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Existing national police organisations and their IT systems should be transferred to a new body, according to a report.

The National Policing Agency would be created by merging the National Policing Improvement Agency and those parts of the Association of Chief Police Officers that currently coordinate or deliver national policing services. Both the NPIA and ACPO run national policing ICT systems on behalf of forces in England and Wales.

The recommendation is made in Arrested Development: Unlocking change in the police service, an Institute for Public Policy Research report published on 26 November 2009, which says that years of investment by successive governments has failed to significantly improve policing.

The National Policing Agency would have powers to ensure that police forces collaborate to tackle complex and serious criminal activity that crosses force borders, and to improve efficiency.

Information systems across the 43 forces in England and Wales need to be converged, says the document, so there is a core national system with common guidelines. Forces should not be able to invest in new systems that are incompatible with a national convergence strategy.

Better systems and processes can also improve the relationships between police and citizens, says the report. It calls for greater public access to police data and more use of social media to open up new lines of communication and collaboration between police and the public.

Social media can also enhance responsiveness, according to the document, by giving the public simpler ways of reporting issues to the police. The documents points to intermediary sites like www.reportmyloss.com which can help the police gather community intelligence more easily.

Although some forces are using new media in innovative ways, the findings show there is often a reluctance to communicate with the public in this way, and many forces retain a "top down mentality" about communication.

Rick Muir, a senior research fellow at IPPR and author of the report, said: "Unless the way the police are organised and governed is transformed, any substantive programme of reform will suffer the same fate as those that preceded it: opposition within different parts of the service followed by a government 'U-turn' for fear of a politically costly conflict with the police.

"The first reform priority therefore has to be to design a system of governance that is value for money, more coherent and less fragmented and that empowers local and national leaders to deliver change in the public interest."

This article was originally published at Kable.

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