An office in a car

The challenge for Leicestershire Constabulary was freeing-up officers from paperwork. The answer was to provide a virtual desktop environment for mobile units, described as ‘the most significant step forward in police communications since the introduction of the personal radio’.

Jun 11, 2009
By Paul Jacques
Chief Constable Andy Marsh

The challenge for Leicestershire Constabulary was freeing-up officers from paperwork. The answer was to provide a virtual desktop environment for mobile units, described as ‘the most significant step forward in police communications since the introduction of the personal radio’.

An internal work study undertaken by Leicestershire Constabulary in 2007 identified significant opportunities to save time and increase the productivity of police officers through mobile access to data.
In fact, allowing administration tasks to be handled while out of the office was shown to hold the potential to increase officers’ time on the streets by 30 per cent.
Mobile access would not only ensure greater productivity, but would also provide a boost in public confidence, according to James Pearce, information systems analyst at Leicestershire Constabulary.
“It’s important that our officers maintain a visible presence in the community – which isn’t something they can achieve if they have to spend considerable time back in the office processing paperwork,” said Mr Pearce.
At the same time, officers’ ability to report information about crime quickly was hampered by the need for the teams to return to the office to complete paperwork. In fact, the standard practice was to use pen and paper at the scene of the crime, return to the office and fax the information to the input bureau, which then filed the report.
“Due to the time it took to file their reports and conduct the subsequent analysis, officers were delayed in spotting links between cases,” Mr Pearce added.
During the research into a possible solution, Mr Pearce’s team found that officers would sometimes need to access up to 70 separate internal IT systems while out on patrol – from crime and offender databases to command and  control systems. But the amount of data held in legacy applications made the task of improvement extremely difficult.

Implementing a virtual desktop
In conjunction with the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), Leicestershire Constabulary worked with Platinum Citrix solution advisor Point to Point. The team worked on ways to allow officers to access applications and data while on patrol to file reports and make connections between crimes in real time.
A virtualised desktop environment was chosen as it could incorporate the force’s legacy systems and give officers an experience similar to working from their desks. It could also be delivered within time and budget constraints.
Pearce’s team selected Citrix® XenDesktop™, Platinum Edition as it most closely matched the demands of the force. It ‘dynamically’ assembles virtual desktops on demand, providing users with a new and pristine desktop each time they log on. In addition, the high-speed delivery protocol provides excellent responsiveness over any network.
The solution was installed on Panasonic CF19 ToughBook laptops, which were fitted into patrol cars across the region. The vehicle-mounted rugged notebooks – consisting of tablet screen and external keyboard – connect via an onboard 3G wireless network card. The notebooks can be removed as necessary by the officers for data entry right at the scene of a crime.

Thirty per cent productivity boost
With 100 cars fitted with the notebook computers and plans for 300 in total, XenDesktop immediately proved its value thanks to its fast learning curve. At the same time, the Citrix solution has given Leicestershire Constabulary the capability to input a full crime report directly from the scene.
“The ability to deliver a virtualised desktop to the mobile units meant officers were able to interact with the same core systems and software they were used to back in the office,” Mr Pearce said.
“The only difference was that the computer was in the car. Overall, it meant we could roll out mobile units extremely quickly, and officers were comfortable using them immediately.”
As officers are often moving between strong and weak areas o

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