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HMIC seeks legal expertise for police interoperability ‘network code’

Neil Merrett Published 20 February 2017

Final draft of voluntary arrangement intended to be completed by March to begin setting out collaborative police ICT approach that could impact major projects, including ESN

 

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is seeking legal expertise to draft a voluntary, but binding network code mechanism governing the design, procurement and operation of ICT to support “true interoperability” in how forces adopt technology.

Building on calls last year from Sir Thomas Winsor, the chief inspector of constabulary, the code is seen as following in the footsteps of a number of other public sector bodies in improving organisational efficiency via technology standards.

As part of the tender, which is undertaken in conjunction with the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), the closing date for applications is set for March 3, with the agreement intended to have a final draft of the arrangement by the end of the same month.

“The purpose and overriding principle of the network code should be true interoperability and the efficient, economical and effective establishment and reform of ICT standards and ICT procurement, and the good faith of all in policing in working to achieve that,” noted CCS in a statement of requirements for the tender.

With the tender process underway, HMIC is expected to work with stakeholders such as the Police ICT Company, the National Police Technology Council and the wider ICT industry on the code.

It is understood that no comparable code or mechanism has previously been put in place for forces.  However, the Home Office has published a Strategic Policing Requirement that set out broad ambitions for improved consistency and connectivity between systems and operations.

Although at an early stage with regard to the full scope of how the code can meet aims for shared decision making by forces over how they use technology, it is understood that parties involved in key communications projects like the under development Emergency Services Network (ESN) are being consulted on the mechanism.

Henry Rex, programme manager for justice and emergency services with industry association techUK, said the work reflected a long recognised concern that the separation of forces and their operations by regional boundaries did not reflect how criminals operate in the UK.

“If implemented, the network code would lead to the establishment and reform of ICT standards and ICT procurement, which would have a material impact on suppliers of technology to police,” he said in a statement.

“Efforts to improve interoperability and streamline the procurement of tech in policing are always welcome, and it will be interesting to see, once the network code is drafted, whether police forces become signatories to it,” Rex added.

Speaking in November at the Annual Joint APCC and NPCC Conference about the possibility for a network code to underpin police ICT initiatives, Sir Thomas Winsor argued that there was a desperate need for an instrument to support force system interoperability.

“One of perhaps the biggest golden keys to greater police effectiveness and efficiency is a radical improvement in police ICT – its specification, its procurement, its use and its development over time,” said Winsor.

“I suggest we can all agree that the 43 force model of policing in England and Wales has been a serious obstacle and drag on the police establishing a truly efficient and well functioning system for the flow of information and intelligence across force boundaries."

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