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Met Police To Use 1980s Software To Safeguard Olympics

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Scotland Yard has confirmed that the Met will be using command and control software from the 1980s during this summer’s games

British police who will responsible for the safety of both tourists and competitors during this year’s Olympic Games in London will be using command and control software dating back to the 1980s.

This stunning revelation came to light in a report published by the Met on Wednesday, which examined the summer riots last year, and what lessons for the police could be learnt.

1980s Software

“This report is the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) assessment of our actions, our key findings and what work we have undertaken and continue to take forward,” said the Met. However, the report warned that the Special Operations Room (SOR), situated within the Met’s Central Communications Command, is using software that is at least 22 years old.

“The software used within SOR is termed MetOps and was introduced in the 1980s,” said the report. “The age of the system means that it is not linked directly to the software used in the MPS Central Communications Centre (CCC), known as the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system.”

According to the report, MetOps is a messaging and recording system and it was not designed for dynamic incident management. This meant that commanders have no simple way to view the latest situation during an evolving incident.

“This can result in CCC being unaware of what is being dealt with within SOR and conversely SOR being unaware of what is being dealt with through the CAD system,” said the report. “The MetOps system is a messaging and recording system not designed for dynamic incident management. This limitation means that Gold and Silver commanders have no simple way to view the latest situation in an evolving incident.”

It went onto to explain that situation reports are created manually within the system but the software itself does not extract any information itself.

Command Problems

The report highlighted some principal issues for the command team, including the inability to ascertain which sector had the highest work load and demands; the inability to establish where reserves were specifically deployed, how long they had been active; the inability to monitor key incidents; slow communication with commanders on the ground; and the lack of capability to hand over command to the oncoming command team; and finally the inability to log key decisions and rationales for future review.

The Met is now evaluating new technology as part of the future of its command centres, and it was in the process of replacing its Command and Control systems before August 2011 when the riots took place. The force has also proposed some temporary solutions, including a new GIS system which is being trialled to assist with the coordination of resources. The Met is also considering adopting software currently used with live crime investigations for SOR.

However speaking to TechWeekEurope, a Met spokesman confirmed that MetOps would still be in use during the Olympic games.

Met Statement

“Since August we have reconfigured working practices to improve communications and fast time information sharing, these have proved successful during trial events,” said the Met in an emailed statement.

“CAD & MetOps can both be viewed using the same systems, and information moved manually from one to the other. In pre-planned operations staffing levels ensure this role is appropriately resourced,” said the Met.

“The Olympics policing operation is very different to the policing response to the August disorder,” the Met said. “It will be the Met’s biggest ever pre-planned policing operation and there will be a large numbers of officers on duty throughout the Olympic period.”

Efforts to source a replacement of this outdated software will not have been helped when in December, police chiefs rejected the first draft of government’s plan to get a private company to manage the procurement of IT systems for Britain’s police forces. Last September, a damning report from MPs said that the vast number of incompatible IT systems within the UK’s 43 police forces was hindering the fight against crime.

Apology: We know that the Sweeney (pictured above) was actually a 1970s show. Let us know which show we should have used.

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