Police officers with ‘underperforming’ IT skills should be dismissed, think tank Reform suggests
Think tank Reform has controversially recommended that police bosses should be allowed to fire police officers whose IT skills are not up to standard.
It believes giving chief constables the power to dismiss officers with poor IT skills would leave British forces in better shape to tackle the surging levels of cybercrime.
Cybercrime has been the most common criminal offence in England and Wales for a number of years now. And earlier this year a National Crime Agency (NCA) report found that young people are being sucked into a life of cybercrime thanks to the availability of free and easy-to-use hacking tools.
The Reform report entitled “Bobbies on the net: a police workforce for the digital age,” made a series of recommendations to help the 43 police forces in England and Wales respond to technological developments in recent decades.
“Technology also creates a new frontline of crime, which previously would not have existed,” says the publication. “The implications of the fourth industrial revolution are yet to be fully understood. Today, almost half of crime relies on digital technology, and that is likely to rise.”
The Police in England and Wales currently have 198,684 officers and staff to call upon. But at the moment police have the right to a “job for life.”
In 2012, a major review by Sir Tom Winsor of police pay and conditions recommended the introduction of a system of compulsory severance, but it was not implemented, which means that chief constables cannot dismiss “underperforming officers.”
“Forces need a wide range of powers to design workforces to meet demand,” continues the report. “One of these is the ability to dismiss underperforming officers and to use compulsory severance measures for officers in roles that are no longer needed.
“The current inability to make officers redundant hamstrings force leaders,. The 2012 Winsor Review explained that chief constables looking to change their workforces to meet demand in line with falling funding have had to resort to sacking police staff, but: ‘it represents poor value for money for the taxpayer’, who faces paying higher salaries to police officers to do jobs which could – and should – be done at lower cost by more able and experienced police staff.
“Senior managers, officers and staff argued that the ability to fire officers without the necessary skills would allow chiefs to get the skill base to meet digital demand and shift culture.”
But not all agree with the Reform report, with some calling for better security education for officers.
“With the rise of crime in the cyber world, it is crucial that the skill set of police officers matches the importance of this new battleground,” David Emm, principal security researcher, Kaspersky Lab.
“As with markets generally, investment tends to flow into areas where it will be most productive, and crime is no different,. With so much financial activity moving online, criminals have capitalised on this by moving their activity into the cyber world – therefore it’s important that we have police officers who understand the ways in which technology can be abused by cybercriminals. However the police, like any organisation, need a diverse range of skills; and it may be that not all roles require technical knowledge and IT acumen.”
“The focus for police forces, like any other organisation, should be on ongoing education and upskilling existing staff. Many industries are suffering from a lack of technology skills, and this can only be remedied by increasing internal awareness and by encouraging young people with a passion for cybersecurity to use their skills for the greater good.”
In January figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed that an estimated 2 million people were hit by reported computer misuse cases in the year up to September 2016.