A new report from think tank – Reform – has concluded that police chiefs should be able to fire staff if they are not computer literate or lack IT skills.
The reasoning? Reform said that police forces would be better prepared to tackle increasing levels of cybercrime, or the changing digital face of crime.
Cybercrime is on the up, and studies suggest that now half of all crime is now either dependent on or enabled by technology. Online fraud is the most common offence.
The report says that because of current restrictions that prevent serving officers from being made redundant, Chief Constables are “hamstrung” when transforming their strategies to combat the changing face of crime.
In 2012, this issue of redundancy or compulsory severance was reviewed, but was not taken forward. Reform has criticised this and the report has called for the issue to be revisited.
The report said: “Senior managers, officers and staff argued that the ability to fire officers without the necessary skills would allow chiefs to get the skill base to meet digital demand and shift culture.”
Alexander Hitchcock, co-author of the report, said: “Chiefs should have the ability to make officers redundant if officers’ roles have changed because of digital crime, and officers have not been able to develop the IT skills to fill these roles.”
“But this will be a small minority of officers. We are arguing that forces should give officers every chance to develop IT skills through apps and university partnerships, as well as have the equipment to help them meet digital demand.”
“As people live more of their lives online, they need confidence that the police will help them do this securely.”
“Bobbies urgently need the technology, skills and confidence to patrol an online beat.”
However, current officers serving in the force have criticised the report, suggesting that they are already capable of using technology to fight crime on all levels.
Simon Kempton, lead on Digital Policing and Cybercrime, for the Police Federation, said: “It is entirely wrong to suggest that the police service has failed to change; indeed no part of either the public or private sector has gone through as much change as policing over the last decade.”
“This report shows a lack of understanding of the regulations governing policing which already allow for the dismissal of underperforming officers through clearly defined processes.”
>See also: Policing cybercrime: a national threat
“Policing requires a broad base of expertise and to simply dismiss officers who are less conversant with the digital world (rather than giving them proper training) is to treat with absolute contempt those who are prepared to sacrifice everything for the public they serve.”
David Emm, principal security researcher, Kaspersky Lab said that “With the rise of crime in the cyber world, it is crucial that the skill set of police officers matches the importance of this new battleground. As with markets generally, investment tends to flow into areas where it will be most productive, and crime is no different. With so much financial activity moving online, criminals have capitalised on this by moving their activity into the cyber world –therefore it’s important that we have police officers who understand the ways in which technology can be abused by cybercriminals.”
“However the police, like any organisation, need a diverse range of skills; and it may be that not all roles require technical knowledge and IT acumen.”
“The focus for police forces, like any other organisation, should be on ongoing education and upskilling existing staff. Many industries are suffering from a lack of technology skills, and this can only be remedied by increasing internal awareness and by encouraging young people with a passion for cyber security to use their skills for the greater good.”
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