Victoria Police takes first step to address IT failures


news The Victorian Government has allocated a small investment of $2.5 million to Victoria Police to start addressing the failures of IT systems which the force has said partially lay behind the death of an 11-year-old boy and his father in the state last month.

A 54-year-old man was shot by police in the town of Tyabb last month after he killed his 11-year-old son following a cricket training session. Following the tragedy, Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay reportedly revealed the man had five outstanding arrest warrants against him, but that local police were not aware of the warrants due to the failures of Victoria Police’s IT systems when they previously spoke to the man. We recommend you click here for the full article published by the ABC on this subject.

The news came after several years of extensive IT project failures at Victoria Police. Perhaps the most obvious problem faced by the division, known as Business Information Technology Services or BITS, is that there are severe doubts about its division to deliver major IT projects that affect frontline policing operations. A report published by the State Services Authority in Victoria in March 2012 found that the division had no ability to deliver such projects.

The most visible of these, known as LINK, was a long-running project which aimed to replace the force’s ancient 17-year-old criminal history and crime reporting database, LEAP — used by almost all of the force’s frontline police. The LINK project failed in March 2010 after half a decade of making very little progress, and the State Government announced it would suspend the project at the time. Another attempt to replace LEAP is currently underway, but its form has not yet become publicly clear.

Yesterday Minister for Police and Emergency Services Kim Wells announced that $2.5 million would be made available from state government coffers to ensure that warrants would be available to all police electronically within one to four days of their arrest — instead of the several weeks the process is currently taking.

“Currently, information about warrants to arrest a person takes longer than two weeks to reach police,” Wells said. “We cannot have a situation where warrants for serious crimes are issued against a person but most police don’t know about them. That is why the Victorian Coalition Government has moved quickly to make available $2.5 million to Victoria Police for system improvements. In response to a request from the Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay, the Coalition Government is pleased to provide funding that will significantly streamline processes related to arrest warrants.”

Wells said the improvements would reduce the time it takes for a warrant to appear on the police Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP) which is available to all police.

Previously, when a warrant to arrest was issued by the courts or a warrant issued by police it was sent to a dedicated police officer to execute. That police officer had two weeks to execute the warrant before it was entered into databases available to all police. The new model will be in operation from 1 April and will apply to arrest warrants issued by courts as well as ‘fail to appear’ and bail warrants initiated by police.

“The Coalition Government is committed to ensuring Victoria Police are provided with the support and resources necessary to ensure community safety,” Wells said. “In addition to this funding, the Coalition provided $23.3 million in the 2013-14 Budget for the Police Information Process and Practice (PIPP) reform program. This program addresses immediate issues around the performance of core Victoria Police information systems and will enable commencement of planning longer term reforms to systems and processes. The Coalition Government will continue to do all it can to close the loopholes that frustrate police in their efforts to keep Victorians safe.”

In a separate statement, Victoria Police said it would also implement a longer term solution, which involves the implementation of technology which would enable immediate upload of warrants direct from the courts.

A useful first step, but I don’t think the Victorian Government is yet taking this issue seriously enough. Victoria Police is facing a systemic inability to deliver major IT projects. That is the issue which needs to be confronted head-on; not just this specific case involving poor distribution of information around warrants. In particular, the long-term replacement of LEAP needs to be a huge priority for the state. I’m not seeing a lot of evidence right now that that is the case.

Image credit: @CJNewsAu, used with permission


  1. So (apparently) here is the biggest problem with moving away from LEAP; it’s based in/on DOS and a propriety “database” format which no standard front end/back end implementation can read out the data in the “tables”. Apparently they tried to reverse engineer the data but there were too many issue with the “relationships”.
    NB: Quotes (“) are mine, because they are around database ‘dictionary’ standards, for which LEAP follows none*

    How the hell Vicpol still don’t have a replacement for LEAP is a mystery even some of their own detectives haven’t grasped the concept of solving. Whoever made that royal A-grade cock-up in purchasing should be revered as the best example of how not to buy a software package that relies on propriety systems.

    Moving on however, how hard would it be to just go back to the developer(s) and say “give us the source code, before we find some law that will make you liable for every future preventable crime that occurs as a result of your system no longer supporting our needs and not being able to be ported to modern standards”?

    * Possible exaggeration, but you get the gist.

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