Mo­bile tech boon for front­line polic­ing


New mo­bile tech­nol­ogy tri­alled in our re­gion is ex­pected to greatly im­prove ef­fi­ciency for front­line po­lice na­tion­wide.

Smart­phones and tablets tri­alled last year by two Lower Hutt po­lice sec­tions will be rolled out to thou­sands of front­line of­fi­cers through­out the coun­try from April.

Sergeant Bruce Cook, who par­tic­i­pated in the trial, says es­ti­mates that each of­fi­cer could gain half an hour of pro­duc­tiv­ity a shift are prob­a­bly con­ser­va­tive.

In the past, in­for­ma­tion could only be re­layed to of­fi­cers out­side the sta­tion by ra­dio. With­out switch­ing to a backup chan­nel, only one com­mu­ni­ca­tion could take up the air­waves at a time, with high pri­or­ity jobs ty­ing up the fre­quency.

‘‘ Now that we’ve got them they’ve be­come in­dis­pens­able’’, he says.

The gad­gets al­low po­lice di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion with other of­fi­cers, ac­cess to data­bases and com­puter sys­tems while on the move, and the abil­ity to record in­for­ma­tion di­rectly into their sys­tems.

The smart­phones also give the abil­ity to take pho­tos on the spot.

‘‘We can phone the com­plainants and vic­tims while we’re out and about in­stead of coming back to the sta­tion to make those calls,’’ Mr Cook says.

Re­cently the de­vices helped lead to pros­e­cu­tions when of­fi­cers found ev­i­dence of part of an old dis­carded car reg­is­tra­tion la­bel in a Wainuiomata house while ex­e­cut­ing a search war­rant.

Mr Cook says mo­bile checks re­vealed the car was stolen, and al­lowed them to match the make and model with a seem­ingly dif­fer­ent re­badged car parked nearby. A call was placed to the sup­posed owner of that car, who said he didn’t know it ex­isted, and then to the owner of the stolen car, who lived nearby and came to the scene. He ac­ti­vated a re­mote that un­locked the ve­hi­cle.

‘‘ Had I not had the mo­bile de­vice I couldn’t have done that all at the [same] time [while we] ac­tioned the search war­rant.’’

In many cases thor­ough checks and data en­try are now al­ready com­pleted by the end of a con­ver­sa­tion.

Those try­ing to give a false name are stymied by iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pho­tos on po­lice data­bases.

In­creased ease of op­er­a­tion has boosted mo­rale too, he says.

‘‘ It’s fan­tas­tic, it’s very rare from a front line per­spec­tive that some­thing comes along to make your job eas­ier.’’

Equip­ping 6,086 front­line of­fi­cers with tablets and smart­phones is ex­pected to cost $4.3 mil­lion. How­ever, po­lice data claims the ef­fi­ciency gains are es­ti­mated to equate to an­other 345 front­line staff.

Po­lice As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Greg O’Connor wel­comes the tools, but says more in­for­ma­tion is needed about who’s paying.

‘‘ There is no de­tail in the re­leases, so far, as to where the $4.3 mil­lion in cap­i­tal and $159 mil­lion in op­er­at­ing costs is coming from.

‘‘ I can only hope is it is ad­di­tional fund­ing, and not fund­ing that po­lice have to find on top of the 5 per cent dis­tricts are al­ready hav­ing to save for the sec­ond year run­ning,’’ he says.

Tri­als were also done by of­fi­cers in Coun­ties- Manukau West, Napier and the West Coast polic­ing ar­eas.

In­spec­tor gad­get: Sergeant Bruce Cook, with de­vices tri­alled here that are im­prov­ing front­line of­fi­cers’ abil­i­ties on the beat.

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