Does privatisation plan for police IT cross the thin blue line?

Opinion

Does privatisation plan for police IT cross the thin blue line?

This has got to be one of the most bizarre ideas I've seen when it comes to a public service. We have become accustomed to the notion of private businesses being contracted to provide IT systems for public bodies but the suggestion that those companies should then be allowed to pay to be part of the agency that manages those contracts on behalf of the public is, frankly, almost beyond comprehension. Can it really be right for private companies working to provide police IT systems to own a stake in the business which manages the process? Wouldn't that potentially represent a significant conflict of interest?


Gordon Wasserman, a veteran of the Thatcher years, has been appointed to a Home Office board overseeing the creation of a private company to manage police IT. Yes, you did read that right. A private company to oversee police IT. Given the current furore over the News Of The World and the police, the timing seems a tad inopportune for an action which seems likely to loosen public oversight and control of police systems (which may extend to include what's stored on them, where it's stored and who accesses them).


I can't be the only one who sees something ironic in plans to privatise the National Police Improvement Agency (there's a name to conjure with), which manages the Police National Database (PND), the Ident fingerprint database and the auto-numberplate recognition data warehouse, being announced on the same day (4 July) as the News Of The World hacking scandal and details of payments to police for confidential information finally exploded into the public consciousness.


This was first published in July 2011

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