Coppers' IT is so complex and varied across the 43 different forces, a complete "big bang" overhaul of systems to force consolidation is not practical - the head of the Police ICT company Martin Wyke has said.
Speaking to The Register, Wyke said that due to the varying IT arrangements and outsourcing contracts across the forces, a move to cut the eye-watering amounts of expensive duplications will have to take the form of a "co-operative" approach.
"An iterative and 'evolutionary' approach is the only practical way of tackling some of those systems," he said.
He added: "It is both effectiveness and efficiencies which are the big prizes and developing a strategy to rationalise 43 to say 12 ICT estates would be a massive win for all concerned."
The Police ICT company was finally set up this year after years in the planning. Its remit is to help cut the £1bn-a-year police IT bill.
The comments follow an announcement by David Cameron in September to tackle IT duplication. He said: "Legislation will be introduced to enable the police, fire and ambulance services to combine back-office functions, IT and procurement to save money."
Wyke said: "There are also initiatives that need to be run at a national level such as procurement, licensing, standards, storage etc. The biggest challenge I see is changing hearts and minds to think and act wider than local."
He said that given further cost cutting, forces will be compelled to join up their IT services in order to meet budgetary demands, adding: "Police ICT company will lead and assist and help in this process."
However, even efforts to join up services across just a couple of forces have proved challenging. One source, who asked not to be named, reported that Kent and Essex Police have encountered some issues in sharing their IT due to the different arrangements in place. He noted that unlike Essex, Kent had kept everything in-house and had opted for a more open source approach.
The Met itself has gone down the IT outsourcing route, with a 10-year £216m deal with Sopra Steria. However, a report by London's spending watchdog has warned the move presents a "huge risks". ®