2011 will probably go down as the Annus horribilis for the Metropolitan Police as it was revealed to be at the centre of too close a relationship with the newspaper empire of Australian Rupert Murdoch. An investigation by the Met into Murdoch’s papers use of phone hacking failed to bring the newspaper to justice and instead the investigative journalism of another newspaper eventually forced the government to set up an inquiry which resulted in more embarrassing revelations for the Met. This was followed  by the summer riots when the police lost control areas like Hackney and Croydon resulting in fires and looting that have damaged the livelihoods of many.

However, it is in difficult times such as these that a good CIO stands out and Ailsa Beaton has been pushing through a transformation of processes at the Met that are clearly needed and the CIO has kept a steady eye on her watch while the organisation was rocked by shock after shock. It should be noted that there were highlights for the Met in 2011, the Royal Wedding was a much needed policing success and terrorism threats remain low.

The force employs 32,300 offic¬ers, according to its own website. The manpower divides into 14,200 acting police officers, 230 traffic wardens and 4300 ¬Police Community Support Officers. Where it once had responsibility for a population below two million, today Met police officers cover a 620 square mile area that has a population of over seven million.

The Met is not only a big police force for the nation’s biggest city, it is arguably the most important police force in the UK due to the extra responsibilities it carries out on behalf of national policing. Counter-terrorism policing in the UK is the responsibility of the Met, as is the daily protection of the Royal Family and senior members of the government.

Beaton’s role is CIO and director of information and it’s a busy role: as a public sector CIO she’s busy trying to reduce costs in line with coalition government demands, while preparing the city police for the Olympics of 2012. As with many CIOs who came into the public sector in 2000, she ¬inherited an organisation that needed some core modernisation.

The Directorate of Information (DoI), is res¬ponsible not only for the delivery and management of the IT required to run the Metropolitan Police, but is also a hub for information management and provides the Met with detailed information analysis which is used directly in policing decision-making. This information management role ensures police officers receive accurate information at the time it’s needed.
At the heart of Beaton’s department is the Metropolitan Police Service ICT strategy for 2010 to 2017, which as Beaton explains is a classic alignment exercise of stating how IT plays a part in the over-arching plans of the force.

“The latest plan looks at the investments for system replacement and new areas of IT benefit, particularly where we can reduce costs and improve the use of the assets, which needs to be done across the organisation,” she says.

The DoI plan is an introduction to the Met since Beaton joined the force and she credits them as central to the modernisation that has swept through the force in the last decade.

The DoI has a staff approaching 1000 as well as over 120 contractors, and provides the Met with three services: IT, information services and technical services. ¬Information services deals with information compliance like the Freedom of Information Act, while technical services ¬ensures that the Met has CCTV images from security companies beamed into its control room at events such as the recent Royal Wedding.

Before Beaton joined the Met in 2000, the force had a Director of Technology, whose role was geared towards the functions and devices the police could use, ¬including what panda cars were on the fleet. Her role is more strategic, offering a view of the information and infrastructure that operate the Met.

The CIO 100 panel agreed that Beaton’s role is a tough one but her single-minded focus on the role of information and the transformations IT offers any organisation were worthy of a place in the top 20.

Read the CIO interview: 

CIO Profile: Met Police CIO Ailsa Beaton on keeping pace with London's policing

Met Police CIO Ailsa Beaton