Annual survey of officers finds that inadequate IT is prevalent
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Only half of UK police officers claim that they can rely on the data held on their force’s computer systems, according to the results of the annual Police ICT User Survey.
The survey of 48 forces, and nearly 4,000 participants, was commissioned by police governance organisation CoPaCC, with the support of the Police Federation and the Police Federation of England & Wales, and the Police Superintendents’ Association and the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents.
The subsequent damning report found that only two-thirds (65%) of officers were able to access a computer at work when they needed to, 63% were unhappy with the quality and timing of training they needed to use the equipment, and only 30% felt their force invested wisely in technology. Just 18% thought that their policing systems were well integrated.
More than half – 55% – were not happy with their force’s overall ICT, with only two percent completely satisfied with their ICT services.
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The survey also allowed participants to answer open questions, and some of the answers went further in explaining the frustration felt by police staff when it came to ICT.
One police staff member reiterated one of the common issues to plague police ICT for many years – of disparate systems which are not integrated, stating that she had to use up to 20 different police and external database systems, which meant an equal number of passwords and user names to keep track of.
“As far as I’m aware, none of these systems are able to talk to one another,” she said.
Simon Kempton, technology lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: “The overall picture is not a pretty one with officers trying to fight crime with out-of-date equipment which is not even compatible with the systems used in neighbouring forces. Procurement is also a massive issue, with millions being wasted on the wrong equipment. As one superintendent in the survey puts it, they take years developing systems which too often fail to deliver when off-the-shelf products would do so in 80-90% of cases right away.”
He added: “Poor training provision is another problem area, as is pointless duplication with officers forced to input the same data multiple times on separate systems. In 2018, when we are surrounded by virtual-reality products, people are using driverless cars and robots are carrying out life-saving operations, this lack of joined up functionality in policing is a disgrace.”
Despite the overwhelmingly negative responses, CoPaCC chief executive Bernard Rix said that in comparison to last year’s survey, there has been a “very slight improvement”, for example in providing more mobile devices. However, he emphasised that the picture was very similar to last year, which was “disappointing”.