Mobile access to information systems in law enforcement: an evaluation of its implications for data quality
A recent UK government initiative enables police officers to input information directly into policing information systems via mobile devices. However, the impact and implications on data quality have not been assessed. The events of 9/11 and the Soham murders in the UK in 2002 may reflect high profile incidents of failure in information management practice within police forces that have amplified the need to scrutinise the monitoring of data quality. The tragedy of the Soham murders was partly caused by poor quality information regarding the offender, Ian Huntley, being held on disparate information systems. Consequently, intelligence and information held on people must be fully accurate, and therefore data quality plays a pivotal role. Despite the apparent severe impact of poor data quality on organisational effectiveness and decision‑making, previous research appears to have addressed these issues only within non‑policing sectors. The paper investigates what measures are used to monitor data quality via an empirical study within a UK police force, the Leicestershire Constabulary. It also evaluates the design of the interface of the crime‑input form and the impact this has on inputting quality information into the crime recording system, along with the implications of this for modern‑day law enforcement. Measurement of data quality was investigated by mapping aspects of the data quality monitoring process identified via qualitative data from semi‑structured interviews against the key attributes of data quality derived from a literature review. The design of the crime‑recording interface was evaluated via a series of focus groups with operational users of mobile technology prior to and following implementation of mobile devices. The research found that there are some processes in place to check that data follows specific standards, such as the recording of dates of birth. However, these processes only take into consideration the structural completeness of data, and other measurements of data quality, such as accuracy, timeliness, relevance, understandability and consistency are not considered. It also found that the existing interface is inefficient for a mobile environment, as there are numerous free‑text fields and duplication of data entry caused by a lack of system integration. The paper contributes to the existing small body of knowledge on data quality within a mobile policing environment. This knowledge can be applied by other law enforcement organisations looking to provide mobile access to their information and knowledge environment without reducing the level of data quality as a result of direct input of information.
- Information Science