PUBLIC SECTOR: Report slams police force websites

Police force websites are lagging behind local authorities' online efforts, according to a survey by public sector tech body the Society of IT Management.

The survey, which for the first time ranks each of the UK's 59 police websites in one of four categories, found that no website could achieve the top status, called 'transactional'.

This status is only given to sites that offer the public coherent, accessible information as well as a good level of interactivity and a widespread use of databases, downloadable forms and links with other local and national agencies.

A SOCITM statement said: 'Police websites are still at a relatively early stage of development and are lagging behind sites run by local authorities in terms of content and interactivity, although there is evidence of innovation and best practice in many sites.'

Almost half of all sites are in the bottom category of 'promotional status', meaning they offer only basic information with little scope for interactivity and feedback.

A further 26 sites reached the next rank of 'content' status, awarded for sites that offer some interaction and more sophisticated information, such as downloadable files.

Just seven councils achieved the second best ranking, called 'content plus', which acknowledges more sophisticated sites with good search facilities, interactivity and links to national and other local bodies.

Among these SOCITM has identified that the best five police websites are those of Avon & Somerset, Essex, the Met, Thames Valley and West Midlands.

The report calls on forces to improve interactivity and make their sites more relevant to local people. It suggests there may currently be an over reliance on national online efforts, such as the national police portal website, which was set up last year to help the public report non-urgent crimes.

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