GMP to scrap part of troubled computer system

Greater Manchester Police is to scrap a major part of its troubled, £29 million computer system, Chief Constable Stephen Watson has announced.

Mar 23, 2022
By Tony Thompson
Chief Constable Stephen Watson

The iOPS (Integrated Operational Policing System) went live in July 2019, some 19 months behind schedule and was immediately plagued with a wide range of problems that potentially left hundreds of vulnerable people at risk and led to a huge backlog in dealing with crime.

One part of the system, used by senior command and call handlers and known as ControlWorks has largely been rolled out without too much issue. The majority of issues relate to the second part, PoliceWorks, which is a record management system containing intelligence, criminal investigations, custody records and files for court cases.

Issues with iOPS were blamed for the force’s failure to record more than 80,000 crimes – one in five of all reported offences – in the year to June 2020.

A subsequent report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) found that during the implementation of iOPS, difficulties meant the system did not work as effectively and efficiently as intended. The new systems also required staff to adopt new working practices. This combination of systems’ failure and unfamiliar processes substantially reduced organisational and individual productivity.

The report stated: “Many of the staff we spoke to still lack confidence in iOPS and the PoliceWorks system. In particular, problems with the system’s speed and functionality, coupled with issues regarding data quality and the ability to search systems, were major concerns. There were high levels of uncertainty regarding the ‘workarounds’ put in place to resolve some of these problems.

“Officers and staff told us they felt they were being blamed for the backlogs occurring and were not being listened to when they raised concerns. They also told us that communications from the force and the chief officer team could have been better, both generally and in response to specific issues.”

The issues with iOPS saw the force placed into special measures by HMICFRS and forced the resignation of then chief constable Ian Hopkins.

In an email sent to staff earlier this week, Mr Watson wrote: “Upon taking office as the chief constable for Greater Manchester, I committed myself to taking immediate steps to addressing those underlying issues which were undermining our operational performance. One of the most prominent problems to be resolved related to the PoliceWorks element of the force’s IT infrastructure, which controls our records management.

“It was clear from listening to staff feedback, independent assessment commissioned by the mayor and HMICFRS, that PoliceWorks was not meeting our requirements, and was hindering our ability to fulfil essential policing tasks. In addition, the contract for the system was signed in 2016 and is due for renewal in June 2023, so we have reached a favourable time to consider change.

“Following a lengthy review process involving a technical appraisal and a rigorously evaluated options appraisal, I am confident that we have reviewed every option available to us. I have concluded that, while two-thirds of the original iOPs system is working effectively, PoliceWorks cannot be adapted or fixed to fully meet the needs of our organisation. We therefore intend to move away from the PoliceWorks system and to replace it with a tried and tested product already in use by other forces, rather than the development of bespoke technology.

“This decision marks an important step in our plan for a resurgent GMP. I strongly believe the move will provide a lasting benefit to the public, victims and our employees and, based on an assessment of the current market, is likely to be more cost-effective than remaining with PoliceWorks.”

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