Services > BPO

It's not about IT, it's about the outcomes for the police

Published 29 April 2013

Robert Leach, director, police at Capita's justice & secure services business discusses the possibilities from working in partnership with police forces


The last few months have signified a sea change in the policing landscape, notably with the appointment of police and crime commissioners and what that means in terms of individual forces' attitudes to information technology (IT) and business procurement.

We recently received a request from one force asking whether we could supply its officers with smartphones. The answer to this question was, of course, yes. But when we asked further, it was clear that meeting the force's expectations required answers to a few more questions. Did the force really just want the latest smartphones? Or did it want to empower its officers, to achieve better outcomes for the public, by enabling them to have access to the kinds of applications we take for granted in our personal lives? Could the smartphone be integrated into an end-to-end business process, so that an officer could offer a better service to the public?

The likelihood for many forces is that as soon as the conversation moved away from technology specification and into business outcomes, the mood music changes and it becomes easier to find the right IT solution.

Why is this? Historically, the police keep suppliers at arm's length. Suppliers generally deal with IT and procurement departments, with little interaction with the end users. Providers are asked to respond to specifications, as opposed to being asked to propose a solution to a business problem. It can be very difficult for providers to understand the bigger picture and be in a position to propose technology solutions which will integrate with existing systems and platforms.

Sometimes it seems the police's culture that is cautious in its approach and suspicious by nature extends to buying IT - after all, they are trained to investigate people who don't always tell the truth! But with budgets tight, arguably it's now time to close the gap, build the trust with the private sector and make sure that suppliers are in the best position to deliver outcomes, rather than simply responding to output specifications.

Take an example of an everyday incident, such as an assault. Technology underpins the entire process from the moment a call is received. The call handler can locate the nearest officers with the appropriate skills using a command and control solution linked into an HR and duty management system. The officers can take statements, photos and digital evidence using a mobile solution. The case file can be built electronically and victims of crime can access their case on-line. Once the assailant has been arrested and booked in, the interview will be recorded, using translation software if necessary. And so this continues right through to court, rehabilitation and reintegration of the individual.

Some of these processes can already be completed electronically, but the extent to which they are fully integrated varies across the country and no single force has the ability to complete this end- to-end process online. This means that the potential for real IT enablement is not being realised, nor are the savings being delivered, and, most importantly, the public are not getting access to the best service.

Purchasing IT with the right questions asked and the bigger picture in mind will enable police forces to make changes that can have a significant, positive impact on performance, on budgets and on the everyday job satisfaction of officers.

Around a year ago, Staffordshire Police approached us as it wanted to improve the process of expense handling. The conversation wasn't about technology, it was about process. As well as helping them to streamline the back office processes, we put in a solution that meant officers could log on to fill in their claims online.

That was much better for them. It was better too for the payroll team, because claims came in sooner, rather than in a rush at the end of the month. And it was better too for sergeants. Instead of Staffordshire Police approving every expense claim, it made the decision that if officers were trusted to arrest people, they should be trusted to fill in their expenses. The checks and balances are still there, but they've been built into the system.

What seemed like a basic technology change became something far richer than that. It improved processes, improved satisfaction and cut out vast amounts of wasted time. But we were only able to effect this change because we were able to work in partnership with the Staffordshire force from the very beginning.

It may be a misapprehension, but working with the private sector doesn't automatically mean that police forces need to outsource chunks of work, record interviews differently, or request the latest technology. It is about developing appropriate relationships with organisations that focus on delivering outcomes - empowering officers, protecting communities and supporting effective policing.


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