Benjamin Strasser is chairman of the FDP faction in the Bundestag’s Home Commission
The digitization of the German police is on the ground. No wonder, because the federal security architecture is a challenging environment for digital innovation. When authorities from 16 states and the federal government have to be involved in reform projects, implementation automatically becomes very complex. When the interior ministers rush and want to implement lighthouse projects, the core feature of the technology quickly falls by the wayside: uselessness, the ability of different systems to work together as seamlessly as possible.
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The federal and state governments must restrain each other and promote digital innovation with a state treaty for the digitization of the German police force. It must regulate the principles for joint developments and define the admissibility and minimum standards for own developments. Let’s commit to ambitious goals, such as the full digitization of day-to-day police work, from the registration of the complaint to the closure of the case.
It has long been clear that time is of the essence. At the end of 2019, I wanted to know from the federal government about digital technology and innovation at our police. The result was terrifying. In the German police, smartphones and tablets still control the pen and pencil. For example, 31,500 law enforcement officers are employed by the federal police. At the time of my request, there were only about 5000 notebooks and 6000 smartphones available to them. Believe it or not, five police officers come from the federal police on a smartphone. An embarrassing result for the German state.
After all, the federal police has had its own courier service developed so that agents no longer have to use private providers such as WhatsApp for operational communication. But several interior ministers have also developed their own courier services for their police authorities to be seen as pioneers in our federally structured security architecture.
Under these conditions, a nationwide messenger system called EKUS (Implementation, Communication and Support System) should now be developed and put in place. This means that there are no stones in the way of digital interoperability, but rather thick stones. There are many other examples of such digital small states in the police force: from body cameras to networked patrol cars to big data analysis software – individual and non-harmonized solutions are popping up everywhere. This wastes enormous financial and organizational resources.
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The German police were once considered a pioneer of digital technologies. The INPOL search system was state of the art when it was introduced in 1972. It now passes in years and a confusing data juggernaut. The federal states only partially supply their data to the system and use complex interfaces. Here too something must change.
It was not until the autumn of 2016 that the federal and state ministers of the Interior were able to come up with the “Saarbrücken Agenda”, which should inform information management about the digital world. With the BKA program “Police 2020”, the federal government has since wanted to modernize and harmonize the fragmented information architecture of the police. The main goal of the program: every police officer in Germany must have the right information in the right place at the right time.
“Police 2020” would make the job of tens of thousands of police officers easier
A great vision that would make everyday life easier for tens of thousands of police officers across Germany. But when they can rely on a networked information system in day-to-day operations, it’s still in the stars. While “Police 2020” should be on the verge of implementation by name alone, things are lagging.
Central reform projects are being carried out at a snail’s pace and interior ministers are uncoordinated creating facts when it comes to new technologies. It cannot continue like this, because the work of our police officers is only made more difficult. That is why we must make the principles of digital innovation binding within the German police in a state treaty. For bits and bytes instead of a block and pencil for the German police.