Transforming Forensics and Forensic Capability Network wanted to deploy new technology and tools to enable police forces to improve how they collect digital forensics data related to rape and serious sexual offences.
The project depended on CDW purchasing 150 high-powered laptops, tablets, and other devices configured with six separate "images" for forces across England and Wales.
The work had to be delivered within extremely tight time frames, drawing on CDW's internal teams with long-standing digital forensic expertise.
The project has delivered a range of advanced equipment that will better support the victims and witnesses of rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO).
The Rape Review Response Project (RRRP) was a £5m initiative established in June 2021 at the request of the Home Office as part of the UK Government’s drive to improve the response to rape and serious sexual offences (RASSO). It set out to provide new digital forensics tools to enable forces to take technology to victims, examine mobile and digital devices at crime scenes, and give investigators faster access to the right digital evidence.
The ultimate aim was to deliver a faster, safer, and more sensitive service for those affected by rape and other crimes, better evidence entering courts, and increased confidence in the criminal justice system.
This requirement included the need to purchase, build, and deliver 150 high-powered laptops and tablets, along with a range of accessories, to be used within digital forensic specialist vehicles. Each device needed to be installed with a package of bespoke Digital Forensic software programs, focused on the needs of each Police force.
"The challenge (for RRRP) was buying a complex range of hardware that required a build that would need to be built of six separate configurations, each included niche software for very specialist digital forensics activity," says Paul Greaves, Senior Commercial Manager at FCN. "This requirement was compounded as the IT market suffered significant global supply chain issues resulting in extended lead times for many devices. Additionally, we were fast approaching the financial year end, and all kit needed to be procured and delivered to Forces within a three-month window."
FCN went to tender for £2.1 million, with CDW emerging as the chosen supplier. "It became clear that CDW was the only organisation that could manage our requirements," says Paul Greaves. "It has a dedicated Forensics Network Services Team providing many years of experience in digital forensics. The caliber of people in that CDW team gave us the confidence to move forward swiftly with the project."
ABOUT TRANSFORMING FORENSICS AND THE FORENSIC CAPABILITY NETWORK
Transforming Forensics (TF) is a National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) programme funded by the Home Office (HO) to create advanced forensic capabilities that meet the changing needs of policing and the public.
TF works with the Forensic Capability Network (FCN) and other law enforcement partners to deliver a range of activities, including the Rape Review Response project. FCN is the national network for forensic science in policing in England and Wales. Formed in April 2020, it supports 4,000 forensic practitioners as well as frontline investigators.
At the heart of FCN is the desire for the forensic community to work together to deliver high quality, specialist forensic science capabilities, to share knowledge and improve resilience, efficiency, quality, and effectiveness.
The immediate challenge was the availability of hardware that met the project's specifications. A worldwide shortage of computer chips meant that the lead time for the high-powered laptops and tablets, which had previously stood at three months, had been extended to six months. CDW needed to leverage its relationships with key vendors to source the devices within a couple of weeks.
"The market constraints had the potential to derail the project from the start," says Nigel Murphy, Business Development Director at CDW UK. "We had to work hard with our vendors, including splitting and staggering the order requirement, to ensure that the devices could be delivered on time. This was a critical activity – because we were up against some tight timeframes, and we needed to get hold of the hardware before the image building and software configuration could be progressed."
Once the equipment was delivered, CDW worked closely with FCN's commercial team to oversee licensing of specialist mobile data extraction software from vendors such as MSAB and Cellebrite. Intense efforts took place to ensure the highest levels of standardisation around configuration, with in-depth discussions on how the software was to be loaded onto the machines.
What started as weekly project updates soon turned into daily stand-ups, where individual technical issues were debated and fixed. During this time, the CDW and FCN teams fostered a strong working relationship, which was essential in keeping the project on track.
"The configuration and image building process was highly complex because the six different images all involved many software programs from different vendors that weren't really designed to work together," says Nigel Murphy at CDW. "This is where our Forensics Network Services Team, which specialises in digital forensics in policing, came into its own. It had the knowledge and experience to carefully piece together the software packages and load them so that they would work straight out of the box."
According to Paul Greaves at FCN, the insight provided by CDW was crucial to the delivery of the project. "The level of professionalism from the account management and technical team at CDW was exceptional, and all the technical issues and documentation required were fully satisfied. When the hardware was delivered, there was a lot of configuration, proof-of-concept, and device test build that needed to be carried out. CDW performed these tasks most efficiently, and then went on to build, bundle, and dispatch the initial set of devices before the first deadline."
The level of professionalism from the account management and technical team at CDW was exceptional, and all the technical issues and documentation required were fully satisfied.
Senior Commercial Manager, Forensic Capability Network