The ICT capability of the Queensland Police Service (QPS) is “years behind other police jurisdictions” according to the findings of a landmark emergency services review.
Head of the review team, former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty, found that QPS has been held back by underinvestment in technology and a fiercely protected independence which prevented it from collaborating with more advanced agencies.
“Other Queensland agencies and entities perceive that the Queensland Police Service considers itself as being too big or too important to be involved in their activities,” according to the Keelty report.
“This type of inertia is preventing the Queensland Police Service from future proofing itself.”
It found that a failure to cooperate on inter-agency Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) systems represented “one of the most dramatic examples” of the organisation’s obstinacy.
While fellow portfolio agencies Fire and Rescue Service and the Queensland Ambulance Service teamed up to build compatible systems, the QPS currently operates a siloed solution that does not share information.
“The review team considers this to be a wasted opportunity that resulted from a lack of strategic consideration,” the report said.
The QPS also opted out of a trial of automatic vehicle location capability in the south east of the state which was designed to coordinate urgently dispatched emergency services vehicles with city traffic lights to give them priority passage. It cited “a lack of need to access this capability”.
In some cases Queensland cops had been forced to take matter into their own hands, initiating some worrying workarounds.
Event information could only be entered into the core operational system QPrime in person or by phone.
“As it currently stands, if police wish to call the report in from the incident scene, they may need to use the complainant’s own phone to dial in,” said the report.
This challenge is not unique to the Queensland Police, but in NSW at least the police have commenced work on electronic and mobile data entry into their own central database.
There was also evidence that frontline officers had resorted to buying their own miniature cameras to record their day-to-day activities and photographing evidence on their own iPhones, in what the report suspected was a likely contravention of privacy legislation.
But an inferior ICT environment hadn’t prevented the service from talking up its achievements, regardless of how justified the promotion was.
Its roll-out of smartphones and iPads still hadn’t reached a proof of concept stage when it become part of a media campaign, and publicity for its roll-out of automatic number plate recognition failed to mention that the capability was three years old and on a very minor scale compared to state counterparts.
Change under new leadership
Keelty has formally recommended that a “suitably qualified” chief information officer with responsibility across the whole portfolio be appointed as a “first priority”.
The CIO will answer directly to the CEO of portfolio business, who will be responsible for integrated corporate services provision to fire services and police. The CEO will also lead an efficiency review, with the QPS as its first target.
Keelty has also recommended that the Department of Community Safety be renamed and restructured. The Queensland Ambulance Service will likely be moved into the Health portfolio if Keelty has his way, and Corrective Services will be transferred to Attorney-General and Justice.