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No new blood for ICT at Victoria Police, despite Rush recommendations

by Paris Cowan •
Free resource

More than six months after an independent inquiry into its senior management advised it to revamp its ICT leadership “as a matter of urgency,” Victoria Police has taken only modest steps towards the modernisation of its ICT capacity.

Following a seven-month investigation conducted between May and November 2011, inquiry chief Jack Rush QC said he held “no confidence” that the Victoria Police’s senior command was in a position to deliver major ICT projects, and that its staff were wasting as much as 295,000 hours each year struggling with ageing IT systems like the now 20-year-old Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP).

In a Report handed to Parliament in March this year Rush said that effective leadership was crucial to dragging the agency out of its ICT troubles and recommended that it seek out and recruit a replacement for Executive Director of IT and Infrastructure Michael Vanderheide (who resigned to take up a role at CenITex in July 2011).

“His replacement must have a background and experience of the highest quality... Victoria Police should not be constrained by public sector remuneration guidelines in the recruitment of this senior IT executive,” the Report recommended.

More than six months after the Rush Report was handed down, however, there has been no external recruitment to this role as urged by Rush.     

An updated organisation chart released in early August shows that the agency has established a Chief Information Officer role for the first time since former CIO Valda Berzins resigned in 2008, but has not appointed a full-time executive to fill it.

Rather, the new CIO functions will be managed by Assistant Commissioner Jeff Pope in addition to his existing oversight of Intelligence and Covert Support. 

The new CIO role will also sit one level lower than that previously held by Berzins, who answered directly to the Chief Commissioner, in the Specialist Operations Division. 

On 20 June 2012 Victoria Police announced that Cliff Owen had been appointed to the now restructured role of Executive Director, Infrastructure.  

Owen had acted in the Executive Director IT and Infrastructure role since Vanderheide’s departure in June 2011 – a period described by the Rush Report as being characterised by ICT inaction following the failure of Victoria Police’s second attempt to secure funding for the LEAP replacement.

Owen’s senior Victoria Police career extends back to at least 2004 when he was Director, Business Management, and was awarded a Public Service Medal for his work on fleet safety.

Answering directly to Chief Commissioner Ken Lay, Owen now occupies the most senior position of technology infrastructure oversight within the agency.

Together with newly appointed Directors of IT Service Design and IT Service Delivery, who will effectively ‘share’ the role of Chief Technology Officer, Pope and Owen must overhaul the agency’s much criticised ICT environment. However Pope will manage his responsibilities independently of the Executive Director of Infrastructure, with no organisational overlap between the two under the new structure.

In his capacity as CIO Pope has been handed the task of developing a comprehensive blueprint to reform the agency’s information management, known as the Policing Information Process and Practice Reform (PIPP), as well as ‘business ownership’ of the crucial LEAP system.

Only time will tell whether he will have the time or capacity to do what his predecessors haven’t been able to and successfully steer the replacement of LEAP, which the Rush Report describes as “burdensome and inefficient”.

“LEAP data is ‘captured’ by electronic data recording and the use of voluminous forms completed by police and faxed to a central data entry bureau (approximately 1200 per day) where full time data entry staff (75) work around the clock keying information into the LEAP system.

“The backlog is such that it may take days for important crime information to become visible to other police,” found the Rush Report.

While the Victorian Government’s response to the Rush recommendations was largely supportive, it acknowledged that the independence of the Police Force precluded it from taking any action on recruitment, instead deferring to the Chief Commissioner who has not made comment on the matter.

When asked about the appointment of a new chief of IT, the office of Police Minister Peter Ryan told Intermedium it had been advised that the Victoria Police was still in the process of implementing the recommendation.  However a spokesperson for the Victoria Police did not respond to inquiries about the permanence of the August restructure.

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  • VIC
  • IT Services
  • Justice
  • CIO
  • Cliff Owen
  • Jeff Pope
  • LEAP
  • Michael Vanderheide
  • Peter Ryan
  • Rush Report
  • Valda Berzins
  • Victoria Police