The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) took a bold step in November 2022 to integrate its record management system, Connect, despite several “issues of concern” related to data protection and search functionality. The project, contracted to NEC Software for up to £150m in 2018, aimed at providing officers with real-time access to various policing processes through a single platform. However, the road has been bumpy since deployment, with Freedom of Information disclosure revealing a £64m budget overrun and more than 25,000 support requests in the first four months.
The Mayor’s Office for Police and Crime (Mopac) scrutiny report pointed out that the system’s audit capabilities failed to fully replicate those of legacy systems, thereby contravening the UK Data Protection Act 2018’s logging requirements. The report also highlighted that Connect’s combined search functionality with the MPS’ Integrated Intelligence Platform would be less sophisticated than current systems, leading to “an overwhelming volume of data being returned to sift through.”
The London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee chair, Caroline Russell raised concerns over MPS’s inability to record critical data effectively. Drawing attention to issues like MPS’s inability to provide information on the locations of a fifth of the strip searches conducted on children, Russell stressed on transparency and accountability. The report further noted that the system’s search functionality was inferior and raised compliance challenges around data deletion, potentially making it difficult for MPS to respond to subject access requests promptly.
Owen Sayers, an independent security consultant, criticized the calls for changes in data protection laws instead of addressing the technological issues. According to Sayers, everything the police need to do in technology terms is achievable within existing laws. The real issue lies in the choice of platforms adopted by police technologists despite clear data protection risks. As it stands, the Connect system’s struggle with data protection and search functionality issues presents a challenging scenario for the Metropolitan Police Service.