Two police forces in Wales are using Samsung Galaxy Note 4 smartphones running on Vodafone’s 4G network as part of a push to improve the use of digital technologies on the beat.
Some 5,000 officers, community support officers and other policing specialists from Gwent Police and South Wales Police will be issued with the devices by March.
The forces have also developed their own in-house app, called iPatrol, that offers access to key databases required by officers when on the street.
This will allow them to access local and national police databases directly from the handsets, and log, save and share details of crimes during a shift rather than having to write up the information at base.
The forces estimate that using the mobile devices in this way will increase time on the beat by the equivalent of 436,000 hours.
Assistant chief constable Richard Lewis from South Wales Police told V3 that the move to the Samsung devices was born of a desire to upgrade from outdated BlackBerry devices.
"This is our second iteration of our mobility strategy as we look to really mobilise our technology to allow police officers to make more decisions and be in possession of all the relevant information out on the beat,” he said.
Lewis explained that the force tested 150 to 200 Note 4 devices to begin with, and that officers provided plenty of positive feedback.
The inclusion of a stylus pen with the Note 4, for example, was a big plus, as were the vastly improved photo-taking capabilities.
“It means you can get people to sign statements, write comments, draw pictures and so on, and the ability to take photos on the phone means you can add them to case notes there and then,” he said.
This is the first time that the forces have used 4G, which should allow officers to access information and submit data entries far more quickly than the previous 3G services allowed.
Lewis noted, however, that the devices can latch onto public WiFi networks to overcome the difficulties encountered by the rural nature of much of Wales.
The force is also evaluating the rollout of tablet or smaller form factor laptops to complement the mobile devices for other requirements, such as taking full witness statements when a keyboard would be required.
"Our interactions [with people] vary from the simple to the complex and, whilst the mobile devices provide a lot of information and flexibility for simpler interactions, many investigations require more detailed work," he said.
“With a more desktop-type device officers can access the full range of tools they need but in a mobile and agile way, so they can work anywhere, such as in patrol cars, partner officers, at a victim's home and so on.”
The use of mobile devices and 4G services is increasing all the time. The Metropolitan Police in London has rolled out up to 20,000 tablets and smartphones to officers, also running on the Vodafone 4G network.
Meanwhile, Cumbria Police is using the EE network to provide 1,500 officers with mobile access on Samsung Note 4 devices.
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