Metropolitan Police computers take 30 minutes to boot up and systems dating back to the 1970s are still in use at the organisation, it has revealed.
Assistant commissioner Mark Rowley revealed the “frightening” state of IT during a Budget and Performance Committee meeting at the London Assembly on the state of technology use at the Met on Tuesday.
Rowley said: “The nature of the infrastructure meant that for many officers around the Met to log on to their computer was taking more than half an hour.” This was met with shocked laughter by those at the committee with one overheard to say “appalling”. Rowley replied: “Absolutely.”
John Biggs chair of the committee, said it was "shocking" that officers had to spend so long to wait for their computers to boot. "The public want to see officers on the street tackling crime, not struggling with antique technology back at the station," he said.
"The Met cannot afford to go on like this. Its forthcoming strategy must address these problems while focusing on the potential that new technology offers, to drive down costs while increasing productivity and boosting public confidence.”
The ridiculously long boot times come to light after government chief operating officer Stephen Kelly revealed that it takes him around eight minutes for his computer to boot up.
Rowley went on to explain that there are around 400 systems in place within the Met that have been “wired together” over the years, which has created an organisational headache.
“We have a collection of systems that are individual good ideas wired together over 40 years. One goes back to the 1970s,” he said. “Even the language the systems are written in – most people who can write that language are nearing retirement. It is slightly frightening.”
Rowley went on to say that this means that around 90 percent of the Met’s technology programmes are nearing their shelf life. This will mean specialist contracts with suppliers that are “expensive and difficult” will be required. In all this means around 85 percent of the entire budget for technology at the Met is being spent on simply “keeping the lights on”.
The Met is now looking at how it could better use technology to improve policing. Rowley also said that the Met could look to provide smart devices to officers as they could well prove more useful than the current handheld devices in use.
“If there’s evidence out there that our officers do a better job tackling crime, then we ought to be going for modern smart devices and be device and platform agnostic so we don’t tie ourselves to the likes of Apple or Samsung,” he explained.
Rowley also revealed that the Met is looking to embrace mobile devices, with a test of a tablets in one borough over recent weeks providing some interesting insights.
“Being able to take a statement and have it signed then and there is more professional. We can take photos there and then, and have them embedded within the statement. It's a much slicker process. This saves money, makes officers more effective and feedback on tests says the public see it as more professional,” he said.
V3 contacted the Met for more information on this trial but had received no reply at the time of publication.
The meeting was part of the ongoing spending review at the Met into how it can improve its use of technology while cutting ICT spend by £42m in 2014-15 and £60m in 2015-16. The Met is expected to complete its new technology strategy in the summer.
Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal.