Most advanced inter-force IT system will become a one-stop shop for data and information to support more pro-active policing.
The countryâ€™s largest inter-force IT collaboration will open up the potential for forces to share data to undertake more efficient and pro-active policing.
Project Athena promises to transform and improve crime investigation efficiency, the gathering and collation of intelligence as well as speeding up custody processes and case preparation.
The system will become a one-stop shop of information by collating data traditionally stored on several different databases and quickly building a complete picture of an individual drawing on previous records, history and contact with any force linked into the system.
It can amalgamate up to ten different databases within a force and feed the information into four initial components; intelligence, investigation, custody and case preparation.
Intelligence will cover warrants, briefing and tasking across policing borders, reducing operational risks for officers.
Investigation will encompass RTCs, ASB, domestic abuse, hate crime, child protection, vulnerable adults and public protection including risk and threat assessments and management.
Custody will be automatically updated with case files and investigation reports and will contain enhanced identification to facilitate a speedier booking-in process. This component will also strengthen PACE and Safer Detention Compliance.
Case Preparation will build an electronic file from start to finish which pre-populates MG files and includes arrest warrants. It will allow for full management of summons, postal requisitions and FPNs. It will also be linked virtually to CPS and HMCS for the addition of notes and other information to build a complete picture of the case.
It also interfaces with the PNC and PND to facilitate the broader sharing of information to make traditionally lengthy processes more streamlined.
Athena Director Ch Supt Steve Johnson, of Essex Police, said other databases will be incorporated, including missing persons, property and forensic cases but will initially interface with the system.
He said in Essex, the databases that will be consolidated will be custody, case preparation, crime file, intelligence, PROTECT â€“ which deals with domestic abuse, stop and search, and SWARM â€“ which deals with warrants, property and witness identification.
Using a private and secure cloud solution the system re-uses data across the four different components, mitigating the need to re-type information.
Officers and staff at each phase of the process from report up to court can view all records for the suspect from each member force and at each stage of the process. This means a suspect arrested for crimes committed in any of the Athena forces can be dealt with for all offences in one custody suite without the need to be transferred between each force and processed for crime committed exclusively in that force area.
The system incorporates aspects of the Bichard Inquiry, which was published nine years ago and examined interoperability within policing. This needs-led system, which has gained significant momentum since it was announced last February, allows forces to automatically share a wider set of operational police data, when historically it could only be shared on request.
A dedicated Athena management team was created made up of officers and staff from the seven forces signed up to the contract – Norfolk, Suffolk, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Kent and Essex. They helped customise and adapt the system with Northgate Public Services, who provide the software.
In an interview with PoliceOracle.com Ch Supt Johnson said: â€œIt is a wonderful platform and there is the potential to move it onwards as policing dictates.
â€œThe untapped collaboration benefits are huge and you can be as creative as you want to be with this system.
â€œIt is a big legacy and will be a huge step forward for forces.â€
Athena Manager Insp Phil Stimpson said a number of forces had already expressed an interest in the technology.
He added: â€œAthena has to be the right option for forces because they have to be prepared to amend their working practices.
â€œPeople will need to work in the Athena way. It will standardise the way thing are done for the forces using it and some practices and processes will need to be adapted.
â€œWe are not trying to constrain a forceâ€™s operational freedom. What we are saying is that in order to get the benefits there are some things we need to do the same way to get certainty out of the system.â€
The system, which costs Â£32million between the seven forces over ten years, is currently going through the testing phase at Essex Police. Then all staff and officers within the force will undergo a training programme which could last up to 12 weeks. It is hoped the system will go live in Essex by the end of this summer before it is rolled out in phases across the other forces.
ACC Julia Wortley, chair of the Athena Business Design Authority, said: â€œA number of people recognised some years ago that having separate systems between forces was not the way forward and a tendering process began.
â€œIt is a sophisticated approach and we have to make sure we get this right.
â€œThe sky is the limit and there are several opportunities on the horizon to develop it further.
â€œThis is the largest and most advanced system for delivering joined up IT in policing.â€
For more information on the system call Ch Supt Johnson on 01245 291623.
Largest IT Collaboration Heralds New Policing Era