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ICT : mobile platform helps with DA risk assessments and Interpol checks

The OPTIK lead for both Suffolk and Norfolk Police says that implementing the programme requires a 'cultural change' in terms of how officers work.

Making pocket notebooks accessible via the OPTIK platform is one of the next steps the project lead for Suffolk and Norfolk Police wants to take in what is a long-term journey to digitalise both forces.

OPTIK - the Operational Policing Tool and Information Kit - is a platform  that's accessible to officers remotely.

After first engaging HCL to provide the platform in August 2019, Suffolk and Norfolk have integrated their full command and control system, intelligence functions and crime recording functions.

This means information relevant to all of these areas can now be accessed remotely, and project lead assistant chief constable Eamonn Bridger says that despite the clear progress, "there’s a very healthy roadmap of all the things we’d like to achieve”.

The Suffolk ACC told Police Oracle: "I’ve been leading as the senior responsible officer for two and a half years now, but we’ve had the equipment software for around five years now…so it’s a long-term commitment. 

"It’s rooted in making sure our officers can be as mobile as they possibly can be, giving them access to as many of the old systems and processes as they can have, in handheld devices, whilst dealing with issues and incidents live time."

Beyond integrating command and control - alongside intelligence and crime recording functions - ACC Bridger says they have also recently added domestic abuse modules which enable risk assessments to be completed in "live time".

"Obviously there are some huge benefits to doing that, and overall the benefits of using OPTIK are increased accuracy of data recording – because people are doing it once, rather than multiple inputs...

“Just doing the domestic abuse risk assessment saves somewhere in the region of 20/30 minutes each time we do it – under the old system, we do a paper record, sit with the victim, come back and type it all in…”

Another notable addition, made during the summer, was a live integration with the International Law Enforcement Alerts Platform.

This has allowed officers to access limited INTERPOL data, a move the ACC says was partially informed by changes following Brexit and the withdrawal of the SIS alerts/European Arrest Warrant facilities. 

“Access to certain databases needed to change anyway, that would’ve been one of the initial prod points to say…’this is something we’d like to add’.

Each year the project team plan the design of what could be added to the platform and the Law Enforcement Alerts function became an option.

For frontline staff this equips them to deal with communities in the two rural force areas that are changing with population flux and immigration. 

“We’re seeing much more movement than ever before, and it’s a common issue of not understanding exactly the full intelligence picture of those around you…we want the broadest picture for our frontline staff, so they can understand all the available information and intelligence before they make decisions.

"We have seen circumstances where staff are interacting with people not knowing the overseas history of them, and missed opportunities, whether that be opportunities to apprehend or intervene, or safeguard others."

There are "limits" around what can be accessed; both within the ranks and in terms of "what other agencies are willing to put on there".

As far as next steps go, ACC Bridger says there are "some big modules that we would like to add".

"One is the pocket notebook - [a] huge efficiency in that the accuracy of input would be massively increased, the amount of time spent on producing reports off it...it would be able to self-generate statements, self-generate reports...[it's] a fantastic option for us, we're looking to pursue that - that's one of the next big ones.

"The other one that we're really keen to progress, which is another big change point, is a tasking and briefing system...whereby we would be able to deliver all of our briefing products to frontline staff in a digital way."

This is done in quite a "traditional" way at the moment, and the ACC is keen to "enable and empower people to be able to self-brief from the devices".

Trying to effect a "cultural change" in terms of how officers work has been one of the biggest challenges throughout this process.

While these additions will "definitely benefit them", ACC Bridger stresses that making changes of this nature invariably takes time.

“As a senior police officer, I was always a detective, I’m a homicide investigator that now happens to lead on big digital programmes."

ACC Bridger says this work is an exciting opportunity to give "people the capacity to be able to focus on things we really care about, which is human interactions with victims and doing investigations really thoroughly".

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