Digitally-enabled policing – founded on transformation, data sharing and innovation

By Sri Iyer and John Wright

In 2016, when the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) published its ‘Vision of Policing in 2025’ report, digitally enabled policing was identified as one of the major opportunities to delivering an improved service that met the changing nature of citizens’ expectations when it comes to technology.  

Crucially, police chiefs recognised that the internet is fundamentally reshaping the way that people consume services and if police forces wanted to stay relevant in the 21st century, that they must adapt and respond, redesigning their services to take into account the constantly evolving online world.

Technological advancement is not new to policing however. Most people will not have realised that digital systems have long since assisted officers to do their jobs, whether that’s for crime detection, mitigation or management. Since the early 1990s, systems such as HOLMES (Home Office Large Major Enquiry System) and its successor HOLMES2 – which are both delivered by Unisys –  have been used by UK Police Forces to improve effectiveness and productivity in crime investigations, and by 2001 Scottish – and all other UK police forces – were users of the system. Significant annual upgrades since the start of the new millennium added many enhancements, embedding several new innovations, combining the skills and experiences of crime investigators with the acquired knowledge of the computer systems in order to identify new lines of enquiry.

Enabling the public to play their part
In the original principles of policing laid down nearly 200 years ago, there was a recognition of the duties incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence. HOLMES enables the public to play increasingly key roles in gathering and submitting evidence, including inputting information directly into cases. This capability was recently enhanced further with a new portal with links to force specific areas and national incidents, enabling citizens to easily locate the incident they want to provide information on, and upload not just photos, but also video footage. In addition, this can be set up in multiple languages by each force, which is proving particularly beneficial in identifying potential suspects from across the community. Forces can also now be more proactive with the system allowing investigations to be set up with multiple profiles to request information from particular groups of the public, for example house-to-house enquiries within a certain radius.

Sharing information across organisations
The needs of ‘investigation communities’ across UK forces is constantly evolving, and increasingly this is focused on working not just across forces but with other public sector organisations, too, for instance NHS organisations in Scotland, the Crown Office and the Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service, which brings together people and information to address ever more complex cases and investigations. 

There have been many similar demands previously from other organisations where technology has proved a key enabler; as an example Unisys originally developed its Stealth secure information sharing solution for various US military forces to communicate across their individual networks in battlefield environments. This technology can also be deployed in other live situations, allowing police, health, social services and the judiciary to share and communicate information across groups that can be easily set up, altered and taken down as situations demand. All this operates according to the highest security standards, enabling teams to come together, share and act on information, whenever they wish, wherever they are.    

Digital evidence sharing, enabling information sharing as part of the case management process
Increasingly, the need to share information is not just confined to investigation, but is a critical element in effective case management progression, as recognised by the Scottish Government’s recently announced digital evidence sharing capability initiative, and many organisations are heavily involved in working together to facilitate this aim.  

Technology enabled policing has been a topic for many years, but the need now is to enable not just the police, but other key organisations to work together, sharing information, in a secure manner, irrespective of location or organisation, and enabling it to be integrated into case management systems. Unisys is also partnering with MicroPact a subsidiary of Tyler Technologies Inc. (www.tylertech.com) to help enable the overall digital transformation vision in Scotland, bringing together experiences and capabilities. For example, MicroPact’s entellitrak®, a low-code application development platform for case management is available with fully-integrated document management, analytics and mobile modules. It can be based ‘on-premise’ or in the cloud, and can be implemented immediately and configured continuously, enabling clients to get to work quickly while keeping costs low. 

We believe that incremental digitisation underpinned by secure sharing of information, market innovation and the ability to integrate it into established processes to enable operationally relevant services is a critical enabler to securing the best possible outcomes for all involved.


Article co-authored by Sri Iyer, Director, Public Sector, UK, Unisys and John Wright Director, International Public Safety and Alliances, MicroPact.

Unisys is a digital justice transformation partner at FutureScot’s annual Digital Justice & Policing conference on October 29 in Edinburgh. For further information please contact Mike Parfitt, Public Sector Marketing Lead, EMEA |Strategy, Marketing and Communications michael.parfitt@unisys.com