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Police Career - Linux Computer Systems in Law Enforcement

Aug 17, 2007
Law enforcement recently has been following the general tide of government and public service groundswell by seeking computing solutions in the Linux direction. Particularly in law enforcement, their needs match well with open source software. They have to work lean on a taxpayer's budget, and open source is free or low cost. They need top security, and Linux is still the highest-scoring operating software in official government assessments. They need mission-critical reliability, and Linux is so stable, it doesn't just outrank the competition in stability - it makes the competition disappear!

Some recent examples of law enforcement agencies finding a solution in open source:

* Kent Police have lowered the cost of running their major criminal investigations system by a factor of 90% using Novell Linux Open Enterprise Server. The migration to Novell enabled Kent to scale up their Holmes II investigation system to work on larger projects with a broader scope - something they'd never been able to do before. They were also able to run it on their cheapest hardware they could find, thanks to Linux's light requirements. A new policing operating system, named Genesis, is now being tested for scalability on Linux servers.

* Delivery of the first Linux systems to the West Yorkshire police force could see police forces throughout England and Wales unanimously switching to Linux desktops in a new pilot scheme. The deployment is taking place under a contract awarded by the UK Police IT Organization. If successful, it will lead to over 60,000 desktops deployed. In West Yorkshire alone, the installed base is around 3,500, and a spokesman reckoned that the savings from this would be around one million pounds per year!

* The New South Wales Police department is currently undertaking a major upgrade to its information infrastructure, made necessary due to the increasing volume of data handled by the force, and they're switching to Linux systems to handle the load. Because the Linux systems are proving so reliable, they are looking forward to the higher capacity network more efficiently archiving and transmitting data stored as evidence, such as surveillance videos and audio material.

* Scottish police forces have also developed a Linux-based system for ensuring that they comply with the Freedom of Information Act legislation, an act which is intended to facilitate 'open government' by allowing the public to request access to government data. Since open source and open information go hand in hand, the system has scaled easily and saved tons of labor. The force doesn't have to worry about proprietary media formats interfering with the public's ability to access the data, and the efficiency of the Linux system allows a lot of manual tasks to be automated where they couldn't before. The system is literally returning officers to the streets because it has saved everyone so much work.

* Police in the city of Munich have switched 14,000 of their department computers from Microsoft's Windows operating system to Linux. The motivation for the decision was to make the government less dependent on one information technology supplier, and to save money while increasing capabilities. One technology analyst even compared the break-through migration to the fall of the Berlin wall, referring to the oppressive requirements of dealing with a proprietary software company's agenda.

That government feels friendly with open source should come as no surprise. Traditionally, the Internet has been 80% Linux and Unix-based systems since its creation. The first Internet services were started and maintained by government providers, who used Unix system's built-in multitasking features and excellent speed to create a fast, reliable network. Linux, a modern version of that Unix ideal, has already established itself as the leading system for server-room deployment, but now the effects are beginning to trickle down to the desktop user level and workstation deployments, where they are discovering that Linux systems have workspace-ready features built in which other commercial operating systems are just now beginning to discover and implement.

Furthermore, Linux systems come with the guarantee that because they are open source, no commercial company can restrict their usage in the future. A platform ported to Linux can stay on Linux, without support dying out and constant upgrades creating problems down the road.

Finally, the inherent security of the Unix computing model guarantees the effectiveness of Linux without the worries over security problems. Because there are in effect no viruses which can infect a Linux system known, and no critical security exploits found in the systems even by government security standards, departments are also considering Linux as a measure to protect our national data under concerns over national security and the terrorist threat in our modern times.
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