A few years back, when we were working with a UK police force and their ICT Operations Manager, Rupert Coles, on a transformation project, we put some of the IT team in police cruisers with officers for ride-a-longs. In one instance, an IT person was able to witness first hand how a communications failure turned a minor neighbourhood incident into a major tie-up of police resources.
First, here is some background on information the command and control system at headquarters. The system and recorded incoming information from 999 emergency calls before assessing the situation and dispatching officers to the scene.
In this instance, the IT person was in the car when a call came over the radio. Twelve youths with sticks and bats on a residential street were squaring off against each other. The officer, realising that he was closest to the scene, asked for more information. The dispatcher, however, told him no more information was available – the system had just died. So, the officer had to assess the situation based on the information he had.
He had to decide quickly if he alone would be able to deal with twelve bat-swinging youngsters. “No!” was the answer. He was a police officer, not Superman. He called for backup and went to a location near the residential area to rendezvous with the other police and prepare to engage. In total, there were:
· 10 officers
· 2 big dogs and their handler
They were ready to go in like gangbusters and they did.
What they discovered, though, was vastly different from what the initial report had indicated. Instead of a dozen youths ready to wreck the neighbourhood, they found ONE drunk with a baseball bat yelling at his neighbours from a window in his own house.
While this sounds like a funny anecdote, it was really a disaster. Due to the system failure at headquarters, ten officers in five patrol cars were pulled away from other duties, not to mention the dogs and their handler.
The incident was a catastrophe because if those resources had been needed anywhere else during that time frame, they would have been unavailable. Given the life-and-death nature of some police calls, this could have resulted in a very bad outcome at another crime scene.
In the end, it was a simple matter of the system being down for five minutes – a quick call to IT and it was fixed. While a solution was eventually put in place to eliminate such outages, it brought home to the police force management just how important their IT department was to the organisation. This failure also showed the IT person in the car how important their team's contribution was to keeping the streets safe.
More specifically, they saw the importance of ensuring what they did had a clear line of sight to customer outcomes. They realised their role as more than just fixing the force's technology. In fact, they came to see it was about keeping police officers and the public safe.
If you would like some free advice on your current or future transformation project, please contact us for a free consultation.