The UK Police Force’s investment in and adoption of new technology is “a complete and utter mess”, according to the Home Affairs Select Committee.
The Policing for the Future report, published on Thursday, said that there are “enormous opportunities” for policing such as a greater use of AI and data that the UK police force is failing to take advantage of.
UK Police Tech “Out of Date”
Police officers are also struggling to do their jobs effectively with out-of-date technology. This is not due to a lack of funding, it says, but a lack of coordination and leadership towards making technological upgrades.
“It is astonishing that, in 2018, police forces are still struggling to get crucial real-time information from each other, and that officers are facing frustration and delays on a daily basis,” it reads.
“Stronger national leadership from the Home Office on technology is essential – ministers need to take ultimate responsibility for the failure of this crucial public service to properly upgrade its technology to deal with the threats of the 21st century.”
UK police tech and data-sharing is also hampered between forces, with an inability to introduce and implement new technological and communication solutions in a “joined-up manner”.
The Home Affairs Select Committee heard from Martyn Underhill, police and crime commissioner for Dorset, who said that the introduction of body-worn cameras was a “positive initiative”, but that the technology had been rolled out in a “piecemeal fashion”.
The Police ICT company, formed in 2015 to support UK police tech and ICT projects, has so far made little progress, Underhill added.
Police Unable to Keep Pace With Offenders Online
There is also a lack of cyber-savvy police staff, due to problems with acquiring staff with strong cyber and digital skills, as well as being able to train staff to a level required to match the sophistication of modern cyber offences.
“Forces are facing rapidly-evolving threats from criminals who exploit new technology in advanced and innovative ways, yet their own technological solutions are not always up to the task,” the report reads.
“We have serious concerns about the police service’s digital capabilities, including the skills base of officers and staff and the technological solutions available to them.
“At force level, there is a clear need to upskill the existing workforce and bring in more staff and officers with advanced cyber skills.”
The report quoted the Met Office: “Being able to tackle cybercrime, fraud, and other crimes that take place in a non-physical environment requires a totally new skillset for our officers and staff.”
Police staff who do possess “niche technical skills” are leaving to pursue better paid positions, according to evidence from the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.
The Police Foundation added that analysts and fraud investigators are at the forefront of tackling crime and keeping the public safe, but often have no power of arrest.
The report concluded that a national digital exploitation centre for serious crime would be better able to attract and retain talent, and would have more purchasing power to invest in innovative methods of digital forensics and analysis.
“We call on the government and the police service to take steps urgently to cost such a model, in time to account for the required funding in the next comprehensive spending review.”
Policing minister Nick Hurd earlier this year told the House of Commons that the police is “not where they need to be” to take advantage of new technology, which marks the “biggest opportunity in British policing”.