Welsh police develop smartphone app

Beat officers in South Wales and Gwent forces to use I-Patrol on devices supplied in 4G deal with Vodafone

Police in South Wales have been equipped with mobile devices that include an in-house app to provide access to several systems to support officers on the beat.

Policeman_with_mobile_appSouth Wales and Police and Gwent Police are beginning to use the I-Patrol app following the provision of 5,000 Samsung Galaxy Note 4 phones as part of a deal with network provider Vodafone.

The app was developed by the forces' IT teams and is expected to enable officers to spend 10% more time on the streets, equating to an extra 436,000 hours per year.

Richard Lewis, assistant chief constable for South Wales Police, told UKAuthority that the force began to look at the potential for app development two years ago as it prepared to replace its stock of BlackBerry devices. These had provided access to information from the command and control centres, desktop systems and the Police National Computer (PNC), but there was a view that an app would be easier to use and could access more systems.

I-Patrol has been developed to include some additional features, including an electronic police notebook with writing stick, enabling officers to create a digitised record of their activities on the beat, and a GPS function, which can relate any entries to a specific location.

It also has a federated search function, which provides access to the systems accessible through the BlackBerrys plus others, such as the Niche record management system, and national systems including Quick Address Search.

Stop and search

Lewis emphasised the app's potential for use in stop and search, in which officers could check the PNC for any warrants on a subject, input any relevant information, record the location automatically, and provide the individual with email copy of the record.

“We've just delivered phase one, rolling out the phones to about 3,500 officers in the South Wales force and 1,500 in Gwent, and we're now looking at the possibilities for more apps and functionality,” he said.

“We're also looking at the possible use of secondary devices, as the Note 4 is a big device but not big enough for all functions. We're looking at giving officers tablets or laptops on which they could provide more detail.”

He said the tablets would not necessarily run on the Android operating system, as the phones do, as the Niche system is Windows based, “but we are investigating all opportunities”.

“It's really about flexibility, mobility and being more responsive to the community's needs,” he said, adding that there has been interest in I-Patrol from other police forces.

Mick Wayman, head of public sector for Vodafone UK said: “Our continued massive investment in our network means we are well placed to provide the infrastructure required to keep police officers across southern Wales better connected. We’re excited to see the impact this technology has in terms of enabling officers on the frontline to provide a more efficient and more effective service to their communities.”

Image from Vodafone