Computers save hours and hours of police time

ON THE BEAT Officers are spening more time on patrol because of new technology
ON THE BEAT Officers are spening more time on patrol because of new technology

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FORTY working days of police time have been saved this year because of mobile technology, it has been revealed.

Hampshire Constabulary says that using BlackBerry mobile phones, laptops and body-worn video cameras – rather than taking statements on paper – has saved officers 320 hours since April of this year.

The chairman of Hampshire Police Federation, John Apter, generally welcomed the technology.

But he warned: ‘What I don’t want to see is an option.

‘Is it cops or computers?’

He added: ‘The bodyworn video from my experience is a really good initiative.

‘It’s good for the victim, it’s good for police officer and it’s good for the judicial system.’

The technology has been used for some time by Hampshire police, which is one of the forces pioneering 21st century policing.

Rather than having to go back to the police station to input statements into a computer, it allows officers to stay out on the beat.

But Mr Apter said there had been some issues with the mobile phones, with officers still unable to get a 3G signal in rural areas.

He said: ‘If the bosses had asked the cops on the frontline what was the best device, the Blackberry device would not be favoured.

‘It’s causing officers problems because of the size of the keys.’

Mr Apter warned that the police needed to be able to update the technology to keep up with criminals – something that could be a struggle with Hampshire police facing £25m of cuts.

He added: ‘We need to have a budget to purchase products on a regular basis.

‘The moment you buy a laptop, the technology changes overnight.’

However, Mr Apter said the force was now listening to the needs of officers on the ground.

‘We have a mobile team who are actively engaging with the police federation and the cops on the ground,’ he said.

‘They are listening to what their needs are.’

Figures show the computer technology is saving Hampshire Constabulary around £600,000 a year in staff costs.

It comes as Damien Green, justice minister, visited Winchester earlier this week to test out some of the technology, including the use of tablet computers.

Since February 40 tablet computers have been used by the force in a pilot scheme.

Mr Green said that paper often slowed down the judicial system, from the street to the court room.

He said that as forces face the pinch, officers should focus on using technology to get the best results.

He added: ‘I think the solution is using technology and better management to make sure every minute of every officer’s time is used effectively in preventing crime.’

Earlier this year Chief Constable Andy Marsh pledged his commitment to better police resources.

He told The News: ‘I’m going to continue to keep the force at the cutting-edge of technology - that will mean lots of things, from body-worn cameras, to mobile technology that’s taken into people’s homes, to digital paperless files.

‘Most safer neighbourhood team officers have BlackBerry devices which enables them to do all sorts of searching and inputting tasks which actually keeps them out on the streets rather than going back to the station to do it.

‘But you can’t take the statement on the BlackBerry. Our investigating officers are now just being equipped with laptops, which they can take statements on.’