ESSEX Police is pushing ahead with plans to share its IT services with three other police forces.
Agreement has been reached on a four-way collaboration between Essex, Kent, Suffolk and Norfolk, creating the second largest IT unit in the country.
Essex Police and Kent Police already have a joint IT Directorate as part of an advanced collaboration programme covering a number of shared resources.
The new unit, East Coast IT Services (ECIS), will comprise around 375 members of staff providing IT for more than 18,000 employees serving a total population of 4.7million.
Economies of scale in the procurement and management of IT systems show that the more forces can work together with single systems, the greater the savings are, both in capital and revenue costs in the medium to long term.
The aim initially will be to make savings of £3million-£4million over a four-year period. This will be in addition to savings of nearly £6million already made through collaboration between Essex Police and Kent Police IT departments.
These savings are critical at a time when all forces are focusing on creative ways of protecting front-line policing in the face of shrinking budgets.
Eastern region forces are already pioneers in IT collaboration having developed Project Athena, an integrated ‘investigation, intelligence and defendant management system’. It is a leading example of joined-up IT and is the foundation for further collaboration.
The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) is promoting Athena as a ‘champion product’ – one of a short-list of recommended products that all forces in the UK can purchase without undertaking a new and expensive procurement.
This puts Athena at the cutting edge of collaborative working nationally and will mean that the four forces involved in ECIS will be the first to adopt it.
Andy Barker, director of IT for Essex Police and Kent Police, said: “There are huge benefits to be had in joining up IT provision and services.
“Behind the scenes, IT has always had a vital role in operational policing – giving officers and staff the tools to do the job efficiently and effectively.
“Athena will directly help front-line staff to communicate better by reducing the number of systems holding information, ensuring officers have access to the right information to help with decision-making as well as speeding up many processes and systems.
“Aligning IT functions across forces operating different processes and procedures is not a quick job. But, longer-term, the benefits are huge, both in terms of making financial savings to protect the front line and in making our technology do more to support the demands of modern policing.”