The Police Information Technology Organisation (Pito) is looking at the feasibility of rolling out Linux on up to 60,000 desktops across police forces in the UK.
Pito has asked consultants Netproject to examine the issues that would surround deployment of the operating system in a six-month project.
Netproject will examine the tools need to port to Linux applications that have been developed for Pito running on Windows, and will look at the issues of using smartcards and biometrics to identify users.
The work is part of Project Valiant, which is developing a new IT strategy for law enforcement.
Pito's Marco Dawson said: "The police need very secure, virus resistant and stable desktop computing. We believe that Linux can provide this.
"There is a potential total requirement for 60,000 Linux desktop systems within the UK police forces, so we need a very good understanding of the deployment and migration issues for Linux on the desktop."
The organisation provides IT and communications services for police and criminal justice agencies in the UK, and aims to provide best value through collective procurement.
"We've commissioned Netproject to do a bit of work; a feasibility study to see if this is where the police should go," explained a Pito spokesman. But he stressed that no decision had yet been made.
"The study will be considered by the Association of Chief Police Officers and others who will decide if it is the way to go," he said. "We are looking at a range of options. We are also setting up a Microsoft working group."
And even if Pito was to recommend Linux, police forces would not currently be obliged to buy into the strategy. "We haven't plumped for Linux. This is a part of the high-level strategy," explained the spokesman.
Netproject director Eddie Bleasdale said: "This is a feasibility study, but they wouldn't have given it to us if they weren't serious.
"With the development of open source office automation software, and the tools that enable Windows applications to be ported, Linux is now ready for deployment on the desktop."
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