Cloud first for major investigations

In 2013, the Government introduced a ‘cloud first’ policy recommending that all public sector organisations should consider cloud solutions above all else when procuring new or existing services, with the public cloud being the preferred deployment model to achieve this vision.

Dec 9, 2019
By Paul Jacques

The Government’s Cloud Strategy states that “by exploiting innovations in cloud computing we will transform the public sector ICT estate into one that is agile, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable”.

And helping UK police forces in their plans to move to a ‘cloud first’ strategy, Unisys last month announced a renewal of contracts with 43 forces and associated law enforcement agencies for implementation of its latest version of the Home Office Large Enquiry System (HOLMES2).

Delivering HOLMES2 from the cloud means its information management system supports greater collaboration and cross-border data sharing, enabling faster response times for incident management while being cost-effective.

Within minutes of the terrorist bombing in Manchester in May 2017, for example, HOLMES2 was able to deliver a new cloud-based casualty bureau to support police forces with missing persons, the identification of individuals and logging of evidence. It acted as a single-point-of-contact for managing information on those involved in the incident, and within two hours of the attack, 27 forces were active on the casualty bureau to support one another with mutual aid.

HOLMES2 is typically used to investigate homicides and organised and other serious crimes, as well as managing emergency response during terrorist incidents or natural disasters. The application provides a real-time view of live operations to facilitate efficient decision-making and the effective management of resources. It is supported by advanced functionality for tasking, alerting, reporting, messaging, analytics and document and records management.

HOLMES2 is currently delivered as a cloud service to 42 of the 43 UK police forces, with the final force going live early in 2020.

Delivering HOLMES2 from the cloud means it can also be rapidly configured so that multiple police forces share resources to support the lead force with mutual aid and immediately begin managing information relating to new law enforcement incidents. This enables faster mobilisation of forces, providing a ready-to-use platform for collaboration on major incidents and investigations, including public appeals.

It also features new functionality for the UK Police Major Incident Public Reporting Site – – to improve online engagement with the public by giving them the ability to digitally submit information directly to the police via their PCs, tablets or smartphones. This includes videos and photographs relating to incidents or investigations. Images submitted via the portal have already helped identify numerous suspects in recent investigations.

All submitted data is instantly searchable and available to the relevant police forces to enable communication across forces and with the public on developments relating to incidents, missing persons, survivors, evacuees and casualties.

The portal is now a key tool for gathering information from both the public and police forces and new features include an improved user experience, making it easier to submit information to national investigations, and support for multiple languages to accommodate investigations that have specific language requirements.

In addition, police forces using the portal can now create dedicated campaigns to focus on specific groups, such as those living within a certain radius of an incident or crime scene, giving them the ability to tag their submissions of information or evidence.

This special access helps inquiries as the public can classify the information they submit, “expediting the availability of data and reducing back-office resourcing”. This feature also improves the speed and quality of data so forces can focus resources on specific elements of an incident or investigation.

Sri Iyer, public sector lead for Unisys in the UK, said: “Cloud technology is critical for UK policing to more quickly address the rapidly changing nature of crime, while cutting costs across its operations.”

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