Pushing digital transformation

Policing Minister Damian Green believes the Digital Pathfinders programme across the police service is driving increased digitisation in reporting and dealing with crime. Speaking at the College of Policing last week, he said digital technology has the power to transform policing completely and has an “ambition that all forces are ‘digital’ by 2016”.

Nov 20, 2013
By Paul Jacques
Haroon Iqbal

Policing Minister Damian Green believes the Digital Pathfinders programme across the police service is driving increased digitisation in reporting and dealing with crime. Speaking at the College of Policing last week, he said digital technology has the power to transform policing completely and has an “ambition that all forces are ‘digital’ by 2016”.

And Mr Green said digitisation should not mean simply making a paper form into a PDF and emailing it across to someone else in the criminal justice system (CJS). Or worse, he added, recording digital evidence and then copying it onto three CDs, and sending one of them across to the CJS by post.

“If this is still happening in your force, it shouldn’t be,” he said.

“This should be about re-imagining policing. At a very practical level, it means that rather than just putting the desktop interface onto a smartphone, it means totally redesigning it so it is natural and instinctive for the user, like Surrey [Police] has done with a front end user interface. Using tap and slide functions like the devices officers and most of us have at home means there is little need for instruction manuals and a greatly reduced need for training.

“I am delighted that the college’s own National Policing Vision for 2016 supports this. I think we have only scratched the surface of what we can achieve with digital technology in policing.”

The college is in the early stages of developing a national police app store that will enable police officers and police staff to use apps on their mobile devices as part of their work. It is also developing national mobile knowledge apps in the form of digital aide memoires.

The Government’s Digital Pathfinders initiative encourages police forces to adopt digital solutions as part of their modernisation.

Organised by the College of Policing in partnership with the National Policing Business Lead for Information Management, Chief Constable Simon Parr, and the Home Office, last week’s event brought together police forces and police and crime commissioners (PCCs) to share good practice in exploiting new technology to deliver efficient frontline policing.

Around 30 forces have now signed up to be ‘digital pathfinders’, said Mr Green.

“Officers need to be able to routinely access information out on the street to cut crime without wasting time going back to the station. At the same time the public need to be able to access the police in a way and at a time that suits them,” Mr Green told the conference.

“Just think about how much the way we shop has changed over the last decade. We choose what we want online, choose when it is delivered to us, or choose where and when we want to collect it from.

“Why should we still expect people to come into the police station to report a crime and give evidence when they might be able to do it online? Thankfully, the answer is we don’t.”

He highlighted how Sussex Police already allows the public to report crime and incidents online and how Avon and Somerset Constabulary allows the public to track the progress of their crime online.

Avon and Somerset Constabulary is also one of more than 20 forces exploring an e-commerce online payment system so that it easier to pay for firearms and potentially other licences. This will save the public from filling in paper forms and having to make a trip to the station to make the payment.

“This sort of service is not remotely new in the commercial world, or in fact, in other parts of government, but this is a quite significant step forward to digitisation in the policing environment,” said Mr Green. “They have also put in place a new human resources system which understands police regulations, allowing them to automate all salary payments. It allows officers to book on and book off and, subject to supervision, their payments automatically update – cutting out the need for officers to claim overtime manually.

“Forces are thinking about how they can use and provide publicly available information. For example, British Transport Police uses social medi

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