Police Scotland has set out plans to invest around £200 million in new technology after admitting that outdated IT systems will leave the force struggling to tackle cyber crime and could affect its ability to attract new recruits.
A report due to be presented to the Scottish Police Authority on Friday underlines the urgent need for improvement, stating that “current technology capability will continue to fall short in giving our officers and staff the tools they need to do the job to best serve our communities”.
Officers are facing an increasingly sophisticated threat from criminals who are “investing heavily” in technology, it warns.
“This will create further strain on the service, increase the risk to the public and our officers, and will undoubtedly inhibit our ability to prevent the public being exploited and targeted by highly sophisticated technology-enabled criminals,” the report adds.
“The lack of a current, relevant and an attractive technology-based operating environment for our officers and staff will also impact our ability to attract the future talent we need to grow and support the service.
“Eventually people will just not join an organisation which is rooted in the 20th century and is not keeping pace with norms of the society that we live in.”
The force’s new digital, data, and ICT strategy states that other UK forces have invested in new technology much faster than Police Scotland, which has “historically under-invested”.
Its systems require officers to capture the same information several times, while fewer than 3,000 of its 17,000 officers have mobile devices to enable them to record data on the move.
Meanwhile a number of different systems continue to operate in different parts of the country after the £46 million i6 scheme aimed at replacing them failed in 2016.
Police Scotland’s new plan for improvement includes replacing “an ageing and complex legacy ICT estate to support the force to operate as a single, integrated organisation”.
It states: “We want to invest significantly in delivering this plan.
“We estimate that it will require capital investment of up to £200 million over five years and are making the case for this investment to our partners.”
It says the changes would enable savings of up to £35.5 million each year by 2022.
Police Scotland’s deputy chief officer David Page, who will present the plans, said the investment would also allow officers to spend more time on the front line, and help in the prevention and early detection of crime.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Ministers are committed to investing in further transformation of the service, including through real-terms protection of the police resource budget in every year of this parliament.
“In addition, we are providing a further £31 million of dedicated reform funding this year and have ensured that the service can retain the £25 million previously paid to the UK Treasury in VAT each year.
“As a result, Police Scotland are able to invest almost £5 million this year in the development of those core operational systems used by officers on a day-to-day basis.”
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