The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is hoping to provide 15-20,000 tablets to frontline officers in the near future, after the successful trial of 500 iPad Mini devices across London.
Officers with three Met divisions - Hammersmith and Fulham, Child Protection and the Aviation Security Operational Command Unit (SO18) - have been using the devices for a variety of purposes, such as taking witness statements and accessing police software systems on the beat.
The use of these tablets has also been boosted by running on Vodafone’s 4G network, offering faster connectivity for sending and receiving data.
The trials have been part of the Met’s £200m Total Technology policing strategy unveiled in February 2014, which aims rapidly to enhance the Met’s use of technology to tackle crime and social problems in the capital.
Adrian Hutchinson, mobile technology lead at the Met, told V3 that the iPads have proved hugely successfully in this aim, improving many aspects of the job.
“We are a modern crime fighting machine, but our officers still have to make hand-written statements and then type them up back at the office. This doesn’t give the image of an overly efficient system,” he said.
“With the iPads, officers can take statements electronically, embed images, get people to sign with a fingerprint and load all this into the system on the scene instantly.”
As part of this initiative a wide range of systems have been made available to officers over the web through a virtual private network.
These include the Merlin Crime Recording System, child protection and vulnerability victims system, Stop and Search, email, calendar and electronic witness statements.
Some 8,500 statements have been taken electronically so far, while the ability to take photos and add them to statements at the scene also brings many benefits.
"It means we can document injuries at the time. A bruise from a slap can fade quickly, but if we can take a photo at the scene it's much more powerful and it helps the victim feel they are getting a professional response," he said.
These tools have all been developed in-house by the Met's scrum team, with one serving officer to provide input on how best to design the tools from a serving officer's point of view.
Ready to roll
The benefit of officers being able to access forms and data on the tablets also allows them to do far more admin on the beat, rather than in the office, as Hutchinson explained.
“Emergency response officers had been spending a lot of time in police stations doing routine admin. That’s not the right place to do it. So now they can do that on the tablet, in their car, in an area we know is a crime hot spot,” he said.
“This reassures the public, deters crimes and if the call does come in that they’re needed somewhere in the borough, they’re already out in the car ready to go, not in the station.”
Given the success of the Met's trial the plan is to gain approval from the Met’s corporate governance board and the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime to push the rollout of tablets across London.
“We have a business case that is being currently prepared. What we have to show is that, in order to justify investment, there is a return on investment, in a financial sense but also the benefit to the public,” Hutchinson said.
If this is approved the Met will be in a position to equip almost all frontline officers with tablets. Hutchinson expects anywhere between 15,000 and 20,000 devices to be bought.
However, while iPads have been used in the trials, there is no guarantee that they will be chosen for the wider rollout.
“We are not committed to the iPad. Right now it’s the tablet we are using but we have to be open minded with procurement and it’s important we don’t just go with one type of device or operating system,” said Hutchinson.
Instead he said it's more likely that a "small mixed fleet of devices that best suit the role but also allow [for] economies of scale and management" would be chosen.
This is in keeping with comments from former Met CIO Richard Thwaite who told V3 last year that he expected a mix of iOS, Android and Windows machines to be used on the frontline.
The Met is not the only force turning to technology to improve its crime-fighting efforts.
Earlier this week Durham Constabularly told V3 how it is using Micrsoft's Dynamics cloud back-end to host its software to reduce costs and establish a platform to let officers access key software and tools on-the-go.
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