Case, crime, custody, intel platform needed in the constabulary where core policing isn’t really core

Next year, Vigilant Research’s Digital Policing Review will report on the maturity of digital intelligence, investigation and deployment across all the UK’s constabularies. The platforms used for case, custody, crime and intelligence are crucial to assessing all three domains, because maturity tends to correlate with a “golden nominal” single record, and a single master store of POLE (person, object, location, event) information. Even the command and control systems at the heart of digital deployment should be informed by data from the core policing suite: mature mobile working would push situational intelligence to officers about the people and places they will encounter.

So the point when a force chooses a CCCI suite is normally the best opportunity to assess its capabilities and ambitions. City of London Police, though, which has just gone out to market to replace its NSPIS case & custody and UNIFI crime recording & intelligence applications, is decidedly abnormal. By far the smallest territorial force with only 730 officers, and covering just the proverbial square mile, it is answerable to the City of London’s Common Council, elected primarily by businesses. With a quarter of its officers focused on economic crime (including the National Fraud Investigation Bureau) it has more opportunities than other forces to monetise its capabilities, whether from proceeds of crime legislation or from its Enterprise Crime Academy. In extremis, it can turn for cash to the City fathers, appointed from the financial services giants it engages with daily on fraud and counter terrorism, as it did when the ANPR “ring of steel” was devised. All this means that the funding issues which plague tiny constabularies hit less hard here; CCCI will not be a tool for transformational change.

Financial pressures drive some forces to choose their CCCI vendors with collaboration in mind. When forces club together, cross-border deployment and resource sharing becomes easier, and so does investment: Niche forces get their Canadian supplier to commit development resource to common requirements; Athena forces dramatically reduce the bills they pay if and when others join up. But compared with the centrally-funded £33m CoLP has just committed to IBM for a heavyweight intelligence platform to support the NFIB, the £1.2m it will spend over four years on CCCI is relatively inconsequential. And the benefits of collaboration are double-edged in a force whose territorial responsibilities are rather anomalous and could easily be adopted by the Met.

There have been various calls over the years for the Met to absorb CoLP; a restructuring where the Met’s FALCON teams (Sterling, Genesius and Amberhill) joined up with the City’s economic crime divisions would make sense on the face of it. If the NCA was better thought of within the policing sector, many forces would see it as the natural home for national economic crime activity. There’s little political appetite right now for schemes like this, but with mayoral elections and major bunfights over police settlements looming, the successor to departing CoLP commissioner Adrian Leppard might be thinking about independence from the Met as much as about collaboration. While the City force has been relatively happy to piggyback on Lockheed Martin’s CommandPoint implementation, there’s some strategic value in having a CCI suite which differs from the one eventually chosen by the Met programme to support cross-borough efficiency savings. This could have an impact; CoLP may be a little ahead of the rest of us in predicting how its neighbour’s shift from proposing policing-as-a-platform enterprise architecture to investing in COTS will evolve.

Another unique factor is that CoLP is uniquely well placed to support data sharing between police and local authority, yet barely needs to. In the rest of the country, multi-agency safeguarding hub protocols are emerging for communication between adult care, children’s services and policing. Constabularies tend to pick up the tab, and to own the consolidated data stores, but all parties can find that platform and infrastructure disparities are an information assurance blocker. Joined-up data exchange between CoLP and the City of London Corporation should be exemplary: they share a CIO in Graham Bell, and both have their technology provided by Agilisys under a single outsourcing agreement. Fortunately, though, the City’s tiny number of residents, disproportionately well-off and of working age, present comparatively few safeguarding issues. It’s a fair bet that technology enthusiasts in the City and Hackney children’s and adults’ safeguarding boards listen more to the Hackney council and Met contingents than their City counterparts.

Similarly, there’s little foothold here for platform vendors who claim that enhanced citizen interaction and CRM hold the key to improvements in core policing. It’s a plausible prospect, often used to improve the business case for MS Dynamics offerings, from Durham’s Red Sigma through to Capita’s newer generation of products, or to support a master data management approach. A police force with a minimal citizenry is the wrong place for the conversation, though.

All this means that CoLP’s choice of CCCI solution presents as a straightforward shoot-out on a detailed set of capability criteria, with vendors left deciding how many modules to switch on in order to fit within the budget and still score well. With only 10% of the weighting based on factors such as intuitive user experience, mobile working, interconnectivity and auto-population, there’s little room for the issues which define today’s CCCI market to play a major role. Some vendors may not even want to commit expensive in-house resources to the job; an addendum to the tender notice today amended some key contract terms to include subcontractors. This could enable some interesting partnerships to emerge. If pressured to bet on the eventual outcome, we’d probably favour the firm whose SQL platform and desktop UX may not win prizes with the digerati, but which has moved up to 23 forces of late by ticking the right boxes at the right price. It should still be a pretty open contest, though, even if CIOs from other forces aren’t advised to pay too much attention to the outcome.