Public Services > Police

Drafting underway on HMIC IT interoperability network code

Neil Merrett Published 24 April 2017

Inspectorate body says it remains too early to set launch date for mechanism to support common ICT adoption standards for police forces; consultation targeted once code is available


Drafting is underway on a proposed network code designed to support improved interoperability in systems and hardware used by police forces, with no date yet set for an eventual launch or the commencement of consultations with elected commissioners on the proposals.

The network code mechanism, which aims to govern the design, procurement and operation of ICT to support “true interoperability” in how forces adopt technology, is being led by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) as a means to offer voluntary, but binding agreement of common technology standards.

As part of this process, the inspectorate body has completed procurement of legal expertise to draft the code.  However, elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are not presently understood to be involved in initial drafting.

A spokesperson for HMIC said that it was expecting to begin consulting with stakeholders on the code when it is ready to be made available to stakeholders such as police forces.   

“We anticipate that the code will be of interest to forces and various other interested parties,” said the spokesperson.

No minimum target had been set with regard to the number of forces required to support the code, although the key intention is for as many organisations as possible to meet interoperability aims, according to HMIC.

Katy Bourne, who leads the technology and digital portfolio for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) said that the organisation was aware of work being undertaken around the network code. Bourne added that Police and Crime Commissioners were expected to examine proposals in detail once they were available.

“Police and Crime Commissioners acknowledge that there is a need for police forces to be able to share information much more effectively in order, amongst other things, to deal with the negative consequences of increasing internet-enabled crime,” she said.

 “We are always interested in looking into how the interoperability of police communication systems can be improved to help protect the public and we are engaged with the work of the National Police Technology Council (NPTC) around such issues through our Police ICT Company.”

The comments follow the recent publication of HMIC’s 2016 State of Policing report.

In his foreword of the annual findings, Sir Thomas Winsor, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, himself identifies fragmented police use of technology among key concerns facing forces in the UK, echoing similar sentiments from the Home Office and policing organisations.

As a solution to this, Winsor argued in the report that safety-critical, essential public service sectors such as energy and transport worked to solve their own issues with interoperability through a network code detailing common procedures to ensure service quality and continuation.

“These other public services were starting from a single entity (or a very few) and created their network codes before they were split up,” he said.

“In the case of the police, the problem is approached from the opposite end – we have forces which are already separate (and have never been one) and now need to join their systems together in a way that respects local accountability but acquires, maintains and exploits all the benefits of a single networked system.”

Related articles:

HMIC concerned at sporadic police force tech innovation

HMIC seeks legal expertise for police interoperability ‘network code’

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