Police forces urged to get back to the future

Police forces need to do more to adopt technology and boost digital skills, according to a new report published by the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).

In its PEEL: police efficiency 2016 report, HMIC says forces need to do more to better understand future demand and to ensure that their staff have the necessary skills to deal with that demand.

The annual Efficiency inspection assessed how police forces use their resources now and how they plan to do so in the future. The report adds that forces need to improve their understanding of future demand and link it to their financial and organisational planning, so that they are in a fit shape to face future challenges; the best forces are already doing this.

The two outstanding forces – Durham Police and West Midlands Police – were able to demonstrate a sophisticated level of planning which incorporated an analysis of future demand, including proactively looking for those areas of crime which tend to be under-reported, such as cyber crime. They have a proven ability to develop and deliver change, drawing expertise from both police officers and police staff.

 

Collaboration

Almost every force is able to demonstrate some progress in improving collaborative working with other forces on services such as forensics, but examples of where forces are treating collaboration as an opportunity to improve services for existing or potential victims of crime are fewer. Some forces have been unable to demonstrate the benefits that collaborative working has brought for victims, or for the efficiency of the force, and some may actually be causing the force to perform less well.

 

IT

While almost all forces intend to make use of mobile technology, digital skills remain a significant gap. Police forces continue to struggle with the large number of different IT systems and, in particular, how they work together to share and search for data. Very few forces are focusing on developing their officers’ and staff’s digital skills, despite a universal acceptance that digital skills are becoming an increasingly important part of police work.

HMIC will return to inspect the efficiency of policing in England and Wales in 2017, when we expect to see significant developments in the scale and ambition of forces’ plans to predict and meet demand as crime evolves.

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Mike Cunningham, who led the inspection, said: “Every year, we highlight how important it is for forces to embrace the challenges and opportunities presented by digital technology. It is now imperative that forces agree consistent standards on how they can share systems and data if they are to catch up with current technology and look to develop and evolve in the future.

“There is still scope for forces to transform the way in which they operate and it is vital that the pace and urgency of change continues if we are to have a police force fit to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”

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