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Met plod will use 1980s software to police Olympics

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The Metropolitan Police Service will use software from the 1980s to coordinate the command and communications of its policing operations during the London Olympic Games.

The software, known as MetOps, is installed in the force's special operations room (SOR), the central control room providing communications support during more than 500 major incidents and events each year, according to a report (PDF) by the Met into the riots of August 2011.

MetOps, a messaging and recording system, was not designed for dynamic incident management, and means commanders have no simple way to view the latest situation during an evolving incident, the report says.

The age of MetOps system means that it is not linked directly to the software used in the force's central communications centre, known as the computer aided dispatch (CAD) system. "This can result in the central communications centre being unaware of what is being dealt with within SOR, and conversely SOR being unaware of what is being dealt with through the CAD system," says the report.

The system's limitations contributed to a number of issues during the August 2011 riots, the report found, including the inability to monitor key incidents; slow communication with commanders on the ground; the lack of capability to hand over command to the oncoming team; and the inability to log key decisions and rationales for future review.

"These significant limitations coupled with the sheer scale of task around the flow of information, communication and coordination of resources posed an immense challenge for those within SOR, particularly on Monday 8th August," the document says.

The process of replacing MetOps is under way and the force has also proposed some temporary solutions, including a new GIS system which is being trialled to assist with the coordination of resources. The Met is also considering adopting software currently used with live crime investigations for SOR.

The Met's report also highlights the use of CCTV during disturbances. While the document says CCTV proved to be a critical to the investigation of offences committed during the riots, it also says that there were significant challenges because of the sheer volume of footage, an estimated 200,000 hours, that had to be examined.

The police's response to social media is also examined in the report, which notes that a digital communications steering group has been set up by the Met in response to its struggle to monitor social media in real time during the riots. The group wants to use social media to help the police understand what is going on in the community.

This article was originally published at Guardian Government Computing.

Guardian Government Computing is a business division of Guardian Professional, and covers the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. For updates on public sector IT, join the Government Computing Network here.

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