North Wales Police signs £17.8 million contract with CGI

North Wales Police has bought 128 body-worn video cameras, plans to replace officers' existing mobile devices and is considering handing out wearables to frontline police.

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North Wales Police has signed a £17.8 million contract with CGI to provide ICT services over the next five years.

CGI will be responsible for improving North Wales Police's infrastructure, applications, desktop and mobile environments, providing ICT support and helping to design and manage the transformation project.

The deal is part of the force's transformation plan to maximise the amount of time officers spend in the community rather than in the office and will save an estimated £3.5 million, according to business services director Geoff Bradley.

As part of the project North Wales Police has  also bought body-worn video cameras, is set to buy new mobile devices and has started planning to provide officers with wearables, Bradley told ComputerworldUK.

Earlier this month the force bought 128 body-worn video cameras after a six-month pilot last year, thanks to a grant from the Ministry of Justice Innovation Fund.

“It's predicated on getting officers to self-serve, and providing the tools that they need to be effective,” according to Bradley.

North Wales Police is now set to buy new mobile devices to replace officers' existing Blackberry handsets. It has tried out Samsung and Microsoft devices among others but is “moving towards Windows Phone” as it would fit into the force's existing desktop estate, he said.

“It's about looking at functionality and being able to purchase in a way we can refresh when new products hit the market....we want a complete level of adoption so it's all about putting the officer experience at the heart of what we're doing,” Bradley added.

The mobile devices will include functions to remind officers about deadlines for tasks and use the in-built GPS to alert them if they are in an area where there is an arrest pending, Bradley said.

“It’s getting decision making closer to the point of activity – and freeing up officers to move onto next activity rather than being slave to the job,” he explained.

However, mobiles are simply the front end of creating what Bradley calls a “digital economy for criminal justice”. This means collecting then storing all evidence digitally and ensuring officers can get the data they need when and where they need it, so they can maximise their time on the frontline, he added.

North Wales Police is now considering whether to hand out wearable devices to officers as part of a joint health and wellbeing project with the Welsh Ambulance Service, according to Bradley.

The devices would monitor officers' vital signs and fitness, allowing them to keep an eye on their health, he said.

“We've agreed with the ambulance service to work together on a mobile app, initially focusing just on the health and wellbeing of their staff,” Bradley said, adding that he expects the app to launch “in about six months”.

“It's a two-way deal. We want our staff to be healthy and well, and in return for us is they’re in work doing their job," he said.

“Wearables takes that one stage on. The issue with wearables is everyone’s reaction is 'Oh my god, it’s like Big Brother'. But it’s about the relationship we have with officers. If they don't want us to hold that data we won't. It's not about forcing them to do anything."