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Police Need More Cyber Savvy, says Independent Inspectorate

Low levels of digital skill, legacy IT systems and a lack of focus on growing cybercrime have all been highlighted as requiring attention in the latest independent audit of the UK’s police forces.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary’s Peel: Police efficiency 2016 report claimed that most forces had “some understanding” of new and emerging crimes like cybercrime, as well as “processes in place to analyse some of the factors that influence changes in demand.”

But it added:

“However, in common with our findings in relation to internal demand, few forces have robust or consistent processes to identify or assess the effect that these changes are likely to have…

As workforces have reduced in size and crimes such as modern slavery and cybercrime have made policing more complex, it is increasingly important that forces not only deploy the right numbers of officers and staff to meet demand, but also deploy officers and staff with the right skills.”

However, those digital skills remain a “significant gap” in many forces, with few using the option of tech-savvy volunteers to help out, the report claimed.

If used correctly, technology should be able to stretch limited budgets further by freeing up officers to spend more time on the streets – for example they could use mobile devices to fill out forms and other case work without needing to return to base, the report said.

It added:

“Policing depends on all of these complex ICT systems and connections being accessible and effective, while also helping to make operational and business improvements. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Many forces that adopted new technology early on now have outdated systems that hold them back.”

The report also urged police forces to improve sharing of data and ICT systems, claiming that it was vital to establish consistent standards here.

Only two forces were labelled “outstanding” – Durham Police and West Midlands Police. They were commended for looking into areas of crime typically under-reported, like cyber.

Durham Police in particular was praised for carefully considering how its future workforce and ICT capabilities will be integrated.

The report added:

“The constabulary has an ambitious and comprehensive ICT strategy that is closely aligned with its workforce and service plans. Investment in ICT will enable the constabulary to carry out work it is already doing more efficiently and improve the way it provides services.”

Henry Rex, techUK’s programme manager for Justice and Emergency Services, agreed that the police urgently need to develop new skills and capabilities to tackle modern cybercrime.

“It is critical police forces develop a robust plan for identifying and addressing skills gap within forces. The tech industry stands ready to work in partnership with the police to ensure they have the appropriate resources, capabilities and digital skills to implement such a plan to combat crime in this digital age,” he added.

“We know this is a challenge not only common to the police, but across the public sector, as its grapples with reform and digital transformation. Industry, government and law enforcement agencies must continue to work together to ensure we are able to best serve the public.”

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