In 2002, two children, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, were murdered by school caretaker Ian Huntley. This led to a public inquiry led by Sir Michael (now Lord) Bichard. His primary recommendation was that all UK police forces should share the intelligence – observations, reports and suspicions – held on their individual systems. If such a system had been in place, Huntley is likely to have been identified as a serious threat to children far sooner.
Joining up the existing intelligence held by police forces across the UK was a huge task involving around 200 different databases, many of which held information in incompatible ways – it was not simply a matter of connecting the databases but of converting their contents so they were compatible. The system also needed to be totally secure, so no data could fall into unauthorised hands.
Criminality in the UK is constantly evolving. Priority areas such as cyber crime, human trafficking and child sexual exploitation provide new challenges to existing methods of investigation.
Legacy systems are not able to adapt to meet these new priorities because technical change is either too expensive, slow or impossible. Data sharing agreements have not kept pace with key system user needs, resulting in Law Enforcement that does not communicate or is not alerted to known events and information as effectively as possible.
The National Law Enforcement Data Programme (NLEDP) is being run by the Home Office to look at the future strategic provision of critical national policing IT capabilities to better support the fight against crime and to protect the public.
UCD for legacy system replacement
The NLED Programme will replace legacy data systems, such as Police National Computer and Police National Database, with the Law Enforcement Data Service (LEDS). LEDS will ensure continuity of business services, and act as a platform for innovation to transform the way the HO manages and supplies data services to Law Enforcement Communities and other authorised Agencies throughout the UK and internationally.
This initiative has afforded design the opportunity to revisit historic flaws in information architecture, accessibility, usability and UX heuristics - whilst making ensuring the re-design/platforming is user-centred.
Who are we desining for and what do they need to do?
Users consist of UK Law Enforcement Communities and other authorised Agencies throughout the UK and internationally. These include (but are not limited to):
- Police Forces – 43 separate forces throughout the UK
- Border Control / Immigration
- Government Departments
- Government Agencies
- Disclosure Services
- Criminal Justice System
- Offender Management Services
User requirements include the provision of capability to:
- Check an individual’s identity, offending history, status, and location
- Analyse data to identify links between people, objects, locations and events
- Set up automated alerts for new or changed data and events of interest
Law Enforcement Data Services
LEDS seeks to develop a single platform to host the Police National Computer (PNC), the Police National Database (PND) and ANPR that provides on-demand and at the point of need, current and joined up, information in order to prevent crime and better safeguard the public.
NLEDP will achieve this through the use of more modern, accessible technology and user-centred interfaces that are optimised for task completion, in order to transform the way policing and law enforcement access and use national data. One of its key objectives is to determine the future need for new services to make national data easy to access by front line officers to inform local policing decisions. This will ultimately result in the implementation of a new Law Enforcement Data Service (LEDS) and the transition of users, functionality and data from PNC and PND into LEDS.
UCD for 'technical demonstrator'
Having joined the NLEDP 6 months into its inception as the first UX resource, the initial challenge for me was to gather and critique our understanding of the business objectives and users; including their needs, goals, tasks, motivations and context of use. Key to the reliability of this information was the methods applied in research.
Working alonside a UX Lead who would join the programme a month later, our primary goal in design was to assist the development of 'technical demonstrator', as a single point of access to Person, Object, Location and Event records at the centre of the user experience. By optimising key workflows for core personas, and focusing on affording the user greater control and confidence in their actions, we would reducing dependency on costly system training and help documentation slowing down the novice-intermediate user sets.
Inception to Alpha
I delivered 4 increments of UX/Visual design for a technical demonstrator, interactive prototype and GUI pattern library to be continiously validated with real users of the system by adopting a UCD approach aligned to Government Service Design principles. User research was led by the Home Office, who I worked closely with to understand who I was designing for, identify knowledge gaps in context of use and lead multiple user testing and stakeholder engagement sessions.
My role at the NLEDP would come to an end after this inception phase, in a project that would continue for several years in ALPHA and BETA before being released to a contained user set.
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