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Commissioner kisses Met goodbye, says it's set to be 'best digital police force'

Never mind the cock-ups

Metropolitan police image via Shutterstock

Outgoing London Met police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe claims to be leaving the service on track to be the "best digital police" force with the arrival of long-awaited smart devices this summer.

In his valedictory speech on Valentine's Day at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, he said the digital "vision" is "one of the biggest and most ambitious change programmes in the country".

He said the UK capital's force will provide realtime information to officers via smart devices; transform digital channels for public interaction; and improve the quality of data police receive and allow them to "work smartly from better but fewer" buildings.

The digital plan will also help cops analyse info coming into the control rooms by different channels, such as live CCTV feeds, data from automatic recognition of number plates, social media and information from the public, he said.

Consequently, Hogan-Howe said he has "pushed hard to equip our officers with secure smart devices – tablets, phones, laptops – which will begin in earnest this summer".

"Officers with the live-video streams we can see in the control room up-to-the-moment images of suspects or incidents they are about to encounter, realtime data from automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) and the other intelligence feeds we have," he said.

"This multi-channel capability offers huge potential to improve our ability to understand situational risks and to use data quickly to make the correct judgement to protect vulnerable people."

The ANPR database is part of plans to consolidate a number of large databases into a single "platform" in order to "protect victims and spot potential links to other crimes". That will bring together the Police National Computer, Police National Database and ANPR systems.

But the Met has also seen a number of IT cock-ups during Hogan-Howe's tenure. Last year it admitted to having spent more than £100m on 37 technology projects that have been either stopped or need to be "corrected" as part of its "project cull" strategy.

The force also canned its £90m command-and-control system responsible for handling 999 calls with Northrop Grumman following major delays to the contract.

The Met is currently in the middle of its Total Technology Project infrastructure programme, which aims to cut IT costs by £200m over three years.

However, the Met's deputy commissioner, Craig Mackey, has acknowledged that the force's IT strategy, which includes slashing jobs in a mega-outsourcing deal with Steria, is not without risk.

Nevertheless, the outgoing commish told delegates he was "excited by the potential of digital policing".

He said: "We've already used social media to mobilise taxi drivers in Marylebone to help us catch criminals and we're about to go live with a new website that will allow the public shortly to report far more crime online in a way that will be easier for them and us.

"We're moving on to allow the public to upload evidence to us of a crime, like videos or photos."

Hogan-Howe boasted that the Met now has more officers equipped with body-worn video cameras "than any other police force in the world, 7,500. And in a matter of months, that will rise to 22,000".

He added: "They let courts see what happened in an incident and the evidence captured means our officers are even bigger fans than the public. They accept, as I have always done, that our duties include being held to account and that's why I welcome the role that modern technology can play in ensuring this is done fairly." ®

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