With no end to the savage cuts being made by the current government, Chris Price tells CIO UK in a profile interview that mobile technology is crucial for cash strapped police forces to provide their service. Price has just completed a three-year contract as CIO for the UK second largest police for, West Midlands Police.
Prior to the existing government coming to power West Midlands Police expected to make savings of around £40m over a four-year period, however the coalition required a cut of over £126m. “That is a fair old chunk in anyone’s business,” Price says.
“How do we invest sensibly to reduce our cost to serve? Through the better use of technology and information, and we have done a lot of the heavy lifting through restructuring. For example, we no longer have 20 command units. What we are trying not to cut is people on the beat,” he said of the traditional Bobbies on the beat voters demand.
But at the end of his contract, Price is honest, there is still a great deal more to do within policing and police technology in particular. “There are tremendous challenges. The forces are very traditional in the way they do things. Some practices are from the dim and distant past. But, they are very interested in change,” he says of the new reality of policing.
“If you were building police technology today you wouldn’t build it that way,” Price argues; a common mantra of CIOs that have inherited major infrastructure legacy and practices.
As well as reducing the number of legacy systems, Price has been focusing on how technology, in particular mobile technology, can improve local policing. “Police officers have what I call an elastic band that means they continually go from and return to the police station to access systems. So how do we mobilise the information they need? We are still paper-driven, and that leads to huge inefficiencies with data quality, so we need much more single point of entry information. And we need to surface that information at the point of use so that we are mobilising the police station experience. But some of that information cannot be seen on the street.
“A beat officer comes in and has a briefing and is told there are people the police want to ‘meet’. Why can’t we make that available on mobiles?”