The police will spend a total of £80 million on mobile devices for officers on the beat, the government has said.
The National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) has embarked on the second phase of a programme to equip police forces across England, Scotland and Wales with handheld computers. With additional funding, NPIA will extend the initiative to benefit a further 25 forces and two agencies that were not already part of the programme, in addition to the 27 forces currently switching on the devices.
The PDAs will be used by officers to take fingerprints, check a central database of criminals, and file reports while they are still at crime scenes. Forces have been allowed to select their own devices, but this has raised some concerns over compatibility.
The government claims the devices will save officers 30 minutes per shift and keep them on the streets for that time, by removing the need to regularly return to police stations to file reports.
The announcement marks a £30 million increase on the original £50 million commitment. Some £50 million had already been allocated to 27 forces including Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Cambridgeshire, all eight Scottish forces, Cheshire, Essex, Thames Valley, the Metropolitan Police and the British Transport Police.
The remaining £30 million will be used by 25 other forces including Avon and Somerset, City of London, Cumbria, Devon and Cornwall, Durham, Dyfed-Powys, Greater Manchester, Surrey and West Midlands. Two agencies, the ACPO Terrorism and Allied Matters, and the Serious Organised Crime Agency, will also receive funding to buy the devices.
Around 13,000 devices are in use, and the government wants another 27,000 in action by March next year.
The devices will link into the police national database, which holds data on criminals and is set to go fully live in 2010 - six years after the Bichard Report highlighted a failure to link up information between forces. That failure, the report said, led to Ian Huntley, the killer of school girls Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells, being able to work as a caretaker in a school in spite of previous criminal allegations.