Examination of Witnesses (Questions 600
TUESDAY 10 JUNE 2008
Q600 Mrs Dean: Has Bedfordshire collaborated
with other regional forces to share good practice and build joint
Inspector Hitch: Yes, we have.
We worked very closely on our initial tender for mobile data with
Hertfordshire, as a joint tender, but Hertfordshire, in the end,
chose to go a different route. It was all very amicable but we
did decide to go in different directions. We work very closely
with TDP, we work closely with West Yorkshire, Cambridgeshirewith
all other forces that got BlackBerries we share ideas. I do sometimes
wish that people were more willing to do that, and that there
was more of a national focus on that, because I think it would
be quite beneficial. Some people are rather precious about their
ideas and their little inventions, which I think is a shame.
Q601 Mrs Dean: What are the barriers
Inspector Hitch: I think the biggest
barriers I have faced to collaboration are personalities. It is
as simple as that.
Q602 Margaret Moran: You are probably
aware of Slip End village, on the border of Bedfordshire but which
has most of its crime in Hertfordshire (?). What do you say to
the residents there who may receive services from Bedfordshire
or from Hertfordshire? They are the people we should be concerned
about, surely, so how can we ensure that this fragmentation does
not penalise our citizens? What do you say to the argument that
fragmentation also prevents us from getting best value from global
companies because small forces like Bedfordshire simply are not
viable for those companies?
Inspector Hitch: I know that we
are working closely with Hertfordshire in many different areas.
We have a joint major investigation team and we are working on
a joint firearms team, so that is coming. In terms of the actual
technology and the cost of it, the BlackBerry lady here said earlier
that it is the same price; we do not get any discount for buying
10,000 or one device; it is a set, agreed amount. So I do not
think there are regular savings with regards to that particular
purchase in combining with other forces. One of the real problems
is that the back end systems of the forces are different, and
that is where it gets really difficult because the device itself
will work but it has to talk to the back end systems. So unless
we have the same command and control system and it is sharing
the same information on the same platform, then to link into it
would be pointless because we would be looking at the wrong incidents.
Is that clear?
Q603 Tom Brake: I wanted to return
briefly to something that Chief Constable Johnston said, which
was about not being funded for the National Intelligence Database.
Presumably it would be unacceptable for you not to be funded,
so it is going to happen at some point from some source.
Chief Constable Johnston: Yes.
Q604 Tom Brake: Possibly, is there
the risk of a delay before you are able to? If that were to happen,
could you explain to the Committee what the consequences, operationally,
of that delay would be?
Chief Constable Johnston: We would
be out-with the whole intelligence system for the UK, so we would
not be able to interrogate the central database, we would not
be able to feed the intelligence base, and we would not be able
to draw off records that are freely available to other forces
up and down the country. It would have a dramatic impact on our
ability to operate.
Q605 Tom Brake: Just moving back
to this issue, in what way could the Home Office and the NPIA
facilitate quicker adoption and implementation of new technology
with what they should prioritise? I think Inspector Hitch identified
replacing the people as one of the ways of implementing technology
more quickly, but have you got any other views, either of you?
Chief Constable Johnston: No.
I think taking on their role and responsibility to bring people
together to have these discussions before we spend money is a
good thing. That would help us to spend money wisely, and they
are engaged in that process. In fact, they will be calling us
all in as part of the roll-out of mobile technology to get lessons
from that with a view to developing a common approach going forward,
because we see this mix and match arrangement as being very much
a temporary affair.
Q606 Tom Brake: But they cannot enforce
a common approach, can they?
Chief Constable Johnston: No,
they cannot, and there is some debate to be had about the relationship
between funding streams and IT. We are looking for a common approach,
and this was the approach taken with Airwave, where the funding
was provided centrally and everybody went in the right direction.
It does not always make sense for an individual force to go in
a particular directionjust to make that point. With the
Airwave system, when I was with the Metropolitan Police, we just
bought a new radio system. So although for United Kingdom policing
the business case stood up, for the Met, actually, it did not.
So I think it has to be something about the control of the funding
Inspector Hitch: Mobile data is,
I think, more of a people project than a technology project. Far
from getting rid of the users, what we need to do is actually
engage with them more and find out what they really want, and
help them to use it and help them to change the working practices.
Q607 Tom Brake: That is something
that the NPIA, for instance, can help with in terms of training.
Inspector Hitch: Yes.
Chairman: Chief Constable, Inspector,
thank you very much for giving evidence. We are most grateful
to you. If there is anything that you missed out in your evidence
that you feel would be helpful to the Committee, it would be very
useful to have it in writing. Thank you very much.