Dorset rolls out mobile technology on the beat

Dorset Police has begun the roll-out of 400 BlackBerry smartphones, with 50 of the devices being issued to police officers and police community support officers (PCSOs) in an initial pilot.

Nov 25, 2010
By Paul Jacques

Dorset Police has begun the roll-out of 400 BlackBerry smartphones, with 50 of the devices being issued to police officers and police community support officers (PCSOs) in an initial pilot.

The mobile technology will allow officers to search police systems for information about a person, vehicle or location, as well as information on incidents and crimes. The BlackBerrys also enable them to manage their administration including emails and diary appointments.

Chief Superintendent David Griffith of Dorset Police, said: “It is well documented that the public expect to see police officers and PCSOs patrolling the streets. If we can increase the time they have to do this by issuing them with these devices, as well as giving them access to useful information, it can only benefit the communities they serve.

“While Dorset is not the largest county, it encompasses large rural areas and busy towns and, as a result, our officers spend a lot of time travelling or going back to stations to access police systems, when the purpose of their role is to be out on the streets making Dorset safer and feel safer. In short, these devices will ensure that our officers are as effective and efficient as possible.”

Funding for the BlackBerrys and the applications came from a National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) grant in December 2009. The only investment Dorset Police has made is to provide staff to prepare the BlackBerrys for use and train officers to use them.

Chief Supt Griffith added: “Throughout any spending cuts past or future, we are committed to keeping officers on the streets to provide a first-class service to our communities – this technology will help us to do that.”

“We have been very lucky to get some funding from the NPIA to pilot over 400 Blackberrys on the streets of Dorset and these will be a great benefit to our officers.”

The funding is part of the Government’s multi-million pound investment announced in May 2008 to put thousands of mobile devices in the hands of police to help reduce paperwork and give officers on-the-spot access to information when on patrol. The NPIA has been managing the distribution of funds.

Greater Manchester Police has just issued 67 BlackBerry devices to its neighbourhood policing teams across Wigan borough.

Inspector Anne Scott of the Hindley neighbourhood policing team said: “We always try to use technology if it improves the service we give the public and these handsets enable us to perform certain duties more quickly. This gives us extra time to carry out high-profile patrols to reassure communities and deter criminals. In addition, the handsets came at no cost to us as they were provided by the NPIA funding. This should reassure the public that we are not spending money unnecessarily in these difficult times.”

The funding for mobile technology forms part of the broader programme of the NPIA’s work to bring together police IT, which will better support the development and use of information systems in policing and improvements in service for frontline officers and citizens.

Research in Motion (RIM) claims its BlackBerry smartphone devices have collectively saved UK police forces £112 million. The company, which has worked with British forces for the past four years, claims the savings have been made by police officers using BlackBerrys and a variety of bespoke apps that “enable them to improve efficiency, from accessing and updating records on the move to taking photos as an instant record of a crime scene or suspect”. One in six officers in the UK now carries a BlackBerry on the beat.

• South Yorkshire Police’s BlackBerry smartphone deployment programme has been named as a finalist in the 2010 e-Government National Awards. South Yorkshire has been nominated in the ‘Innovation in strategy at a local level’ category.

The force began deploying the devices among its 400-strong senior management team last year. It has now started a full-scale frontline deployment to officers on the beat and has 1,400<

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