by Mark Chillingworth

Met Police CIO reflects on his beat

Mar 16, 20156 mins
CareersGovernmentIT Leadership

As Richard Thwaite leaves New Scotland and the Met Police begin the investigation for a replacement CIO, Thwaite sat down with CIO at the Institute of Directors to reflect on his role as CIO and Director of Digital Policing from February 2013 to January 2015.

The Metropolitan PoliceService, commonly known in the UK as the Met, patrols Greater London, other than the square mile, but has responsibilities beyond the M25 as it co-ordinates counter-terrorism policing nationwide and provides protection for the Royal Family and the government, despite differences of opinion between the government at street level. This has created a large organisation, employing over 40,000 employees and remains the largest police force in the UK.

Thwaite is the second CIO to leave the service since 2012 and the Met confirms it is currently seeking to replace the former big business technology leader.

“At all levels the people at the top to the officer on the street understands the need to change,” Thwaite says of his experience. “The officers welcomed the iPad Minis and they really appreciate that technology means they have the capability to do statement capture at the scene, file it, provide a reference number and victims were happier as the technology is a form of respect,” he says of a modern police force should be using the best productivity tools available.

Hammersmith and Fulham has moved from pilot to fully rolled out usage of the iPad on the beat, the tablet device will then move further west from these London boroughs to the Heathrow region as the Met has an order for a further 8000 iPads.

“The big opportunity is that you can link your location with the information the police has available to it in its systems. The Met has a lot of information on locations, people on probation, repeat offenders and now it can be provided to the officer on a beat and that access is vital,” Thwaite says of how in two years he and his team took the cuffs off the information within the Met to ensure the iPads could be effective on the beat.

Thwaite’s team also improved the online and social tool usage at the Met, which he says has reduced the burden on its call centre services, in particular the 101 calls.

When Chris Price stepped down as Thwaite’s opposite number as CIO of the West Midlands Police, the UK’s second largest police force, he described to CIO UK how existing technology and processes created a rubber band that constantly brought officers back to the station, while in the world of business mobility has drastically reduced office space and mobilised the workforce. For the police  mobility is a major opportunity, we as citizens want to see officers on the beat. Yet communities often get very “emotive” Thwaite says of the local police station, yet as in business the need for a station is fast decreasing.

“The public is getting more cognisant though that you only need them to charge and keep someone in custody, but that the vast majority of what the police do can be done on the street. The police station is a bit like a comfort factor.

“It was really important to get the police officers involved in the agile scrum teams to define the needs and we made sure we had the best officers involved and the commissioner,” Thwaite says of the rapid deployment of the mobile devices and applications in use.

“We seconded the officers into the programme to not only build a solution but to do things differently and transform the service. As a result we operated a very quick process and within eight months had the devices in place. It demonstrates that using the Agile methodology you can move very fast,” he says.

Thwaite and his team used a service bus strategy to link the Met’s existing information systems to the mobile front end.

“The vendors were very supportive of this approach and though the contract ends later this year, we worked with Unisys and Capgemini to ‘wrapper’ the legacy while we built the new system,” he says of the existing major outsourcing contract the Met has with Capgemini.

“The journey the Met is on is a multi-year strategy, my first year was to develop the strategy and the second year was the implementation of the road map that will develop the business and the third year is roll out,” he says as the Met enters year three of the strategy Thwaite developed.

“The strategy was my biggest achievement as it will meet their transformation objectives.”

Public service

“A move into the public sector is always challenging, especially if you’ve been in the private sector like I have. The public sector really needs transformation in IT. We were going from legacy that was station centric to a mobile centric to enable real time policing. I found the risk aversion and a strong sense of not taking risks. That is challenging with technology as technology is all about taking risks and moving quickly. The government approved procurement processes are cumbersome and not designed for technology and require everything to be determined up front, so Agile is difficult and so you end up procuring out-of-date technology,” he says. Thwaite did use the G-cloud to bring in Agile methods, but of course was working with a long-term outsourcing contract that could not be replaced until it ends this year.

The Metropolitan Police needs a CIO with a strong heritage in implementation, but who is also prepared to drive through necessary change at the UK’s largest police force, he says of whoever replaces him at New Scotland Yard.

“The next phase is more about implementation rather than transformation,” he says. The new CIO will also be heavily involved in the negotiations of the major outsourcing deal the Met has, currently with Capgemini. Thwaite expects the SIAM tower model of service integrators to be used.

“I enjoy the challenge of an environment that needs a different approach, that’s why I have moved,” Thwaite says of his departure.

Sources have also told this title that political weight was impacting a number of levels of the Met, rather than the needs of the citizens and officers.

Thwaite has joined consultants Chaucer, but doesn’t rule out a return to the CIO patrol.

“This gives me that approach to get involved with companies with big transformations or they may have large portfolios that need help to deliver effectively,” he says of his new challenge.