Tech inefficiencies in UK policing cost £221m a year

The lack of technology being used by the police in the UK is costing taxpayers up to £221m each year, says O2

The lack of technology being used by police in the UK is costing taxpayers up to £221m, according to O2.

UK police are wasting time and money while on the beat because they cannot access systems and records outside of police stations, a study by O2 and the Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr) found.

According to the research, each police officer in the UK has up to 193 inefficient hours per year, due to lack of connectivity. 

Frontline officers have to leave incidents while on the beat 61 times a year because they don’t have the technology they need, the ability to create reports, or access to records in real time. This wastes around 65 hours per officer, per year in trips to and from police stations.

Officers also don’t have the technology to undertake tasks efficiently in 45% of external visits, meaning they have to revisit after an event.

The research claimed better connectivity could save up to 45 hours per officer, per year. Additionally, the O2 and Cebr report stated that if officers had full access to digital technology, the resulting boost in productivity would equate to hiring an additional 5,500 junior police officers.

Billy D’Arcy, managing director of public sector business at O2, commented: “Police forces across the country are under increasing pressure to identify millions in savings while maintaining support in their local communities, and this pressure is only set to heighten. These findings highlight the crucial role technology has to play in helping forces tackle this challenge.”

The Met trials iPad minis

Last month, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) announced plans to trial 500 iPad minis for six months from April. The trial is part of the Met’s Total Technology IT strategy, a three to four-year plan to transform the use of technology across the organisation.

The Met plans to implement a number of new technologies for officers, including an MPS App Store for officers to access publicly available applications, an electronic statement for crime numbers via mobile to be handed to victims at the scene of a crime, equipment to capture evidence digitally, and access to information and forms via mobile devices.

Citizens will also be introduced to a set of new online services for crime reporting, crime tracking, payments, and uploading digital images and videos. The Met also plans to enhance its website to make it easier for citizens to find and use services.

The Met's CIO, Richard Thwaite, told Computer Weekly he could see how powerful using mobile devices would be for officers, but the organisation needed to understand how it could transform their jobs: “What about all the bits below the surface? It’s like an iceberg, with disparate databases and out-of-date technology – how do you make that less visible, and how do you do that heavy lifting to enable what the business wants?”

A lot of other forces have been using mobile devices, said Thwaite, but he has to ensure the Met’s solution is fully integrated into a refreshed back-end system.

“[The iPad mini trial] is an exciting opportunity to see technology help transform the policing environment, which is very old-fashioned, with police officers using their notebooks – we’re moving into the 21st century,” he said.

O2’s Blue Light Managed Mobility service

In partnership with Capita, O2 has launched a service for the UK’s police force. The Blue Light Managed Mobility system allows officers to access information wherever they need to through a range of smart devices, expert account management, connectivity and mobile device management (MDM).  

As part of the package, O2 is distributing Capita’s SmartWorks app and platform, which will provide officers with access to back-office systems, including record management systems and the Police National Computer (PNC).

The package will also allow officers to submit reports securely via the application, rather than typing up reports back at base.

Sean Massey, divisional managing director, Capita, justice and secure services, said: “We know that the nature of policing is changing and that, as the number of frontline officers reduces, processes need to be more efficient and information needs to be more immediately available to those on the beat. 

"We have created an app that works securely on any device and any platform, and provides a fast route to everything an officer needs to work safely, quickly and while on the move.”

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