Police ICT Company chief targets accredited procurement catalogue
Building on existing work for broader national focus on interoperable systems, company aspires to take a wider framework-style approach to standardised technology procurement
The Police ICT Company has outlined its longer-term aims to create a catalogue-style procurement service to provide accredited, standardised technologies such as body worn video equipment that can be selected by forces to support a more interoperable approach to working.
In an interview with Government Computing, the organisation’s chief executive Martin Wyke said his longer-term aim for the organisation was to help implement a catalogue of products and services. This could be opened up to new entrants that undertake a validation and verification process for agreed requirements needed by UK forces.
“Once it’s out there, almost like a framework agreement, that’s taking a lot of legwork away. So the forces don’t go and have to do their own procurement deal,” he said.
With the aims still under consideration, the chief executive said no such decision had been made on who may undertake potential accreditation of testing, or whether it might be overseen by the Police ICT Company, supported by the Crown Commercial Service.
Wyke pointed to previous approaches to technology, such as the procurement of the Niche Custody, Case File, Crime and Intelligence (CCCI) solution, where nearly every force to adopt the technology had done so under different terms and conditions, as well as being implemented in different ways.
“The Eastern Midlands is now on one version of Niche. Five forces have aligned their business processes and gone to one instance. City of London [Police] have recently signed with Niche as their core RMS. It’s going on to that same version,” he said.
“That means a force has chosen Niche, but what they are not saying is they are so different that they have got to justify 2000 changes.” Wyke argued that this approach had allowed forces to align costs with those of other adopters.
The comments follow the second ever second Police ICT Summit held in Leicestershire last week that saw over 300 stakeholders from policing and technology sectors, including a number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), coming together to look at challenges around transformation.
Working alongside the National Police Technology Council, the summit included sessions around trying to modernise ICT and the best practice for collaboration, as well as considering how to optimise software spending.
Supplier-led workshops were also held, with organisations such as HP and Adobe leading their sessions alongside smaller “boutique” technology providers, who were given time to showcase their potential to work with forces on supporting more interoperable systems.
Building on the summit, Wyke said a key priority for the company, as well as wider forces, over the next twelve months would be in looking at producing standards for suppliers to both work and contribute too.
He described the company’s overall role as trying to serve as an “intelligent client function”, stressing this did not equate to functioning as an end-to-end IT organisation, but as an body that would seek to bring stakeholders and experts together.
However, for at least the short to medium-term, Wyke said this role would not see the company acting as a large systems integrator, data centre owner, or a company that employs development teams.
“What we’re not saying is one solution fits all, or one size fits all, but actually if you’ve got those open standards and they are clearly understood, it means you can integrate best of breed and there are choices then for forces to make,” he said. “So standards are an absolute key priority for the next twelve months”.
Representing a more national approach to technology implementation and planning in the police, Wyke maintained the Police ICT Company was unable to mandate solutions or ways of working, but could help share knowledge and expertise to outline best practice transformation plans.
“What I’m not here to do is challenge the number of police forces. What I can say though is irrespective of that number of forces, their needs can be met with fewer ICT platforms that can exist today,” he argued.
“There is something in the region of 150 data centres across policing. We should be gravitating towards none and making use of cloud technology and sharing and utilising resources, but it’s been very independent and isolated.”
Wyke was confident that UK policing was now seeing much more joint problem solving, yet noted this was not without further potential political and technical challenges moving forward.
“It does mean that people have to be prepared to compromise in some way in the short-term for long-term advantage,” he said,
Wyke pointed to a particular challenge in changing perceived wisdom and thinking around policing, particularly in what he described as a tension between local and national players.
“[This is] Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) being elected by their local citizens on behalf of their local citizens, you know having to wrestle with the fact that it might be better to do something on a national basis, which might be at the detriment of local citizens in the short-term, but ultimately benefit them more longer-term,” he said.
“So how do you resolve those different drivers as opposed to technology? Because technology is not going to be the issue. It’s really around giving up sovereignty, hearts and minds, different ways of leading, as well as culture and ethos. That’s the big challenge for me.”
From outside of the confines of the Police ICT Company, front line associations accepted a need for interoperable system adoption, as well as acceptance of local approaches at a national level.
Simon Kempton, technology lead for the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), said that all forces throughout the country were committed to have standardised systems, but this required a focus on several key areas such as ensuring service reliability, as well as supporting information sharing between police and the wider criminal justice system.
The federation also backed ensuring limits on the number of individual systems in use as possible.
Kempton took the example of a mobile device of making use of mobile devices to perform functions such as issuing a ticket that can have access to local systems to share nominal records in a bid to curb time to perform tasks.
“Another essential element to any ICT system is to ensure the users are trained. It is absolutely key that all officers receive full and comprehensive training for all the products they will need to use, so as to ensure they can carry out their job properly,” he said.
“A technology nirvana is something we are yet to achieve, but it is essential we all understand that technology should be an addition to good policing, not a replacement for it.”