Mel PoluckEditorTuesday 12 September 2017

Manchester Police asks officers for innovative app ideas

Force invites ideas from 10,000 mobile platform users to make better use of data 

Greater Manchester Police has set a challenge to officers to submit ideas for apps that allow them to work more efficiently and make better decisions on the beat.

Officers and police community support officers will be able to present their ideas to a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style panel made up of operational and technical teams. Following a pitch fashioned after the popular TV programme, the panel can then decide whether they want to fund it and roll it out across the platform.

Phil Davies, superintendent in charge of Greater Manchester Police’s Information Services transformation programme told UKAuthority: “We are trying to find the next suite of apps. We have a governance process for taking ideas and turning them into real change.”

He said the best ideas would be selected for development by the end of the year.

One idea for an app that has already been suggested would enable officers to make better use of the city's custody suites following an arrest. The app would help officers to allocate an arrestee to a cell and help to avoid overcrowding by displaying live arrests and up-to-date data on available cell space.

“Sometimes officers can’t get to local suite and it has knock-on effects for an investigation. The idea came from someone using Uber to get to a meeting,” said Davies. 

Mobile challenges

The apps would be added to mobile platform OPTIK, which is in use by 10,000 frontline members of Greater Manchester Police staff, via 6,000 smartphones and 4,000 Galaxy tablets. It is provided by India-based HCL and was rolled out last November.

“The driver [for implementing the mobile platform] was for officers to spend more time in communities rather than at the station doing paperwork. Also, we want officers to be more autonomous in decision making. To do that, they need access to information,” Davies said. 

He also spoke of the challenges of implementing a large-scale mobile programme. "One challenge has been the legacy of these kind of technology rollouts and doing it in a different way. We wanted this work to be user led rather than technically led.

"A key challenge has been getting the cultural shift in focus. This isn’t end users being a passive receiver of technology. Apps are designed with users. Local police leaders are being asked to take ownership of behaviour change."

Cost savings

The platform already offers apps to save police time and make better use of data. A crime recording app for example, allows officers to input crime reports directly into their smartphone while in people’s homes or at the scene of an incident. Previously, officers had to call a Crime Recording Unit where an operator would take crime data over the phone then input the data on the police system. 

As a result, Greater Manchester Police has reduced running costs of its Crime Recording Unit by £950,000 from staff cost savings.

OPTIK has also saved the force money by reducing travel to and from the police station because officers can update records on the go, directly onto their mobile phone and has consequently saved fuel costs too. Davies said that, in future, there may be cost savings from the reduced use of in-vehicle radio system.