Joined-up justice is a rallying call that many in the sector’s technology community will recognise both as an ideal – we’d all support a seamless transition from investigation to disposal – and as a source of frustration. When the MoJ and the Home Office both have a stake, projects and programmes run slowly. The new government offers potential for change, and there are a number of areas which police CIOs and the industry should consider anew.

Over the last six years, we have had a comparatively laissez-faire Prime Minister, whose ministers have run departments, and collaborated with colleagues, as they saw fit. While May has left a clear imprint on the Home Office, the MoJ has veered from liberalism under Clarke, to tough talk and failed initiatives under Grayling, to wonkish reform under Gove. This discontinuity – and the poor personal relationship between May and Gove, stemming from his time at DfE – has made it difficult for policing to have a consistent and effective voice in criminal justice reform.
Things are different now. May has a reputation as a micromanager, who neither forgives nor forgets. Amber Rudd and Liz Truss are likely to be issued with clear steers on the topics that vexed the new PM in her Marsham Street days. And there’s no reason to think that they’ll rebel: both have been given substantial promotions which they owe entirely to May.
That’s not to say that either are lightweights, or will lack opinions of their own. Truss in particular shows a Gove-like fondness for radical change. She made waves at education and DEFRA, and prior to politics worked at Reform, where she co-authored the ‘A New Force’ report, arguing that the Met should be given authority over serious and organised crime. But the omens for collaboration are good.

So what should police technology leaders hope for? Digital evidence management is an obvious area where there has been discord. The police service has been forced to accept that it needs to dance in unison to an MoJ tune, and that this will eventually mean each constabulary presenting structured case data electronically, to an identical set of standards. But the MoJ’s Common Platform Programme has meandered, and many police forces need to make investment decisions on body-worn camera platforms and digital evidence capture right now. The Digital First programme is capturing plenty of data on force intentions and requirements through its landscape review. This body of research could now result in a more flexible approach from the CPP architects, recognising that police evidence management will never be static, and can’t evolve at the same speed in all forces.

Out-of-court disposals are another area where enforced harmony between Truss and Rudd could favour joined-up technology initiatives. The MoJ review of cautions, community resolutions and penalty notices was kicked off by Grayling and it’s not clear how police force trials of suspended prosecutions were being assessed under Gove. Hopefully, the police service voice in shaping out-of-court disposals will now be substantially louder. IT leaders may want to think about electronic monitoring to enforce curfews and area exclusions. They may also consider data analytics to support variable penalties based on ability to pay, as used in other jurisdictions. Whatever approaches are favoured locally by the PCC and the chief, smart use of technology can help police disposals to be effective and proportionate.

May’s knowledge of police bugbears could also drive change in other sectors. Perhaps she will think about toughening the obligations on the NHS and other public bodies to provide information about individuals in breach of bail, or about changing the circumstances under which police stations are treated as places of safety under the Mental Health Act; there are plenty of issues of this kind. What matters from a technology perspective is that changed relationships between policing and other public services will bring new processes to be supported, and if the changes are helpful to the service, it will need to provide the associated IT platforms.

We should also consider what the transition from May to Rudd will mean for policing’s internal IT issues. In theory, the likes of Stephen Kavanagh and Mike Barton are the ultimate arbiters of technology requirements, and the PCC-owned ICT Company is the source of authority on procurement, so the role of Home Office mandation should be limited. In practice, there are plenty of areas, from ESN to NLEDS and biometrics, where police ICT chiefs will need to calibrate Marsham Street’s appetite for enforcing standards.

And there are numerous programmes and agendas which May has driven within policing and which have affected information management and reporting. Domestic violence, use of force, modern slavery, stop and search – in each case, May has required change, and the data to prove it.

Finally, there’s the ever-present issue of regionalisation, collaboration and clustering. It’s taken the service some time to realise that IT is not a simple ancillary function like dogs or underwater search, to be consolidated with a neighbouring force and yield immediate savings. Rather, it is crucial to business change, and unless there’s a shared approach to transformation, shared IT will founder. Meanwhile, there are significant IT implications whenever a new structure is imposed on collaborative areas such as high-tech crime, serious and organised crime, or counter-terrorism.

In each of these three domains, the question will be whether Rudd seeks to make a mark. And the answer is likely to be that she will have her hands full with whatever she considers realistic among the initiatives that May has instigated, and it would be a surprise to see any completely new themes emerge. After all, she will have other things on her plate, not least a brand new, post-Brexit, immigration strategy. This should mean continuity for the Home Office programmes and for NPCC’s currently favoured pan-policing structures. It implies that the organic collaboration model will survive in its current, piecemeal, form. And it suggests that the policing objectives which have informed information management over the last few years will remain in place, meaning that forces can invest with confidence in systems to support them.