Hampshire police are launching a computer app that they say will revolutionise policing.
The force is changing the way it gathers initial statements from witnesses – by using touch-screen devices to save time.
The Electronic Witness Statement (EWS) system allows first accounts of incidents to be recorded directly on to the police log.
They can be annotated later but not changed. Witnesses can sign their statements on the touch screen, and the date and time of the statement.
This saves time as many statements will no longer have to be handwritten. These handwritten statements also have to be taken to police stations to be scanned, which will not be necessary under the new system.
During a pilot scheme that started in Gosport in October last year, it was estimated that about 160 hours of police time was saved in three months, as each statement could be completed about 15 minutes quicker than taking a handwritten note.
Now the new way of working will be extended to Havant, Waterlooville and Park Gate.
Chief inspector Cleave Faulkner, Hampshire Constabulary’s mobile information lead, said: ‘This new technology completely changes our processes; reducing unnecessary bureaucracy, preventing paper wastage and most importantly keeping our officers out on the streets where the public wants them.’
‘Until now officers have also relied on wireless internet access to use their terminals meaning the machines can become difficult to use in very rural areas. With EWS officers can work offline and when they return to wireless coverage, statements are automatically uploaded to the system.
‘It’s a fantastic step for policing, one that we are very proud to be launching here in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, allowing statement taking to become a clearer, more accurate, standardised process.’
Police officers in Hampshire take about 8,500 statements a month, about half of which are handwritten.
As well as front-line officers being issued with touch-screen devices, 370 touch-screen terminals will be given to the constabulary’s Public Protection Department, Major Investigation Teams, Area and district CID teams, custody investigation teams and the Professional Standards Department.
The EWS Smartform app will be up and running across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight by the end of the year.
The force says it may later be extended to more than just initial statements and be used for interviews and legal authorisation for premises searches.
Ch Insp Faulkner said: ‘It’s important that policing moves with the times.’