First steps in a single Scottish police information network

BT Global Services (BTGS) and the Scottish police forces have implemented the first part of a major IT system that paves the way for a unified, Scotland-wide police information network.

Dec 13, 2007
By Paul Jacques
NFRN national president Narinder Randhawa

BT Global Services (BTGS) and the Scottish police forces have implemented the first part of a major IT system that paves the way for a unified, Scotland-wide police information network.

At present in Scotland, each force operates 27 different applications – from command and control to intelligence gathering to property – and up to 40 per cent of a police officer’s time can be taken up keying and re-keying the same data into these disparate systems.

The police say the contracts with BTGS offer a massive potential to free up police time and return officers to the beat, as well as potential savings of more than £40 million.

The integration of IT services is at the heart of the transformation, and other police forces in England and overseas are said to be interested in the model.

Under the first part of the just-completed arrangement, signed in June for £2 million, BTGS has supplied a storage area network and backup solution to the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA), providing two parallel secure data hubs to host all forces’ information, one in Edinburgh and one in Glasgow.

These will provide secure, upgradeable 24/7 data storage for all forces’ information.

The second contract, valued at £4 million, links the data centres with two separate state-of-the-art fibre-optic circuits, running on opposite sides of the M8. A high bandwidth core network will link all forces within a secure ‘cloud type’ network.

This will give all forces the ability to access data via an ‘array’ of secure network routes and will ensure the data centres will remain in operation, even if one circuit fails, giving Scottish forces and the SPSA an extremely secure and robust means of hosting and accessing police data.

The SPSA was launched in April this year to provide expert support to Scotland’s eight police forces and criminal justice community.

ACPOS (Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland) has endorsed and agreed the ICT strategy that will see all eight forces consolidate their computing and network capacity to deliver a ‘single’ converged systems deployment. To facilitate this strategy, all eight forces will transfer their ICT capability and staff to SPSA on April 1, 2008.

Under the ACPOS programme and via the SPSA, all eight forces will move away from operating their own separate IT applications – such as ‘command and control’ for instance – and begin to use the same applications across all forces.

“This is a huge step forward for policing in Scotland,” said Robert Kirkwood, the ACPOS ICT director.

“By next year we will have the network infrastructure and the storage hubs in place and within two to three years all critical police systems will have been deployed on a national basis. The ICT departments of each force will become integrated with the SPSA next spring and this will give us a superb team to drive the programme forward.”

Mr Kirkwood believes Scotland’s police forces could become a model for the rest of the UK under the programme, which will give many of the benefits of a single Scottish police service, yet continue to allow individual forces to respond to local needs.

Not only will the strategy enable more effective information sharing between forces, but will ultimately transform police officers’ work within each force.

This could help significantly to meet the Scottish Executive’s aspiration to put the equivalent of 1,000 more officers on the beat.

Mr Kirkwood stressed that the programme is much deeper than straightforward shared services.

“We have developed a collegiate approach and are working closely with ACPOS and the Scottish Executive to devise ‘critical paths’ for the collection, control and use of all information related to a crime whether it be for the police, the victim or the criminal justice system,” said Mr Kirkwood, who has 25 years’ experience in large-scale private sector IT programmes.

“This is ground-breaking work. The architecture and infrastructure model we

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