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APCC lead Commissioner for digital technologies on data and tech

Lancashire PCC Andrew Snowden was appointed the APCC’s lead for the Police Technology and Digital portfolio this year. He tells Police Oracle the changes he wants to see moving forward.

Moving away from a focus on tech and towards a focus on data was a key theme during this year’s Police Digital Summit, and it’s something that’s supported by the APCC’s lead for the Police Technology and Digital portfolio.

Lancashire PCC Andrew Snowden, who recently took over the role from PCC Matthew Barber, is keen to re-focus the conversation away from technology and towards the use of data.

He told Police Oracle that a lot of the upcoming projects in this area are looking at “creating data tunnels” between major national databases.

“Technology is just the enabler,” he said.

“What it’s about is building the platforms so that information can be made more readily available – including for those frontline officers out there doing their job. We need to make sure that they are able to get much easier access to the information they need regardless of where that information is currently held in the country and who owns it.”

Last week, London’s Violence Reduction Unit identified that collecting more data on homicides could help with prevention. Similar arguments have been made previously with other crime areas such as youth violence.

The Serious Violence Duty, in the Sentencing and Crime bill, puts a stronger duty on health, schools, local authorities and other agencies to share information. However, previously Police Foundation Director Rick Muir told Police Oracle that a risk-averse culture across government is a “long-standing problem”.

“It’s the fear of what happens if something goes wrong. There’s a lot of risk aversion around information sharing,” he said.

“The legal advice is ultra-safe on data protection. The incentives are aligned with not sharing.”

On sharing within the service, PCC Snowden said that the rollout of Microsoft 365 will be a big help, but only so long as people are trained in all it’s capable of doing. Meanwhile, the fact it was rolled out in many other sectors before policing means it’s probably not “something we should be high-fiving ourselves about” and is testament to how difficult it can be to roll solutions out across 43 regional forces.

“Being blunt, the public safety portfolio nationally has not had a good track record around delivery and budget management,” PCC Snowden said.

“We're spending hundreds of millions of pounds on the public safety commissioning portfolio, everything from Airwave and its replacement to all the different projects that are on the go now.

“For me, it's about making sure that we are getting value for money for the existing programs and projects and that they are actually starting to deliver some of the big technological improvements. And then that we are actually commissioning things that policing wants and needs – making sure it’s service-led and not government-pushed.”

A lot of what needs to be done, he said, is around police infrastructure that needs updating, with so much of it being either at end of life or near end of life. He wants to use the opportunity of updates to refresh and build in additional capabilities.

Once the equipment is in place – the next step is making sure data is of the right quality and has the right governance and ethics around it.

NPCC Data Quality Portfolio lead Jo Farrell is currently undertaking work around operational management data.

She told this year’s Police Digital Summit that policing needs to see a shift away from officer numbers and towards officer expertise.

“We would be able to do [this] better and collaborate about data specialists if we likened it to a firearms’ response,” she said.

“We share specialist capability in those huge areas. That’s the domain we need to be in around data specialists.”

PCC Snowden said last week that this is about “continuous training and retraining”. He added that often when roll-outs go wrong, it’s because sufficient time and energy hasn’t been put into the training and user access.

“If you don't train people in how to use new technology- and not just on the basics of how to use it, but also what the additional functionalities are and how it can help make their life easier or do their job better, then that becomes money that was wasted.

“It comes down again to the nature of British policing, having all the different national agencies, regional agencies and 43 territorial forces- it means that training will vary. That's why so much work needs to be done through this portfolio working on the implementation phases of technology, not just the development phases of technology.”

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