On Wednesday, we held a one day conference for chief officers of all ranks in London. With the aim of ensuring that attendees were briefed on national issues, this conference was designed to enable colleagues to work together more effectively.
We discussed our joint approach to improving the welfare of our staff, the latest technology available to forces and our plans for greater investment in tackling serious organised crime. We were also joined by the Minister for Policing, the new Chief Executive Officer of the College of Policing, Mike Cunningham, and by senior Met officers who gave a briefing on the nerve agent attack in Salisbury.
Chief Constable Andy Rhodes explained the work that is being done as part of a Police Transformation Fund grant to improve officer welfare. Along with a very good website which gives help and advice, a number of pilots are being run in forces to test what will make an effective difference. Policing can be extremely stressful and pressurised - we need to look after our staff and protect them from harm as much we can while acknowledging that many policing roles do expose officers to danger.
Following this, we watched demonstrations of new technology which will help police forces to protect the public and provide a better service. As part of the police-led programme on digital policing, Thames Valley and Hampshire have worked with the Met to develop a new platform for public contact which can meet the needs of all forces. Each force website will retain its distinctive force identity but we will have common ways for the public to report crime or traffic incidents. The Met is already taking reports of over ten per cent of crimes online and in Thames Valley and Hampshire they have found that in the first few weeks over 30 per cent of traffic collisions are being reported online - much more convenient for the public and more efficient for police forces. All who saw the demonstrations were enthusiastic and keen to sign up.
We also looked at three Home Office led programmes: a new platform for biometric data (primarily DNA and fingerprints), a better national database for child abuse images and a new national automatic number plate recognition system. These three systems will all make working across force borders so much easier and ensure that information about offences and offenders can be shared.
The Policing Minister spoke passionately about developing digital technology for policing - he was preaching to the converted among chief officers. We need continuing support from the Home Office for the plans we have as part of the digital policing programme and our intention to introduce common software and storage arrangements so that we can share information more easily.
For several years we have warned about the growing threat from serious organised crime. Now, thanks in part to the television series McMafia, there is a growing awareness of a small number of ruthless criminals who will exploit any opportunity to make money trafficking people, drugs or firearms and defrauding, or attempting to defraud, the public of billions of pounds.
We have developed a good plan with the National Crime Agency to build intelligence capability and to further increase expertise in child abuse investigation, cyber crime and economic crime. Chief Constable Andy Cooke and Deputy Director General (Capability) of the National Crime Agency, Nina Cope, set out the proposals. For the next two years these initiatives will be funded by the Police Transformation Fund so we need to ensure that we have built the most compelling case for more national funding before the next spending review. Serious organised crime is a national security threat and the funding needs to reflect that.
Lastly, Chief Constable Nick Ephgrave gave an update on progress on the disclosure improvement plan. Great effort is being made across the country to get this right and to ensure that officers are both equipped with a clear understanding of their responsibilities under the law and have access to the best training and tools.
The next chief officer briefing will be outside London in the autumn.
National Police Chiefs' Council Chair Sara Thornton