The UK government has pledged £100m to drive digital transformation in the police force, helping it tackle cybercrime and improve its controversial use of biometrics.
The home secretary has already approved £70m of the Police Transformation Fund allocation to four projects.
A National Enabling Programme will create a unified IT system across police forces to “deliver more joined-up working within and between forces,” while a Digital Policing Portfolio aims to create an online hub where members of the public can report low-level incidents, rather than at their local station.
However, the Specialist Capabilities Programme has the biggest impact in the cyber-policing sphere, aiming to improve resource-sharing between forces.
“In cybercrime, for example, the program seeks to ensure forces can tackle digitally-dependent crime, with oversight provided through regional organized crime units (ROCUs),” the government claimed.
The idea throughout is that these initiatives drive efficiencies and cash savings, freeing up police to focus on frontline tasks rather than being saddled with back-office bureaucracy.
Perhaps the most controversial area to receive funding is biometrics. A Transforming Forensics program is designed to “improve how biometric services and digital forensics are used, including the development of a 24/7, faster, fingerprint identification service.”
It’s an area in which the police in the UK have so far consistently failed.
A Big Brother Watch report from May called on the police to abandon its “dangerous and inaccurate” facial recognition technology after FoI responses from three forces revealed a false positive rate of 98%, despite an investment of millions of pounds of taxpayer funds.
The wider investment in IT for the police force is to be welcomed, although there’s still a concerning dearth of officers trained in cyber-skills, according to several reports.
Most recently thinktank Reform called on the government to create a digital academy to train specialist cyber police officers, and increase the number of volunteers with these skills.
It recommended a new digital academy capable of graduating 1700 officers and staff each year, and an increase in the current 40 volunteers with cyber-skills to 12,000.