Much is being written about the ‘Confidential Informant‘ culture in the US and it is fair to say that in many ways this is positive. However, as is normally the case, the negative has to be reported and inevitably it is this, which receives the most airtime. Of course, using informants is not just an activity adopted in the US, it is without doubt a global culture.
The difference is the rules that determine how you use informants, particularly when it comes to managing and regulating them. More important is how the risk assessment is considered and measured along with the individual’s rights and welfare. Officers and supervisors have to ensure they have done what is possible to mitigate any risk. The clear documentation of this is important, because if things do go wrong, and a positive trail of management can be followed, it will protect all participants; informants and officers alike.
In the UK the regulation of informants, or sources, is very robust. There is not only legislation, but very clear guidelines on the use and management of sources. In the US, the recent introduction of ‘Rachel’s Law’ is being written into all Florida Police Departments’ standard operating procedures and of course, this brings more transparency and management. Other countries are also following suit.
What I have found interesting is that the use of informants is generally to achieve an objective; to prevent and detect crime. Whether this is simply to record intelligence that can then be fed into the bigger picture, or indeed intelligence that a crime is about to be committed, the means to the end is just the same. Many officers who deal with informants are dedicated professionals with a high level of training. Unfortunately, I suspect where it can fall down, is the lack of ability to accurately record all the details when dealing with an informant. This is important because if clear data and structured information can be recorded and maintained when dealing with informants, the added protection not only to the informant but the officer is incalculable. This is reinforced by a firm but accountable management structure that would come with this type of regime.
It is becoming very obvious that the simple use of a spreadsheet or in-house Access database is not sufficient to manage all the information and requirements asked of officers involved in the handling of informants. A move to a more robust and professionally developed electronic system is going to be necessary. In addition to this, the providers of these systems will also need to have knowledge not only of the electronic system requirements, but a strong awareness of the practicalities of handling informants and the infrastructure that supports the activities along with good comprehension of the business process. Strong and knowledgeable Consultants are going to be the key for this type of task along with the ability to ensure the product to process fit is exact.
It is interesting that the second phase of the UK Government’s consultation process around 21st Century Policing moves on to the subject of procurement. Following Phillip Green’s articles in the paper this morning reporting the significant waste in public sector spending resulting from a lack of intelligent bulk buying, you end up agreeing that local buying is not the way to gain financial benefit as you would in a large multinational. However, those on the other side of the argument will state that “one size does not fit all” and that centralisation of buying tends to discriminate against small local companies that often provide a better quality product at cheaper cost.
So where is the happy medium in this? The recent consultation paper around police buying seems to try and find the middle position, with the introduction of “Procurement Frameworks” utilising the current OGC frameworks. This approach seems fine in principal, but again there are downsides. Firstly, these current large scale frameworks are notoriously difficult to get on to, with most dominated by the larger System Integrator companies, leaving many current suppliers off the radar. Secondly, if you are a small sized company, you can operate through a framework company to provide your products and services, but there is an administrative mark up by the Framework company, which necessarily reduces value for money for the buyer. It is also apparent that due to the value of some of the contracts that go through Frameworks, some of those Framework suppliers find that they do not make enough mark up (which is capped) to make it worth their while.
So what is the solution? Well, Frameworks are a good way of tackling the issue, but at the same time they need to be more open to the types of products and services which the police need and use. There also needs to be a better education programme for Procurement Departments across the country about what options they have on their procurement menu. So many times have we seen that procurement departments have no idea what is available from the Frameworks that are currently in place.
So in principle, Frameworks are the answer, but not in their current form……
Cloud Computing is the hot topic in the IT industry and will have a significant impact on how software will be developed and deployed in the future. There can be no doubt that there is a very real trend toward cloud platforms. Virtualisation, service orientation and the Internet have converged to allow individuals and businesses to choose how they will acquire and deliver IT services.
Used in the right way, Cloud Computing will transform IT delivery within your organisation, helping you reduce cost, increase flexibility and staff mobility. Used in the wrong way, then you run the risk of IT anarchy.
If you don’t have a strategy for how your business can harness and benefit from Cloud Computing, then you really need to start thinking about this now and remember, this is not just about the technology, but the benefits it can deliver to your business.
Cloud Computing is here and is here to stay. It will revolutionise the way we use software and services in our business life and private life.
With the budget potentially hitting Government Departments hard from 2011, what is the impact on Policing? With the Home Office currently receiving a budget of £9.6bn per annum to fund Policing and Immigration/Customs services and the Police currently working with a budget of £5.6bn, a 25% reduction could have an impact of £1.4bn per annum. So what are the options? Some will initially spotlight the NPIA as a possible casualty with its role as policy writer, national systems supporter and training deliverer. There is no doubt that many will ask what the value of the organisation is with its current costs towards £0.5bn per annum. However, the support for core systems and some level of national training will have to lie somewhere so it’s not quite so easy for this current organisation to dissolve completely. There must however be questions over the viabiltiy of some its current initiatives including ISIS. A good policy to look towards standardisation, but can and will Forces be able to afford change?
IT does play a part in this scramble to save money and most should now look as to how proper and efficient use of IT save time and money for frontline officers, possibly enabling the reduction in required numbers over time. However, these sort of cuts require significant strategies and not just re-organising the deck chairs! It has to be time where the service reviews the provision of back office services, including IT, HR, Finance, Fleet Management etc. more radically than before and looks at utilising Shared/CLOUD/Third Party services to deliver these.
We are moving in to a new chapter of policing in the UK where the landscape of service provision to the public will change forever.
Computer Weekly have reported Jos Creese, president of Socitm, as saying that George Osborne’s emergency UK budget fails to take account of the potential efficiency savings that could be realised by better use of IT. Speaking on behalf of ICT professionals in the public sector, Creese is quoted as saying, “arguably, technology is the only ‘silver bullet’ in the armoury of the new government”.
Research commissioned by the KCOM Group has revealed that IT departments are being heavily relied upon to help business out of recession. http://www.theretailbulletin.com/news/it_at_the_heart_of_recovery_from_the_downturn_15-06-10/?u=75956
Rather than being an expensive distraction, IT investment is now expected to deliver real cost savings and efficiency improvements. Intellicase investigation management software is an excellent example of new software that can help investigation departments use their resources more effectively.
Recent publicity over browser vulnerabilities re-enforces the view that it is vital for your system security that you maintain the software levels (especially critical updates) of your chosen browser.
Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) is still widely used in the enterprise, which given the focus information security now has in many organisations, I find surprising. Released in 2001, IE6 has been dogged with issues of security and incomplete support for web standards such as CSS and XHTML, which hinders application development.
Both IE7 and the latest version, IE8, offer huge performance benefits, improved support for web standards and hardened security – something which Microsoft continues enhance for these later versions.
Microsoft has issued advisory notices, telling users to upgrade to IE8 to secure against the vulnerability that allowed hackers to infiltrate and steal source code from some of the world’s biggest technology companies. The French and German government’s recommendation that users move to another browser has certainly added to the weight to the discontinued use of IE6.
There is a wider debate about whether or not users running IE6 should migrate to Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Opera as these browsers are deemed to be more secure and implement common web standards in full, which makes application development and support far easier. However, to say IE7 or IE8 are not good browsers would be unfair. IE7 is a massive improvement on IE6 and IE8 builds on improvements further.
If you are using IE6, then sooner or later you will be forced to upgrade as new web sites and applications simply will not function as new web standards are adopted.
The reasons for not upgrading are usually down to internal costs or that existing deployed applications only work with IE6 and whilst I can sympathise with both of these reasons I believe securing your enterprise and reputation is far more important; therefore, my advice is simple, upgrade now!
Like many I have been watching the increasing debate about Police Officers having to patrol alone as opposed to being in pairs. During my service, I as a rule only patrolled alone and the general rule of thumb was on nights you were paired off. This was done for officer safety. I still live in the Force area where I was a serving police officer and this does not appear to have changed and obviously still works for this Force, however this does not mean it will work for all Forces and, going further, separate Divisions within the Forces. We have seen articles from the Times and the Daily Mail reporting on the issue and in particular how Facebook is being used to gain support for single patrolling to be looked at more closely. It is interesting how modern technology is being utilised to bring information to many, from a single data point and of course many are Police Officers who are accessing the Facebook page. Officer safety is the main concern and rightly should be, but if Intelligence can be made available to Response Officers, Neighbourhood Officers and other patrolling Officers then it can go a long way to providing them with the ability to carryout an immediate risk assessment before they knock on a door, stop a vehicle or speak to an individual in the street. The key, of course, is getting this intelligence onto a system quickly and efficiently and then making it available equally as efficiently. ABM have these systems available whether it be the ability to add information via mobile technology or Covert Policing methods, it can be collated into the single system. This means that when accessing the intelligence system it is right up to date. An important tool for any Police Officer or PCSO who may be patrolling alone.