ECINS Heather Ette spoke to Phil Priestley, Cambs City/South Cambs/Hunts NPT SPOC, Cambridgeshire Constabulary
HE: When did you first start working with ECINS?
PP: I first encountered ECINS more than two years ago and though it was being used successfully within the Constabulary it had some difficulty getting traction with some external partners at that time.
We were really keen to push ahead with the use of it but some of the interactions, in particular where we were sharing information with schools, it was sometimes harder to engage them as they were not used to using a secure system which was password or PIN protected. Fortunately, as Data Protection regulations have become more stringent people have been persuaded of the importance for that measure of security and can now see the benefits and advantages it brings.
HE: Has the use of ECINS grown over time and have you engaged more partners?
PP: Our PCC has made ECINS available to all of our partners so that they can have access. Our partners are now keen to reap the benefits of a third party database that is GDPR compliant and the system has become easier to use over time and has been updated.
Rather than training them, we encourage people to adopt ECINS and just start using it. I often liken it to a social media app in its methods of being able to just pick up and run with it rather than something that takes a lot of time and effort for people to use.
My personal experience is that if people can find their way around Facebook easily enough without training, then ECINS is in that category in terms of ease of use. It’s about persuading people to have the courage to use it and more partners are now definitely using it.
HE: What is your role in the Constabulary and what is your involvement with ECINS?
PP: I am Neighbourhood Policing Sergeant for East Cambs but my remit has broadened recently. In East Cambs we have a Problem Solving group which has been built around ECINS. The Problem Solving group meets to discuss and find solutions for issues, we tend to divide those problems between geographic concerns, thematic problems (theft from vehicles for example), or problem individuals or families.
ECINS enables us to run our meetings and share information with all partners and gives us the confidence that we are discussing and sharing in a secure manner. This is particularly important as many of the people and subjects we are discussing relates to juveniles.
We can upload images in confidence, sharing information and allowing others to confidentially share their information so that we get a complete picture offered by more than one person. It’s a bit like a Wikipedia – everyone coming together to give their view, cover the issues we are confronting and the timescales we are going to address them in.
HE: How does ECINS assist with Problem Solving in Cambs?
PP: The Local Policing Review has reformed our organisation structure to a North/South structure and we want all the Problem Solving groups to be run out of ECINS so that all of our significant partner groups – schools, local district councils, parishes, housing and social care can share and upload their information.
The type of information we share can be quite complex, for example we might want to discuss a high risk young person who goes missing from home frequently. How much is it going to help us to have up to date, live information? That is where ECINS benefits us – it’s the product that underpins everything and allows us to be able to do just that.
We can’t afford broad access to police databases so actually ECINS gives us the opportunity to have that relationship with our partners whilst keeping that sterile channel which complies with the Home Office guidelines. We put what we see as relevant information on ECINS and upload other intelligence separately which is not accessible to people who do not have the appropriate level of security clearance.
We have been signing more and more people up to ECINS and general use has been increasing over time. Our PCC has really invested in this product so that it is available for all of our partners to use.
Our Problem Solving Group in East Cambs is quite broad and whilst the headcount fluctuates it typically consists of five schools with a senior school leader, senior teacher, head of pastoral care for each school, representative from social care, representative from local fire and rescue, local housing provider, and health service for physical and mental health in attendance. There are usually around 12 people around the table and is held monthly or every two months. The minutes go onto ECINS and we hold tactical meetings to show immediate progress around acute situations for people in a state of distress or a particular spate of crime in a particular area where we want to turn a situation around quickly.
We want to put all our agendas on ECINS and provide all relevant information to the people who need it. There are a number of additional benefits in making use of ECINS’ technology in terms of time savings on printing or disseminating minutes and agendas.
HE: What do you see as being the key benefits of using ECINS?
PP: When working with any school there is a point where we need to share information with them. Even though we in the police have encrypted emails, most of the schools do not. If we want to share information which is sensitive, involving individuals or intelligence straight away we ask them to register on ECINS.
A service provider like ECINS gives us a standard of approval to the highest level. We know that everyone we share information with is relevant, that they have signed up to our information sharing agreement and have the information for a legitimate purpose. In terms of the management of the data we can evidence that we have managed that data responsibly.
Our PCC has made a hard-line direction to us that we will not get on the wrong side of Data Protection and ECINS affords us the high level of security we need with its access permissions. Having an Information Sharing Agreement is crucial and we couldn’t get by without one.
Whilst modern day information sharing has become so easy we have to ensure the security arrangements are iron-clad. A third party cloud-based system which is properly firewalled with the installation of password and pin number security that ECINS offers enables us to evidence that we have taken every reasonable step to comply with Security Protocol and Data Regulations.
This is the conversation we are having with many of the schools we are working with. If we are not at the point already we will soon be drawing a hard line to instruct partners that if they want to share information with us then they must use ECINS. It either happens on ECINS or it doesn’t happen at all because we don’t want to be in a position where we could risk a data breach. It’s much cheaper for us to open up ECINS access to our partners than it is to get hit by a fine from the Data Commissioner.
We have 27 mainstream secondary schools and it’s our aspiration to get all of them signed up on ECINS. In East Cambs we have 5 major secondary schools and they are either on ECINS or in the process of adopting it.
Sometimes we have people who come to us with Gmail or Hotmail email addresses who want to share information with us. We tell them not to send us unsecure emails and instead sign up to E-CINS so we can have conversations behind that security barrier.
Having all the relevant partners using ECINS is significant for the Problem Solving group in helping us get the right support to an individual and identify people who are at risk of harm. If we are discussing, for example, a young woman who is frequently going missing, is vulnerable, involved in underage sexual activity and is being exploited through drugs it is crucial that a referral is made through to the MASH team who coordinate for the whole county. Having detailed information about the young woman from a range of agencies on ECINS enables everyone to see the big picture and identify the correct agency to make the referral.
HE: Without ECINS how would you have carried out your work?
PP: ECINS has effectively allowed us to be open and honest about the issues we want to discuss with our partners. Before ECINS, if we wanted to discuss an individual we would only be able to refer to them by their initials rather than their full name so we did not improperly identify them to others and we would have to keep information to a minimum.
Without ECINS we could have breached the Data Protection Act by sharing email information which could potentially be forwarded on to someone else. As Data Controller, if I emailed information to an individual and they sent it on to someone else I would potentially be responsible for that landing in the wrong hands.
Before ECINS, I have literally printed documents off, put them in a sealed envelope and put it in the hands of a PCSO to deliver it personally to a school to hand it to a specific individual in order to ensure they are secure. With the ability to lock information down and set individual access permissions, ECINS is a far easier, quicker and more secure method!