Home secretary Jacqui Smith has pledged £50m to fund mobile devices for police officers in response to an independent review of policing.
Smith told the Association of Police Authorities conference that the funding would support the roll-out of 10,000 mobile data devices next year. The pledge is aimed at addressing a key point made by Sir Ronnie Flanagan, in an interim report on his policing review, which was originally commissioned by former home secretary John Reid.
The report suggested that as part of the next stage of the review the Mobile Information Programme Board (MIPB) – which involves the British Transport Police and six local forces - should “urgently identify the costs and benefits of rolling out mobile data on a service-wide basis”.
Flanagan’s recommendation followed warnings earlier this year from the Commons home affairs committee, which criticised police for spending an “unacceptably high” proportion of their time bogged down in paperwork and being slow to adopt mobile devices such as PDAs.
He set out three options for mobile technology:
- leaving development to individual forces,
- establishing a national model for mobile data deployment, with a prescribed technical platform and applications suite, or
- a hybrid model, with a national programme to support a variety of platforms and applications.
The MIPB should recommend a way forward, as well as examining the costs and benefits of deploying mobile technology, Flanagan said.
Flanagan’s report also examined other areas of police IT deployment, noting that “effective use of new technology needs to be preceded by cultural change and a shift towards more streamlined processes”.
The final report, due early next year, would consider in greater detail how the police could use IT in to help them work more effectively, he promised.
Flanagan’s interim report says: “A key challenge here is to ensure better co-operation in terms of inter-force operability and systems compatibility. Too many systems are developed on a force-only basis.”
This led to large amounts of “double keying”, because data had to be re-entered on incompatible IT systems used by different forces. A “sensible way forward is to develop minimum standards of functionality, and to prioritise new and developing IT”, the interim report suggests.