknowledges that the pandemic has forced the pace of technology change to speed up significantly.

“I have managed to mobilise the whole of my resolution centre to work from home during the pandemic and that would never have happened even a couple of years ago,” she says.

Virtual statements 

An example of another welcome change is the switch to virtual statements since the start of the pandemic which can be used in court. City is also able to use the link to send CCTV footage back and forth virtually.

While progress has been made there is always more to do she says. She needs to access 10 different ICT systems regularly to fulfil her role.

She says officers are usually inputting information onto force systems “at the dead of night when they are exhausted” and duplication is the most frustrating aspect of that work.

“People talk about fantastic digital capabilities that are being built but for officers on the ground it is all about getting the basics right,” she says. “I still have officers threatening to throw their laptops out of the window because that basic technology isn’t there.”

Back to basics 

That means data should only have to be inputted once and not onto multiple systems. “I also shouldn’t have to email that report over to another force to tell them ‘this is your crime’. There should be much easier links to do that and it would save so much officer time,” she adds.

Sgt Hay said she was recently completing a spreadsheet on Excel but it ended up being so complicated that she had to call a colleague in the Met who then got in touch with Microsoft so solve the problem.

“This is basic spreadsheeting,” she says. “Yes, I have a responsibility with keeping up with technology, which I do, but we do need to get these things embedded and move on at a faster pace than we are doing currently.”

Loss of confidence in tech 

When she came off her response team six months ago she says officers were still having “real issues” using their tablet devices. There were continuous functionality problems with people trying to record incidents remotely and she says officers eventually lost confidence in the technology.

“They then had demands from management saying they were only inputting 30% of their data on the tablets,” she says. “If you don’t start using them we are going to discipline. Whereas the scenario was that the officers didn’t think the devices were working for them.”

Having an easily accessible contact for individual officers to have technology problems sorted out would also be a significant advantage. In the area Sgt Hay worked in the Met they had technology cafes where those problems were resolved.

She also makes the

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