Police Scotland wants an IT upgrade of nearly £300 million as a deputy chief constable warned the current “failings” are “unsustainable”.
Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said the “economically inefficient” service is detrimental to the public.
She made the comments ahead of Police Scotland’s outline business case for £298 million of investment over nine years being put before the Scottish Police Authority at a board meeting on Thursday.
In the submission, the force highlights many of the IT systems are out of date, not joined up and cannot be upgraded.
Officers routinely attend calls with little or no information on how dangerous the situation is to them or the public, or the circumstances and needs of the victim.
Paper notebooks are used to record information and crimes, meaning time is lost as officers head to their stations to type this information into several different systems – which can lead to victims having to make repeated statements.
Officers cannot share or receive timely information from partner agencies which could help crime victims or vulnerable people.
Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: “There has been significant under-investment in technology in policing since well before 2013 and we’ve not been able to make use of some of the investment that has been available.
“Despite this, our officers and staff have continued to deliver to the best of their ability by making huge personal commitments to get the job done.
“But the present situation is unsustainable. The pressure on our officers and staff to work around the failings in our technology and meet the new threats will move beyond their ability to cope.
“It also has a detrimental impact on the public and our colleagues in other parts of the criminal justice system.
“At a time when the pressure on public services is immense, we are operating an economically inefficient police service.”
She said the upgrade would provide tools fit for the 21st century, generate savings of create improvements across the criminal justice system.
The case is expected to generate economic benefit of £357 million over nine years.
The upgrade would make it easier for members of the public to report crime, using online services.
Officers would be provided with mobile devices to access integrated and up-to-date information on the move.
It would include improved technology to capture evidence and also enhance how the force safeguards, manages and shares data.
The Scottish Police Authority’s (SPA) own summary report of the proposals has also been published.
It comments on the need for “urgent and far reaching reform” and urges the board to consider the risk of not acting to upgrade the systems.
It states: “If Police Scotland is to be able to tackle crime in a digital age and fulfil its statutory purpose to promote the safety and wellbeing of people, places and communities in Scotland it needs the technical capability to do it…
“Police Scotland currently lacks that capability.”
It adds that the force plays “an essential role in maintaining cross-sector cyber resilience”.
“Not acting, and continuing to maintain only the existing levels of capability, is no longer a viable option consistent with the role which Police Scotland plays,” the report notes.
Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur pointed to the collapse of a previous IT reform in a criticism of the move to a single force.
The £46 million i6 scheme to replace legacy systems failed in 2016.
“Officers and staff are constantly frustrated and slowed down by shoddy IT,” he said.
“The police are not going to be able to tackle highly sophisticated organised criminals with IT equipment that would struggle to run Pac-Man.
“21st century policing requires 21st century tools. Scottish Liberal Democrats demand better.”