The new chief of Greater Manchester Police has not ruled out scrapping the £27m crime registration system, as he faces new charges of failed victims.
The second-largest police force in England and Wales launched the computer system just two years ago, but it still has problems, according to serving officers.
Stephen Watson, who took over as police chief three weeks ago, said he was tasked with reviewing the Integrated Operational Police System (iOPS) but “the information I have is telling me it’s not working”.
Greater Manchester Police are taking special measures after an inspection report found they had failed to record 80,000 crimes – one in five reported crimes – in the year to June 2020.
The force faced fresh criticism on Tuesday after several current and former officers told the BBC’s Newsnight program that the force was still failing. Officers said panic buttons on their radios were not working properly and that police would sometimes send on potentially life-threatening incidents without being told there might be firearms.
It is reported that 155 officers have applied to leave Greater Manchester Police to join neighboring Lancashire Police in the recent period, up from five in 2017.
Watson said that iOPS may not be the only reason for the mass exodus, but agreed that officers were “voting with their feet” on the failures.
Asked if he would abandon iOPS, which went live 19 months late in July 2019, he said, “I’ll be in a position before too long to make an informed decision about the future. What I don’t argue with and the information I have is telling me it’s not working.” .
Watson said he commissioned an independent technical report to see if iOPS could be fundamentally improved or, if not, “what are the options for doing something different.”
He added, “It’s all too good to encourage this ‘I’m going to throw it in and get something new’ – well, we’re talking about many, many millions of pounds and two or three years of a procurement program here so those things do need to be looked at right.”
Her Majesty’s Police Inspectorate (HMIC) previously said iOPS failures have put hundreds of vulnerable people at “potential risk of harm”.
Watson, who spent six years getting around South Yorkshire Police after the Rotherham abuse scandal, was hired after the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, requested the resignation of the former police chief, Ian Hopkins, in December.
GMP said it plans to hire 325 new officers by 2022, paid for through a council tax increase, as part of an election pledge by Burnham.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Watson said: “Many of the processes officers routinely rely on are time-consuming and frustrating. Police work is under special review, and urgent work is ongoing to support a detailed assessment of options.”
“This evaluation will inform key technical decisions regarding the future future of the system. In the meantime, we have made progress on the systemic upgrades and improvements to the system and these improvements will improve performance throughout 2021 and 2022.”